Goldmann, Sullivan and Labrecque. Goldmann, S.j.a.d.
This is an appeal from orders of the Superior Court, Law Division, dated May 6, 1965, ordering the Middlesex County Clerk to place the names and slogans of John P. Chirico, R. Richard Krauss, Gene A. Tomasso and Joseph C. Dunn (hereinafter petitioners) on the ballot for the primary election to be held June 1, 1965, as Democratic candidates for nomination as councilmen for their respective wards in Woodbridge Township.
On April 22, 1965, the last day under the statute (N.J.S.A. 19:23-14) for filing for the June 1 primary election, petitions were filed with the township clerk nominating petitioners for the councilmanic offices in question. Each petition contained signatures in excess of the minimum 25 required in a municipality like Woodbridge Township. N.J.S.A. 19:23-8. Four days later, on April 26, the objectors filed written objections to these nominating petitions with the
clerk. He immediately wrote the respective petitioners, advising them that objections had been filed and that he would hold a hearing at 10 A.M. on April 28, for the purpose of determining the validity of the objections. This was the correct procedure under R.S. 19:13-11 and 12, as amended. The clerk specifically indicated that his determination "must be made by Wednesday, April 28, 1965." The petitioners received the clerk's letter April 27. A telegram sent the same day advised them of a change in the hearing hour from 10 A.M. to 2:30 P.M.
On April 28 petitioners applied for and obtained an order from Judge Halpern, assignment judge for Middlesex County, restraining the township clerk from proceeding with his proposed hearing and directing him to show cause the following day why the restraint should not be made permanent. (Petitioners' recourse to the Superior Court was apparently suggested by N.J.S.A. 19:13-12, which permits application to be made to that court at least 36 days before an election where a candidate alleges an invasion or threatened invasion of his rights under a petition of nomination.) On April 29, all parties consenting thereto, Judge Halpern assumed jurisdiction and proceeded to a full hearing to determine the validity of the objections which had been filed with the township clerk. The judge sat until 5:30 P.M., but then was obliged to continue the hearing until the following Monday, May 3, because of Friday's motion calendar.
Following the close of the hearing on Monday the trial judge rendered an oral opinion in which he determined that the verifications to the nominating petitions were defective. In so concluding he emphasized that he completely exonerated everyone connected with the petitions of any bad faith, fraud or wrongdoing. He then entered orders which, in the case of each petitioner, read as follows:
"IT IS, as of this 3rd day of May, 1965 found that the verification of the Petition for Nomination filed by the Petitioner is defective as of May 3, 1965, at 4:30 P.M.; and
IT IS FURTHER ORDERED that this court is retaining jurisdiction because of the shortage of time, and if any amendments pursuant to N.J.S.A. 19:23-20 are proposed such are to be filed directly with the court."
Counsel for the objectors approved the orders as to form.
On the afternoon of the third day following -- May 6 -- there were filed with the court amendments to the several petitions. After permitting counsel for the objectors to argue against the filing, the trial judge ruled that the petitions, as amended, conformed with R.S. 19:23-5 et seq., and directed that petitioners' names be placed upon the primary ballot.
This appeal followed. We scheduled briefs and argument on an emergency basis. The statutory requirement of mailing absentee ballots and the preparation of the voting machines for use on primary day require ...