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Jansco v. Waldron

Decided: June 8, 1976.

JOSEPH JANSCO, PLAINTIFF-RESPONDENT,
v.
T. HOWARD WALDRON, DIRECTOR OF THE DEPARTMENT OF PUBLIC SAFETY OF THE CITY OF TRENTON, DEFENDANT-APPELLANT



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

Sullivan

[70 NJ Page 322] This appeal concerns the validity of Disciplinary Rules and Regulations of the Police Division, Department of Public Safety, City of Trenton, New Jersey. A Trenton police officer, charged with misconduct in violation of certain of these rules, challenged their validity on the ground that they had not been adopted in accordance with statutory requirements. The trial court upheld the rules. However, the Appellate Division reversed and ordered a dismissal of these charges, holding that the rules had no legal standing and plaintiff could not be held to answer to an alleged violation of them. This Court granted certification. 68 N.J. 279 (1975). For reasons hereinafter set forth we conclude that the Rules and Regulations were lawfully adopted and we reverse the judgment of the Appellate Division.

Plaintiff's alleged misconduct occurred in August, 1973. The factual background of the case was summarized by the trial court as follows:

Plaintiff was charged with conduct subversive of good order and discipline of the department, neglect of duty and willful disobedience of orders, violations of Rule 35, Section 1, Articles 5, 20 and 26 of the Police Division, Department of Public Safety, Rules and Regulations. He was also charged as an employee in the classified service under N.J.A.C. 4:1-16.1 et seq. with misconduct contributing to the disruption of the orderly operation of the Police Division, with negligence and incompetence in the performance of his public employment and with actions inconsistent with the standards of conduct becoming an employee in the public service.

Upon being served with a statement of charges and specifications and a notice of hearing, plaintiff filed the instant suit challenging, inter alia, the legality of the departmental rules and regulations on the ground that they had been adopted illegally and were void for that reason.

In order to understand the issue, a brief discussion of statutory background is helpful. The Police Department of the City of Trenton was created by ordinance pursuant to N.J.S.A. 40:47-1 which provided:

The governing body of every municipality may make, amend, repeal and enforce ordinances to establish, maintain, regulate and control a police department and force, and subject to the provisions of article 3 of this chapter (ยง 40:47-21 et seq.), a paid fire department and force therein; to prescribe and establish rules and regulations for the government and discipline thereof; the appointment, terms and removal of the officers and members thereof, and to prescribe their duties and fix their compensation.

This statute was repealed in 1971 and replaced by the following:

The governing body of any municipality, by ordinance, may create and establish a police department and force and provide for the maintenance, regulation and control thereof, and except as otherwise provided by law, appoint such members, officers and personnel as shall be deemed necessary, determine their terms of office, fix their compensation and prescribe their powers, functions and duties and adopt and promulgate rules and regulations for the government of the department and force and for the discipline of its members. [ N.J.S.A. 40A:14-118].

The two statutory sections are not significantly different. See Smith v. Tp. of Hazlet, 63 N.J. 523, 526 (1973). Accordingly, the discussion herein with regard to statutory interpretation shall be applicable to both statutory sections.

Section 2-9 of the Revised General Ordinances of the City of Trenton, after establishing a Division of Police and setting forth its structure, powers and duties, provides for the discipline of the Division in Section 2-9.8:

The director of public safety shall prepare and, with the approval of the mayor, adopt rules and regulations for the control, disposition and discipline of the division of police, the division of fire and the bureau of communications. Such rules may pertain to training, efficiency, the use and care of equipment and apparatus, and all other appropriate matters pertaining to the divisions and their interrelationship. The director of public safety shall administer and enforce such rules, ...


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