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Robinson v. Cahill

January 23, 1975


Justice Pashman disagrees with certain portions of the decretal part of the above order and is filing a memorandum stating his views. Pashman, J. (dissenting).


On April 3, 1973 this court filed its opinion (62 N.J. 473) in the above captioned cause (which constituted its judgment, R. 2:11-3(b)) modifying the judgment of the Superior Court, Law Division, Hudson County and affirming said judgment as so modified. Said opinion generally held that the present system of maintaining and supporting public elementary and secondary school education in this state is unconstitutional because it does not conform to the state's obligation imposed by Art. VIII, ยง 4, par. 1 of the New Jersey Constitution. The court reserved decision on the subject of remedies and sought the further views of the parties. After receiving the same, it filed a further opinion on June 19, 1973 (63 N.J. 196), concluding as follows:

We retain jurisdiction. Any party may move for appropriate relief, before or after December 31, 1974, if new circumstances so warrant.

No such legislation was enacted by December 31, 1974, although efforts to that end continued through said date. The matter therefore now returns to this court for the ordering of appropriate remedies to effectuate the court's original decision.

The above numbered motions have been filed with sundry objects. Some seek injunctions with respect to, and/or redistribution of, some or all of such funds as may be appropriated by the Legislature as various forms of state aid to local school districts for the school year commencing July 1, 1975 (none have yet been appropriated); others seek leave to intervene or to participate as amici curiae to present their views thereon and still others seek action on miscellaneous matters.

Upon consideration of all said motions and the briefs and accompanying documents, it is on this 23 day of January, 1975, determined and ordered as follows:

1. The motion of defendants The President of New Jersey Senate and the New Jersey Senate for a rehearing of the case (M-475) is denied. The motion of defendants Speaker of the General Assembly and the General Assembly (M-521) for order in aid of judgment is denied.

2. The motions of petitioners Christiansen, et als. "for an extension of time of thirty (30) days to allow petitioners to intervene and to file a petition for rehearing" (M-453 and 454) are denied.

3. All school districts must, even under recent legislation extending timetable dates, commence within a very few days the process of adopting budgets for the school year 1975-76, arranging for elections and attending to other matters relevant thereto and must be advised prior thereto of the amount of state aid funds of various categories estimated to be received during said school year. Any injunction against the distribution of said funds, or part thereof, and/or any redistribution of the same, on a different basis than now prescribed by law, while benefitting the local property tax situation in some municipalities, would in the

case of many others radically increase the amount to be raised by local taxation or require substantial reduction of the educational program. The fact that there will be no legislation compatible with the court's decision became certain only a very short time ago and the court considers it would be inequitable and, indeed, chaotic as to many school districts to effect financial changes for the 1975-76 school year at this late date and on such short notice. Therefore, the court will order no changes in the present statutory scheme for the school year 1975-76 and defendant Commissioner of Education may immediately advise all school districts of the amount of estimated state aid funds for said year based on present law.

4. Consequently, plaintiff's motion for relief (M-448), alternate motion for relief (M-449) and second alternate motion for relief (M-450) are denied and motion of defendant Governor Brendan T. Byrne (successor to defendant William T. Cahill) for order in aid of judgment (M-452) is denied. No further motions for relief need be filed by any party. Plaintiffs' motion for discovery (M-451) is denied without prejudice to renewal if the subject matter becomes relevant at a later date.

5. The court will hear oral argument on March 18, 1975 at 10:00 A.M. on the following subjects as related to relief with respect to the school year commencing July 1, 1976 and years thereafter:

a. The method of determination of the definition of "a thorough and efficient system of free public schools," of the translation of that definition into financial terms and of the application thereof (including whether such definition should be administratively applied to each school district separately, to groups of districts based on particular characteristics or equally to all).

b. The extent of the power of the court to order relief from, or changes in, the present statutory financing scheme on a temporary or permanent basis in order to assure the

meeting of the state's obligation to implement such system as defined.

c. To what extent and in what particular ways the court should ...

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