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Evans v. Ross

Decided: April 21, 1959.

MELVIN S. EVANS AND JOHN R. NORWOOD, COMPLAINANTS,
v.
BURT J. ROSS, OWNER, TRADING AS HOLLY HOUSE, RESPONDENT



Martino, J.c.c.

Martino

[55 NJSuper Page 267] This is an alleged discrimination case. It involves an experience of two representatives -- the complainants here -- of an all-Negro group organization functioning under the name of the Moorestown Civic Club who attempted to engage facilities of the appellant for the purpose of having a banquet for the members of that organization. The matter is here on appeal following a hearing before an Assistant Commissioner of Education who found the appellant guilty of acts of discrimination. N.J.S.A. 18:25-8(d); N.J.S.A. 18:25-21. On appeal the parties stipulated that the factual situation should be decided upon the transcript taken below. The appellant cannot seriously deny an act of discrimination as to this all-Negro group since the testimony indicates clearly his behavior, his conduct and his answers to their inquiries would logically lead to no other conclusion.

The appellant raises three points in urging a reversal:

1. The appellant's facilities were private in nature and did not fit the statutory category "place of public accommodation."

2. The statute does not provide for the Department of Education, Division against Discrimination, to have jurisdiction over this type of alleged violation.

3. The facts do not establish that the appellant was guilty of an act of discrimination towards these complainants or the group they represented.

It may be expeditious to dispose of these reasons for reversal in the inverse order of their presentation. As indicated earlier, a resume of the testimony would indicate that the third ground for reversal is without any basis in fact. The testimony clearly indicates a negative desire on appellant's part to entertain the all-Negro group on his premises and that desire is manifested by a positive attitude against the availability of any part of his dinner facilities to this group for any date or occasion.

For the second reason advanced, namely jurisdictional right of the Department of Education, Division against Discrimination, to hear the complaint, the appellant urges that the Department of Education is given the right to hear these cases only because of the provisions of N.J.S.A. 18:25-6 which reads:

"There is created in the State Department of Education a division to be known as "The Division Against Discrimination" with power to prevent and eliminate discrimination in employment against persons because of race, creed, color, national origin or ancestry or because of their liability for service in the armed forces of the United States, by employers, labor organizations, employment agencies or other persons and to take other actions against discrimination because of race, creed, color, national origin or ancestry or because of their liability for service in the armed forces of the United States, as herein provided; and the division created hereunder is given general jurisdiction and authority for such purposes."

He argues that this section limits the scope of that Department's jurisdiction to three types of complaints based

upon discrimination: (1) discrimination in employment by employers, (2) discrimination in employment by Labor organizations, (3) discrimination in employment by employment agencies or other persons. The appellant loses sight of the fact that since 1945 there have been at least four amendments to the original statute adopted by the Legislature in that year. Before the year 1949 there had been some doubt as to the legality of cease and desist orders through the Division against Discrimination under the prior statute but the Legislature -- as a result of a report made on April 22, 1948, by a committee appointed by former Governor Alfred E. Driscoll known as the Committee on Civil Liberties -- amended the discrimination statute under Title 18 and the introducer's statement to that bill carried the following legend:

"This Bill is intended to combine in one law the substantive provisions of the existing civil rights law, Revised Statutes, Sections 10:1-2 to 10:1-7 and the existing law against discrimination Revised Statutes, Sections 18:25-1 to 18:25-28. It consolidates and unifies procedure ...


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