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Cumberland County Welfare Board v. Roberts

January 23, 1976

CUMBERLAND COUNTY WELFARE BOARD, PLAINTIFF,
v.
CHARLES ROBERTS AND MARY ROBERTS, HIS WIFE; ERNEST FLEMING, JR., AND SANDRA FLEMING, HIS WIFE; LUISA CHINI, A WIDOW; AND VINELAND SAVINGS & LOAN ASSOCIATION, DEFENDANTS



Miller, J.c.c.

Miller

Does the lien of a county welfare board under N.J.S.A. 44:7-15, which is more than 20 years old and unrevived, remain a valid lien on real estate because the lienholder is a governmental agency? This case arises out of a motion by the Cumberland County Welfare Board for a writ of execution in such a situation.

This case involves questions concerning the issues of governmental immunity, security of land titles and public policy. It appears there are no reported cases which adequately address the problems being litigated.

Charles Roberts and his wife Mary were recipients of the welfare board under the Old Age Assistance Program, N.J.S.A. 44:7-1 et seq. , from June 1, 1936 to May 1, 1937, and from December 1, 1944 to August 16, 1945. Pursuant

to the requirements for receiving assistance, the Roberts on two different occasions signed certificates to reimburse. The first was properly recorded January 21, 1937, and a certificate of assistance granted was recorded February 1, 1945. A second certificate to reimburse, dated March 29, 1937, was likewise properly recorded June 1, 1937, and a certificate of assistance granted was recorded August 31, 1945.

Charles Roberts died in 1944. Elizabeth Roberts, daughter of Mary Roberts, received the property upon the death of her mother in 1948.

On May 29, 1953 Elizabeth Roberts subdivided and conveyed a portion of the property in question to defendant Chini a surviving tenant by the entirety.

Elizabeth Roberts died August 12, 1971. On October 21, 1971 George Roberts, executor of the estate of Elizabeth Roberts, conveyed to the Flemings the remaining parcel of property. Vineland Savings and Loan Association is the mortgagee of the Flemings.

The lien which the board desires to enforce is created by N.J.S.A. 44:7-15 which states:

At any time the county welfare board may execute and file with the county clerk . . . a certificate * * * showing the amount of assistance advanced to said person, and when so filed each certificate shall be a legal claim against both the recipient and his spouse with the same force and effect as a judgment of the County Court, law division. [Emphasis supplied]

The above language is unequivocal. The inescapable conclusion is that the Legislature invested the board with a lien having all the attributes, benefits and obligations of a judgment holder in an action at law. If the Legislature had wished to create conditions or preferences on this lien, it would have expressly done so. Nowhere does N.J.S.A. 44:7-15 indicate the efficacy of the board's claim should rise or fall below that of ...


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