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New Jersey State Policemen''s Benevolent Association of New Jersey Inc. v. Town of Morristown

Decided: June 6, 1974.

NEW JERSEY STATE POLICEMEN'S BENEVOLENT ASSOCIATION OF NEW JERSEY, INC., A NEW JERSEY CORPORATION, PLAINTIFF-RESPONDENT,
v.
TOWN OF MORRISTOWN, A MUNICIPAL CORPORATION, ET AL., DEFENDANTS-APPELLANTS



For reversal -- Chief Justice Hughes, and Justices Jacobs, Hall, Sullivan, Pashman and Clifford. For affirmance -- None. The opinion of the Court was delivered by Pashman, J.

Pashman

[65 NJ Page 161] The issue before the Court is purely a matter of law. The landmark legislation which we must interpret, N.J.S.A. 9:17B-1 et seq. (L. 1972, c. 81, effective January [65 NJ Page 162] 1, 1973),*fn1 extends "to persons 18 years of age and older, the basic civil and contractual rights and obligations heretofore applicable only to persons 21 years of age or older," including the right to "apply for and be appointed to public employment." N.J.S.A. 9:17B-1(a). [65 NJ Page 163] Plaintiff, New Jersey State Policemen's Benevolent Association of New Jersey, Inc. (P.B.A.), alleges that the enactment in lowering the age of majority from 21 to 18 years of age does not authorize the employment of policemen under 21 years of age, as prohibited by N.J.S.A. 40A:14-127.*fn2 Plaintiff sought injunctive and declaratory relief against the Town of Morristown; its Mayor and Chief of Police; George F. Kugler, Jr., then Attorney General of New Jersey; and John Murphy, a policeman between the ages of 18 and 21 years employed by Morristown. Defendants moved to dismiss on the ground that the complaint failed to state a claim upon which relief could be granted. The Chancery Division granted

judgment on the pleadings, holding the age requirement that policemen must be between 21 and 35 years of age as provided by N.J.S.A. 40A:14-127 was not affected by N.J.S.A. 9:17B-1 et seq. N.J. State P.B.A. v. Morristown, 124 N.J. Super. 389 (Ch. Div. 1973). In essence, the trial court held that "overriding considerations of public safety and welfare" and "distinctions in maturity and experience" indicate that the lower age limit of 21 years was not merely intended to reflect the legal age of majority, but rather was based on the particular requisites for employment as a policeman. A stay pending appeal was granted on July 3, 1973. On motion by the Attorney General while the appeal was pending unheard in the Appellate Division, certification was granted on November 12, 1973. 64 N.J. 326 (1974). We reverse.

The question is whether N.J.S.A. 9:17B-1 et seq. supersedes N.J.S.A. 40A:14-127 to the extent they may be inconsistent. The age of majority enactment lacks the requisite specificity to be classified as an express repeal. While it is not essential to identify a specific provision in order to effect its express repeal, it is necessary to describe the provision with reasonable certainty. In any event, acts are just as effectively repealed by implication as by specific designation. 1 Sutherland, Statutory Construction (3d ed.), §§ 2008, 2009.

Repeals by implication are not favored. In the absence of an express repealer, there must be a clear showing of legislative intent to effect a repeal. Crater v. County of Somerset, 123 N.J.L. 407, 414 (E. & A. 1939); Henninger v. Board of Chosen Freeholders of County of Bergen, 3 N.J. 68, 71 (1969); Swede v. City of Clifton, 22 N.J. 303, 317 (1956); Department of Labor and Industry v. Cruz Construction Co., 45 N.J. 372, 380 (1965); Brewer v. Porch, 53 N.J. 167, 173 (1969); Mahr v. State, 12 N.J. Super. 253, 261 (Ch. Div. 1951). This doctrine, however, is merely an aid in ascertaining legislative intent. State v. Hotel Bar Foods, 18 N.J. 115, 129 (1955). The criteria for evaluating

whether or not a repeal has been effected are numerous. Sutherland, supra, § 2007. In the final analysis, a law cannot be evaluated in a vacuum, but must be considered in the context in which it was adopted. Appeal of N.Y. State Realty & Terminal Co., 21 N.J. 90, 98 (1956); Matawan Borough v. Monmouth County Tax Board, 51 N.J. 291, 299 (1968).

The inquiry is, of course, one of establishing legislative intent as expressed in its language. Gangemi v. Berry, 25 N.J. 1, 10 (1957). See generally, Sutherland, supra, §§ 2006, 2007. In conducting this inquiry, it should be noted that new laws which radically change the old may be the basis of and may provide some indication of legislative intent. Mahr v. State, supra, 12 N.J. Super. at 261. A new law altering fundamental assumptions relied upon by the old law will work to supersede earlier inconsistent statutes. Board of Education v. Tait, 81 N.J. Eq. 161 (E. & A. 1913); Two Guys from Harrison, Inc. v. Furman, 32 N.J. 199, 223-225 (1960); Mahr v. State, supra, 12 N.J. Super. at 261-262.

In changing the age of majority in New Jersey, the Legislature was cognizant of extensive reference to that age in the statutes. The enactment is introduced by a specific statement of legislative intent to change the age "pending the revision and amendment of the many statutory provisions involved." (Emphasis added). N.J.S.A. 9:17B-1. Furthermore, in N.J.S.A. 9:17B-3, the Legislature took note of inconsistent laws by providing that "every person 18 or more years of age shall in all other matters and for all other purposes be deemed to be an adult and, notwithstanding any other provision of law to the contrary, shall have the same legal capacity to act . . . as a person 21 years of age." (Emphasis added). Of the numerous means of altering the age of majority, the Legislature has chosen in one enactment to eradicate 21 as the age of majority and substitute age 18 rather than initially attempt the massive task of ferreting out each and every statute which would require alteration.

The legislative intent in enacting N.J.S.A. 9:17B-1 et seq. was to supersede inconsistent statutory requirements which were based on the age of majority as 21 years. The Legislature was well aware that its enactment would lower the age for employment as a policeman. The subject of police minimum age requirements was simultaneously being considered by the Legislature along with the current statute. Assembly Bill No. 450 (1972) provided for the reduction from minimum age 21 to 19 years of age for appointment to a local fire or police force. The bill passed the Assembly on May 11, 1972, but never was released from the Senate Committee on County and Municipal Government. A similar bill which applied only to policemen, Assembly Bill No. 120 (1972), was never reported out of the Assembly Committee on Law, Public Safety and Defense. The current statute was introduced on May 4, 1972 (Senate Bill No. 992) and was signed by the Governor on July 5, 1972.

It cannot be contended that the Legislature neglected to exclude policemen from the application of the act where specific exclusions were provided, none of which dealt with policemen, and the subject matter alleged to be excluded was being simultaneously considered. This is particularly so where the language of the act is specific in terms of a comprehensive change "pending revision and amendment" of the numerous provisions affected as to the new status of 18-year-olds "in all other matters and for all other purposes." N.J.S.A. 9:17B-1 and 9:17B-3. Mahr v. State, supra, 12 N.J. Super. at 263. The intent of the Legislature as expressed in the statute indicates the applicability of the axiom -- expressio unius est exclusio alterius. Gangemi v. Berry, supra, 25 N.J. at 11; Mahr v. State, supra, 12 N.J. Super. at 263. The Legislature is familiar with its previous enactments and was aware of the statute's ...


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