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Pritel v. Burris

Decided: April 10, 1967.

MARY JANE PRITEL, PLAINTIFF-RESPONDENT,
v.
ROBERT BURRIS, TOWNSHIP CLERK, CHERRY HILL TOWNSHIP, CAMDEN COUNTY, STATE OF NEW JERSEY, DEFENDANT, AND EUGENE FELDMAN, INTERVENOR-APPELLANT



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

Goldmann

[94 NJSuper Page 487] Plaintiff instituted a proceeding in lieu of prerogative writs in the Superior Court, Law Division, Camden County, on March 28, 1967, to require defendant township clerk to accept the filing of her nominating petitions and to accord her the same rights as any other candidate for election on May 9, 1967 to the office of councilman-at-large. The matter was promptly scheduled for argument on April 3, 1967. On that date Eugene Feldman moved for leave to intervene. The motion was granted, he immediately filed an answer, and the case proceeded to a full hearing before Assignment Judge Schalick. At the conclusion of that hearing, and after considering the briefs and arguments of counsel, the judge determined that the last

day for filing nominating petitions was March 27, 1967, in light of the fact that March 24 (which would have been the last date for filing) fell on Good Friday. He thereupon entered the order here under appeal, so declaring and ordering that plaintiff's petitions be considered as having been filed with defendant clerk as of March 27. He further ordered that after the petitions had been determined to be valid, plaintiff was to be accorded the same rights as any other candidate for election. This appeal followed.

At the close of the oral argument we announced that Judge Schalick's order would be affirmed, briefly stating the reasons which are more fully developed in this formal opinion.

I

The facts are uncontroverted. Cherry Hill Township adopted one of the plans set out in the Faulkner Act (N.J.S.A. 40:69A-1 et seq.) and is presently governed by Article 9, the Council-Manager Plan A form (N.J.S.A. 40:69A-81 to 98). Article 17 of the act (N.J.S.A. 40:69A-150 et seq.) contains the provisions common to all optional plans. N.J.S.A. 40:69A-153 deals with regular municipal elections and provides, in pertinent part, as follows:

"At least 46 days prior to the regular municipal election * * * the names of candidates for all offices shall be filed with the municipal clerk, before 4:00 P.M. of such days in the manner and form and under the conditions hereinafter set forth * * *."

That section goes on to require that nominating petitions must be signed by at least 1%, but in no event less than 10, of the registered voters of the municipality, and sets out the form of the petition.

It was stipulated that plaintiff's petitions contained 270 signatures (219 were required), but their validity had not yet been determined by the township clerk. All agree that the 46th day before the May 9 municipal election was March 24, and that day was Good Friday.

Plaintiff appeared at the township clerk's office on Wednesday, March 22, to pick up petition forms. At that time the clerk told her the office would be closed on March 24 because it was a legal holiday, but that he would make arrangements to be there to accept the petitions of any candidate who wanted to file on that date. It is uncontroverted that all the township offices were closed on Good Friday except for the police department; there was a sign on the clerk's office reading, "Legal Holiday. Good Friday."

Plaintiff called the clerk at his home between 9 and 10 A.M. on Friday, March 24, to make arrangements for filing her petitions. He informed her that he expected some of the candidates around 3 P.M., whereupon plaintiff said she would prefer appearing later because she did not want to encounter any of them. The clerk said he expected the candidates to be gone by 3:30. Plaintiff phoned again at 3:30 and was told by the clerk that they were still in his office. She said she would wait until the last possible minute and come over. She arrived at the township building parking lot at 3:55 P.M., found a parking space, and then walked into the building through an entrance at the opposite end of the corridor from the clerk's office. She testified that she entered the building at 3:58 or 3:59 P.M., made her way past some 15 or 20 people outside the clerk's office, entered the office and presented her petitions to the clerk. There were some 10 or 11 persons inside the office. The clerk informed her that the deadline had passed and that it was then 4:05 P.M. He would not accept her petitions.

Plaintiff reappeared at the clerk's office on Monday, March 27, at about 9:15 A.M., and again presented her petitions. The clerk received them "provisionally," stating that he had to obtain a ruling as to whether he could legally accept them. Plaintiff was informed the next day that her petitions would not be accepted but ...


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