Bachman, J.d.c. (temporarily assigned).
This is an appeal of nine cases wherein the respective defendants were found guilty of violating N.J.S.A. 2A:170-31 (trespassing) by the Monroe Township Municipal Court.
The incident occurred on January 26, 1971, at about 2 P.M., at the Rossmoor Community, "a planned retirement village." What this means is that a developer using a parcel of land in Monroe Township laid out a community consisting of dwelling units, a church structure, a community hall and a small shopping area. To accomplish this the Township zoning ordinance was amended to accommodate such a plan. Upon the completion of the dwelling units they were advertised for sale to persons over the age of 52. Children may live with their parents, provided they are 18 years of age or older. A person wishing to occupy one of the dwelling units purchases a share or shares of stock in a corporation and signs a contract with that corporation granting him permission to live there; the contract is renewable at the option of the resident every three years.
Upon entering into occupancy the person buying an interest is given what is called a "welcome booklet." This contains, among other things, rules and regulations governing
the community. The pertinent part of this booklet reads as follows: "Solicitors and unauthorized persons will not be admitted to Rossmoor, New Jersey."
There is no municipal corporation in New Jersey by the name of Rossmoor, and the Rossmoor development with which we are concerned is located in and is part of Monroe Township.
Defendants are members of a group of citizens of the township who desire to change the present form of municipal government. They embarked upon this in the manner prescribed by the appropriate statute of New Jersey, i.e. , by circulating a petition to be signed by the required number of local citizens. On January 26, 1971 this group, one of whom is a member of the municipal governing body, went to Rossmoor with the intention of asking the residents to sign their petition. They intended to do this by going from door to door of the dwelling units, ringing door bells and asking the residents if they care to sign the petition. Rossmoor is, apparently, in part surrounded by a wall and there are gates with security guards. Upon arriving, the nine defendants were met by the president of one of the holding companies and by a lawyer, their visit apparently having been anticipated. They informed these two gentlemen of their intention and were told that they could not enter upon the premises. Defendants nevertheless entered and went about their intended mission. Complaints were then signed in the municipal court by Donald Ankeny, president of Mutual No. 2 of New Jersey, which is the holding corporation for the land upon which defendants entered.
There is no question that these defendants were who they said they were, what they said they were, and doing what they said they were going to do. In other words, they were engaged in a bona fide activity, seeking signatures on their petition to change the form of government. There is testimony before this court that no political doorbell ringing had ever been tolerated in the Rossmoor community. On the other hand, the district committeeman of one of the
major political parties testified that each year he engaged in so-called door-bell ringing for one of two purposes: either to get his own petition signed so that his name would be on the ballot, or to advocate the candidacy of the national, state, county and local candidates of his party's choosing. He was told he could do it because he was a resident of Rossmoor. This court accepts the testimony of the committeeman as true, and rejects the contrary testimony. Further testimony showed there had been, at various times, an introduction of political candidates at social affairs held in the community, but the only candidates introduced were residents of the community.
Defendants, in their conversation with the representatives of the community on January 26, 1971 were informed that they could go to the community center and set themselves up in such a manner that residents could go to them if they desired to sign the petition.
During the course of the trial a representative of the Middlesex County Board of Elections testified. She said that the total number of registered voters in Monroe Township was 4,628 and of that ...