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City of Wildwood v. Neiman

Decided: March 15, 1957.

CITY OF WILDWOOD, IN THE COUNTY OF CAPE MAY, A MUNICIPAL CORPORATION OF THE STATE OF NEW JERSEY, PLAINTIFF-RESPONDENT,
v.
ROBERT P. NEIMAN, DEFENDANT-APPELLANT



Goldmann, Freund and Conford. The opinion of the court was delivered by Goldmann, S.j.a.d.

Goldmann

Defendant was dismissed from the Wildwood police force after a hearing on charges. He appealed to the Cape May County Court under N.J.S.A. 40:47-10. That court dismissed his appeal for want of jurisdiction, apparently on the ground urged by plaintiff municipality that defendant's right of review was solely to the Civil Service Commission.

Defendant was appointed a patrolman in the Wildwood Police Department in February 1950. On October 25, 1955 he was served with charges preferred against him by the chief of police, among them intoxication, indecent language, conduct unbecoming an officer and a gentleman, conduct subversive of good order and the discipline of the force, and violation of police regulations by engaging in another business, namely, professional wrestling. Accompanying the charges was a notice that a hearing would be held on November 14 following. Defendant did not testify at that hearing. On December 19 the director of public safety filed his determination finding defendant guilty and removing him from the police force. A copy was served on defendant the next day, and within ten days he filed his notice of appeal to the County Court under N.J.S.A. 40:47-10.

In the interim between the service of charges and defendant's dismissal, the voters of the City of Wildwood at the general election held November 8, 1955, adopted the provisions of the Civil Service Act, Revised Statutes, Title 11, Subtitle 3.

N.J.S.A. 40:47-10 provides in part:

"Any member of any police department * * * in any municipality in this State not operating under the provisions of subtitle three of Title 11 of the Revised Statutes who has been convicted

of any violation of any of the rules or regulations of such [department] by the official * * * empowered to try members of such police department * * * may obtain a review of such conviction by the County Court of the county in which such municipality is situated. * * *"

The County Court, like its predecessor, the Court of Common Pleas, sits as a special statutory tribunal when hearing appeals under N.J.S.A. 40:47-10, and not by reason of any constitutional or inherited common law jurisdiction. City of Plainfield v. McGrath , 117 N.J.L. 348, 350 (Sup. Ct. 1936); Borough of Jamesburg v. Hubbs , 6 N.J. 578, 582 (1951). In reviewing convictions for violation of the rules and regulations of a local police department, the courts have been careful to point out that the case comes before the County Court from a municipality which does not operate under the provisions of the Civil Service Act. Township Committee of Mt. Olive Township v. Vital , 11 N.J. Super. 608, 609 (Cty. Ct. 1951); Inhabitants of City of Plainfield v. O'Driscoll , 14 N.J. Misc. 343 (Com. Pl. 1936); Borough of Jamesburg v. Hubbs , above, 6 N.J. , at page 580.

Defendant argues that inasmuch as the city had not yet adopted the Civil Service Act on the date of the offenses charged or as of the time when he was served with charges and notice of suspension and hearing, his action in appealing to the County Court instead of seeking his remedy under the Civil Service Act was entirely proper. He cites no authority for this position and none can be found in the statute.

Since N.J.S.A. 40:47-10 expressly excludes appeals where the municipality is operating under the provisions of Title 11, Subtitle 3 of the Revised Statutes (the Civil Service Act), the sole question is whether plaintiff municipality at the time of the conviction was operating under that act. There can be no question that it was -- from and after November 8, 1955 when the electorate voted to adopt civil service for Wildwood. R.S. 11:19-2 states that the provisions of the Civil Service Act shall apply to any municipality which theretofore adopted the provisions of the act

or "which shall hereafter adopt the provisions of this subtitle, and any such * * * municipality * * * shall hereafter operate under the provisions of this title." Cf. McManus v. Caldwell , 129 N.J.L. 111 (Sup. Ct. 1942), affirmed 130 N.J.L. 175 (E. & A. 1943); Walker v. ...


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