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General Motors Corp. v. Blair

Decided: July 25, 1974.

GENERAL MOTORS CORP., ETC., PLAINTIFF-APPELLANT,
v.
JAMES H. BLAIR, ETC., DEFENDANT-RESPONDENT. EDWARD JACKSON, COMPLAINANT, V. HYATT BEARING, ETC., RESPONDENT-APPELLANT, V. JAMES H. BLAIR, ETC., DEFENDANT-RESPONDENT. STEVE THOMPSON, COMPLAINANT, V. GENERAL MOTORS CORP., ETC., RESPONDENT-APPELLANT, V. JAMES H. BLAIR, ETC., RESPONDENT. RUBY J. PLUMMER, COMPLAINANT, V. DELCO-REMY, ETC., RESPONDENT-APPELLANT, V. JAMES H. BLAIR, ETC., RESPONDENT



Handler, Meanor and Kole. The opinion of the court was delivered by Handler, J.A.D.

Handler

[129 NJSuper Page 416] These are consolidated appeals which challenge the validity of the interrogatory default procedure rule promulgated by the Division on Civil Rights. N.J.A.C. 13:4-8.3. The appeals, on leave granted, arise from the attempted application by the Director of the Division of this rule against appellant (General Motors) in three separate cases of alleged employment discrimination. The respective complainants, Edward Jackson, Ruby J. Plummer and Steve Thomas, had been employed at different plants and by different divisions of General Motors. Each was fired from work and filed a complaint in the Division on Civil Rights, alleging that the discharge was on account of race. Shortly after the filing of the complaints the Division in each case served a set of interrogatories upon the respective divisions of General Motors as the respondents. In the Plummer case, the complaint had been filed some months earlier than the other two complaints, and the interrogatories served on the respondent were answered. Upon receipt of the answers, however, the Division served supplemental interrogatories on General Motors. Thereafter in each case General Motors filed a motion

to strike the interrogatories, which was denied by the Director. In addition, a petition for a declaratory judgment that the interrogatory default procedure rule was inapplicable was filed in each case and was also denied.

We consider first whether the interrogatory default procedure rule falls within the scope of the rule-making power of the Division on Civil Rights. A detailing of this rule is in order. It provides that if the Director of the Division on Civil Rights determines that a complaint "must be resolved expeditiously," interrogatories may be issued to the respondent; if the respondent then fails to answer or to file a motion to strike the interrogatories, the Director is required to enter an order extending time to answer for an additional ten days and at the same time notify respondent that a default shall be entered upon the failure to answer the interrogatories within this extended time period. N.J.A.C. 13:4-8.3(a)(1)(2). If answers are not forthcoming, a formal entry of default is entered based upon a supporting affidavit. N.J.A.C. 13:4-8.3(c)(4)(d). Upon the entry of default the rule states that "matters regarding which questions were asked [shall be] taken as established for the purposes of the case in accordance with the claim of the complainant," and all defenses shall be suppressed. N.J.A.C. 13:4-8.3(c)(1)(3). Upon notice to respondent a default hearing is scheduled for the purpose of receiving complainant's proofs of the allegation of discrimination. N.J.A.C. 13:4-8.3(e)(g). The hearing examiner assigned to the matter shall proceed on the default order and supporting affidavit and shall receive "any other evidence proffered by the complainant and shall determine if the facts established by the complainant and admitted by respondent constitute an act of discrimination, and if so, the amount of damages or other recommended relief." N.J.A.C. 13:4-8.3(h). No proofs offered by the respondent at the hearing shall be admissible in evidence. Id. The Director after the recommendation of the hearing examiner shall enter a final order and, if discrimination has been

found, the Director's order shall provide appropriate relief. N.J.A.C. 13:4-8.3(i)(j).

General authority for the promulgation of rules is found in the Law Against Discrimination. N.J.S.A. 10:5-8(g) prescribes that: "The Attorney General shall: Adopt, promulgate, amend, and rescind suitable rules and regulations to carry out the provisions of this act." Further, N.J.S.A. 10:5-18 states that the Attorney General "shall establish rules of practice to govern, expedite and effectuate" the procedure of the Division. This general authority would permit the adoption of procedural rules relating to discovery and the expedition of hearings in appropriate cases. In addition to this authority, further support may be found in the Division's broad investigatory powers. N.J.S.A. 10:5-8(h) and (i) and N.J.S.A. 10:5-14.

General Motors takes the position that the Law Against Discrimination requires judicial enforcement of all investigatory orders and that the interrogatory default procedure rule counters this particular statutory mandate. It relies in part on the statutory language of N.J.S.A. 10:5-14.1, viz :

At any time after the filing of any complaint the Attorney General may proceed against any person in a summary manner in the Superior Court of New Jersey to compel compliance with any of the provisions of this act, or to prevent violations or attempts to violate any such provisions, or attempts to interfere with or impede the enforcement of any such provisions or the exercise or performance of any power or duty thereunder.

And N.J.S.A. 10:5-19 which states:

Observance of an order of the director issued pursuant to the provisions of this act may be enforced by a civil action brought by the director in the Superior Court to obtain such relief as may be necessay to effectuate the terms of said order.

These statutory provisions have primary reference to the direct enforcement of the act itself as well as to the implementation of Division ...


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