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In re Montclair Savings Bank

Decided: March 17, 1971.

IN THE MATTER OF THE APPLICATION OF THE MONTCLAIR SAVINGS BANK FOR APPROVAL OF A BRANCH OFFICE AT 508 POMPTON AVENUE, CEDAR GROVE TOWNSHIP, ESSEX COUNTY, IN THE FIRST BANKING DISTRICT OF NEW JERSEY


Kilkenny, Halpern and Lane. The opinion of the court was delivered by Kilkenny, P.J.A.D.

Kilkenny

On March 17, 1970 the Commissioner of Banking of the State of New Jersey approved the application of the Montclair Savings Bank for a branch office in Cedar Grove Township.

Cedar Grove Savings & Loan Association and Cedar Grove State Bank (a commercial bank), objectors to the application, have taken this appeal from the decision and order of the Commissioner of Banking. They contend that (1) the Commissioner's decision is not supported by "substantial evidence;" (2) the decision is "arbitrary, capricious and unreasonable;" (3) the decision is "based partly on evidence dehors the record and, therefore, should be set aside," and (4) the "home-office protection" provision of N.J.S.A. 17:9A-19(B)(3) was "incorrectly interpreted" by the Commissioner and such interpretation was "contrary to the spirit and intent of the Legislature."

I

Points 1 and 2 are substantially the same and will be treated together. Both are governed by the same basic legal principles.

It is not the function of the appellate tribunal to substitute its independent judgment for that of the Commissioner. The scope of review is limited to determining whether, in the light of the nature

of the matter before him and the questions presented, the Commissioner has made adequate basic findings of fact which are supported by the evidence and which in turn support his ultimate conclusions and final determination. In re Application of State Bank of Plainfield , 61 N.J. Super. 150, 158 (App. Div. 1960).

Otherwise stated,

The scope of the appellate review of administrative orders is generally limited to determining whether the factual findings are supported by substantial evidence. * * * The appellate court has the power and duty to assay the facts, but only to determine whether the evidence before the administrative body furnished a reasonable basis for its factual conclusions and action. In re Application of Millburn-Short Hills Bank , 59 N.J. Super. 470, 473-474 (App. Div. 1959).

Where the record discloses substantial evidence to support factual findings of the administrative body, a presumption of reasonableness attaches to its findings. Ibid.

See, too, Essential S & L. Ass'n v. Howell , 105 N.J. Super. 424, 432-433 (App. Div. 1969).

We have exercised our power and duty to assay the facts. The record discloses substantial evidence to support the factual findings of the Commissioner, which in turn support his ultimate conclusions and final determination. The decision is not arbitrary, capricious and unreasonable. The establishment of this branch office for a savings bank in Cedar Grove is in accord with the statutory requirements, N.J.S.A. 17:9A-20. The Commissioner properly determined that the general economy of the area and the reasonable potential were such that there was room for this further branch bank without causing excessive competition with real harm to any institution or unduly affecting the banking structure at large. Cf. In re Application of Howard Savings Institution of Newark , 32 N.J. 29 (1960).

II

We next examine the objectors' claim that the decision is "based partly on evidence dehors the record and, ...


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