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Lieberman v. Township of Saddle River

Decided: September 28, 1955.

STANLEY H. LIEBERMAN AND NAOMI LIEBERMAN, HIS WIFE, PLAINTIFFS-APPELLANTS,
v.
THE TOWNSHIP OF SADDLE RIVER, A MUNICIPAL CORPORATION; THE BOARD OF EDUCATION OF THE TOWNSHIP OF SADDLE RIVER; AND SADDLE RIVER TOWNSHIP LITTLE LEAGUE ASSOCIATION, DEFENDANTS-RESPONDENTS



Clapp, Jayne and Francis. The opinion of the court was delivered by Jayne, J.A.D.

Jayne

Numerous indeed are the authorities which have consistently characterized the judicial injunctive power as an extraordinary equitable remedy to be exercised only with considerable caution, broad circumspection, and sound discretion.

In the present case the judge of the Chancery Division in his purpose to administer equity and justice doubtless

scrutinized the factual circumstances from the sociological as well as the juristic points of view. Courts in the progressive construction of our decisional law cannot be insensible to the social pulsations of an ever-changing civilization and inattentive to the necessary modifications and adjustments of private demands to the exigencies of the public welfare.

The plaintiff prosecuted this action to compel the Saddle River Little League Association to abandon its baseball field and to remove therefrom the bleachers, grandstand, backstop, and all other "enclosures and structures" that had been erected thereon for the entertainment and enjoyment of the youth of the township.

It is within the orbit of common knowledge that in the rising tide of crime a wave of juvenile delinquency has become alarmingly conspicuous. The most praiseworthy and benevolent endeavors have been initiated to ascertain the major causative reasons for the origin and existence of these unnatural propensities among our youths and to resolve efficient means to obstruct and, if possible, suppress the growth of the evil tendency. Governmental bodies, civic and fraternal organizations, and a host of interested persons throughout the nation are cooperating to accomplish that laudable object.

It is demonstrable that mischief is a normal product of an idle, emotional, and confused state of mind, hence inter alia , the establishment of suitably equipped playgrounds, football and baseball fields for the use of youngsters, and the organization of leagues comprised of competitive teams of youthful members are movements that have universally appealed to the wisdom and generosity of the adult public as an attractive and effective means of engaging our juveniles during the periods of their impatient leisure and discontent.

The adult inhabitants of the Township of Saddle River and the municipal officials were typically responsive. In 1953 a local Little League baseball association was organized to be conducted without pecuniary profit, and the township committee and board of education in September of that

year granted to the association a gratuitous tenancy at will of an area of vacant land owned in contiguous portions by the two municipal bodies and situate at Saddle River Road and Cambridge Avenue, to be developed and used by the Little League as a baseball field.

Thereafter the ground area, some parts of which were overgrown marsh lands, was filled and graded; a baseball diamond laid out and constructed; a backstop, players' dugouts, open bleachers or seating stands, and a surrounding fence were progressively erected. It is interesting to know that about 100 truck loads of dirt fill and $600 worth of top soil were required suitably to prepare the surface of the field. The preparation of the ground area began in October 1953; the backstop was erected in January 1954, the dugouts in February, the stands in March. The monetary cost of approximately $2,000 was donated by the inhabitants of the township. The construction work was performed during weekends by volunteers. All of this was accomplished before the eyes of the plaintiffs. Cf. O'Connell v. Holton , 91 N.J. Eq. 4 (Ch. 1919).

The field was opened for use on May 2, 1954. After the completion of the field and its use began, the plaintiffs instituted this action on July 1, 1954 to enjoin the occupancy of the field for games of baseball and to require the demolition or ...


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