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In re Jersey City Education Association

Decided: May 21, 1971.

IN THE MATTER OF: JERSEY CITY EDUCATION ASSOCIATION, LOUIS T. SCIALLI, THOMAS FAVIA, SARAH GROCHOW, GAIL ROMANOWSKI, DORIS E. FILLIPPONE, ETHEL P. BROWN, DANIEL CUPO, GAIL HALL, BARBARA SCHNEIDER, AND ROBERT ROGENSTEIN, INDIVIDUALLY AND AS OFFICERS AND MEMBERS OF THE EXECUTIVE BOARD OF THE JERSEY CITY EDUCATION ASSOCIATION, AND FRANK AMARATO, JAMES AUMACK, MARY DAVIS, MARGARET DEL PRETE, DIANNE FERRARA, BERNICE MACCHIA, NEIL PAGANO, MICHAEL WARJANKA, MAE MCCOMB, MYRA DANIELL, CHARGED WITH CONTEMPT OF COURT, DEFENDANTS-APPELLANTS


Conford, Kolovsky and Carton. The opinion of the court was delivered by Carton, J.A.D.

Carton

In these consolidated appeals the Jersey City Education Association (Association) and 20 individual member teachers challenge the validity of summary convictions for contempt of court for violating a restraining order of the Chancery Division issued February 9, 1970 prohibiting them from engaging in a strike against the Jersey City Board of Education (board).

All defendants argue that the injunctive order was unconstitutionally issued. One group of defendants, comprised of officers and members of the executive committee of the Association, argue that the proofs fail to establish their violation of the order. The second group, consisting of members at large, although making no claim that their acts were not violative of the order, argue that actual notice of the February 9 restraining order was not established against them. The Association advances the additional argument that the amount of the fine levied against it was in excess of that constitutionally permissible as punishment for summary contempt.

A summary of the chronological background leading to the strike and the proceedings which arose from it shed light on the legal issues involved.

Negotiations between representatives of the board and the Association began about December 1, 1969, the teachers having submitted their original proposals to the board late in October or early November. Some ten meetings of the parties took place thereafter -- the negotiations principally concerning the issue of salary.

On January 15, 1970 Mayor Whelan of Jersey City delivered what was designated as the "State of the City Address" in which he set forth the problems the city faced in financing public education and related services. He indicated that the schools would be closed the following September unless financial assistance from the State was forthcoming. The next day the board published the proposed school budget limiting the teacher salary increase to $100 across the board.

An impasse in negotiations between the board and the teachers was reached on January 16, 1970, due in large measure to the board's statement that the $100 increase was the final offer and also because of a failure to agree on issues concerning size of classes, a proposed study of a mental health class, drug abuse and various special courses. When a mediator's efforts to resolve the dispute were unsuccessful, the State Public Employees' Relations Commission sent a list of names of fact-finders to the board which indicated acceptance of this list in early February.

After various meetings of the parties in which the Association unsuccessfully sought to have the board of school estimate defer adoption of the proposed budget until the issues in dispute were resolved, and while the fact-finding group remained in session, the members of the Association voted on Sunday afternoon, February 8, to strike. Negotiations with the fact-finding group immediately broke off when Scialli, president of the Association, returned from the meeting and announced that the teachers had voted to strike.

The following day (Monday, February 9) the board filed a complaint alleging in essence that defendant Association and the group consisting of Louis T. Scialli, president; Thomas Favia, first vice-president; Marion Winds, second vice-president; Sarah Grochow, financial secretary; Gail Romanowski, corresponding secretary; Doris Fillippone, recording secretary; and Ethel P. Brown, Daniel Cupo, Gail Hall, Robert Rogenstein and Barbara Schneider, members at large of the executive board, advocated and called a strike by the public school teachers of Jersey City. On the basis of defendants' concession that as of February 9, 1970 such a strike existed, Judge Lynch that day entered a temporary restraining order until further order of the court and an order to show cause why an injunctive order should not be entered.

The restraining order was addressed to defendant Association and the individual defendants, "their associates, their servants, agents or employees or any individual acting in concert with or in combination with them." It restrained them

a. From picketing about, near or on schools or school grounds or areas about the public schools of the City of Jersey City.

b. From striking, participating in any strike, adjoining [ sic ], abetting, counselling, persuading any person or persons or any teacher or employee of the plaintiff to strike or to remain away from their work for the purpose of striking or from interfering with any person or persons, student or students desiring to enter the Public Schools of the City of Jersey City.

c. To refrain from any act which will in any manner disrupt the lawful and orderly conduct of the schools and the education of the public school children of the City of Jersey City or of interfering in any manner with the welfare and safety of the public school students. From ordering, commanding, directing, assisting, abetting, counselling, persuading or suffering in any manner whatsoever any person or persons who attempt to commit or who commit any of the aforesaid acts.

When issuing the restraining order the court announced that the merits of the dispute were not involved and that the court was taking such action because public employees

have no legal right to strike. The court also made it clear that the restraining order was an order of the court. Copies of the complaint and affidavits were directed to be served upon the named defendants. The board was also directed to publish the order in a prominent manner on February 10 "by way of display advertising" in the Hudson Dispatch and Jersey Journal.

On February 10 each named defendant was served with the February 9 restraining order. On February 11, on the basis of affidavits that alleged that each of these individual defendants continued his strike tactics and absented himself without excuse or authority from school; that none of them was ill on that day, having attended a meeting of the board of school estimate that morning, and that a number of pickets were stationed in front of various Jersey City schools after service and publication of the order, Judge Lynch issued an order of arrest charging these defendants with violating the restraining order. After presenting themselves to the court voluntarily, they were released on their own bond of $1,000 each.

On the following February 19 the second group of defendants, comprised of ten teachers of Public School No. 12, were ordered to be arrested for the violation on Friday, February 13, of the February 9 restraining order. These defendants were also released on bail of $1,000. This second group of defendants is comprised of the following teachers: Frank Amarato, James Aumack, Mary Davis, Margaret Del Prete, Dianne Ferrara, Bernice Macchia, Neil Pagnano, Michael Warjanka, Mae McComb and Myra Daniell.

A consolidated summary trial of all defendants for contempt of court was conducted by Judge Lora in which Lawrence P. Brady, Esq. was designated to prosecute the contempts. The prosecution offered considerable evidence, which will be referred to hereafter, in support of the charges. The defense recalled one of the State's witnesses concerning an article appearing in the newspaper but offered no other evidence. None of the defendants testified. It was conceded

that the individual defendants of the first group, whether in their respective capacity or individually, as well as defendants New Jersey Education Association and Jersey City Education Association, were properly served on February 10 with the order ...


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