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CALCIN v. MILBURN

October 6, 1959

Eleanor CALCIN, Plaintiff,
v.
Charles Wesley MILBURN, also known as C. Wesley Milburn, Defendant



The opinion of the court was delivered by: HARTSHORNE

Plaintiff, Eleanor Calcin, of Ohio, here sues defendant, Charles Wesley Milburn, of New Jersey, for breach of contract to marry. The first count seeks damages, because of injury to name and reputation, and for the support of a child born to the parties. The second count repeats the allegations of the first count, alleging wilfulness. Plaintiff asks for both compensatory and punitive damages. Plaintiff's allegation of deceit is clearly based on the breach of contract to marry. The jurisdiction of this Court over such cause of action rests solely upon diversity of citizenship.

Such being the case, this Court here sits, as to matters of substantive law, as if it were a court of the State of New Jersey, applying not only the general substantive law of that State, but the conflict of laws rules of that State, Klaxon Co. v. Stentor Electric Mfg. Co., 313 U.S. 478, 496, 61 S. Ct. 1020, 85 L. Ed. 1477.

 The substantive law of the State of New Jersey in the above regard has been made clear by a series of decisions of the courts of that State in construing its so-called Heart Balm statute, N.J.S. 2A:23-1-7, P.L.1935, Chap. 279, 1, p. 896, et seq., N.J.S.A. The last such decision, one by the highest court of the State, is that of Morris v. MacNab, 1957, 25 N.J. 271, 135 A.2d 657, 659. In this case the Court reviews the purpose and effect of the above legislation, as enacted both in New Jersey and elsewhere, saying:

 'Beginning with Indiana in 1935, many states enacted statutes designed to eliminate or restrict actions for breach of promise (along with actions for alienation of affections, seduction, and criminal conversation which we need not deal with here). There had been widespread public attacks on such actions as fruitful sources of blackmail. And many thoughtful persons had come to view them as unwholesome proceedings which oftentimes entailed extortions or coerced marriages. New Jersey's enactment was adopted in June 1935 (L. 1935, c. 279 -- now N.J.S. 2A:23-1 et seq. N.J.S.A.). It abolished the right of action theretofore existing to recover damages for 'breach of contract to marry' and stipulated that no contract to marry thereafter made in New Jersey shall give rise 'to any cause or right of action for the breach thereof.' Its preamble clearly evidenced the primary motivation for the legislation:

 'Whereas, The remedies herein provided for by law for the enforcement of actions based upon alleged alienation of affections, criminal conversation, seduction and breach of contract to marry have been subjected to grave abuses, causing extreme annoyance, embarrassment, humiliation and pecuniary damage to many persons wholly innocent and free of any wrongdoing, who were merely the victims of circumstances, and such remedies having been exercised of unscrupulous persons for their unjust enrichment and such remedies having furnished vehicles for the commission or attempted commission of crime and in many cases have resulted in the perpetration of frauds, it is hereby declared as the public policy of the state of New Jersey that the best interests of the people of the state will be served by the abolition of such remedies. * * *"

 Morris was not a case of breach of contract to marry, but one where the marriage had occurred, though the defendant had no right to marry, since he was already married. The Court, therefore, held that recovery could be had thereon of the moneys obtained from the woman by the man by his false representations as to his being single, since that action was not one for either 'alienation of affections, criminal conversation, seduction or breach of contract to marry', which alone 'are abolished by the act', N.J.S.A. 2A:23-1. But the State's highest court makes perfectly clear the fact that such statute 'abolished the right of action theretofore existing to recover damages for 'breach of contract to marry". Not only so, but this statute further provides:

 'It shall be unlawful for any person, either as a party or attorney, * * * to file or serve * * * any process of pleading, in any court of this state, setting forth or seeking to recover a sum of money upon any cause of action abolished or barred by this chapter, whether such cause of action arose within or without this state.' N.J.S.A. 2A:23-3.

 The statute further provides:

 'Any person who shall violate any of the provisions of this chapter shall be guilty of a misdemeanor.' ibid § 5

 Again it provides:

 'This chapter shall be liberally construed to effectuate the objects and purposes thereof and the public policy of the state as hereby declared.' ibid § 6

 It finally provides:

 'Nothing contained in this chapter shall be construed as a repeal of any of the provisions of the penal law or the criminal procedure law or of any other law of the state relating to criminal or quasi-criminal actions or proceedings.' ibid § 7

 Surely no clearer language could have been used by the Legislature of the State of New Jersey, as interpreted by its courts, to abolish suits on breach of contract to marry, and to declare same to be contrary to the public policy of the State of New Jersey, whether such ...


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