On appeal from Superior Court of New Jersey, Law Division, Bergen County.
Fritz, Polow and Joelson. The opinion of the court was delivered by Fritz, P.J.A.D.
Each of these appeals, in which the operative facts are essentially identical, presents the single issue of whether the Retail Installment Sales Act (RISA), N.J.S.A. 17:16C-1 et seq. , is applicable, on the basis of extraterritorial effect, to the "revolving charge accounts" maintained by defendants for use by plaintiffs. In the absence of objection from counsel, we have consolidated the appeals.*fn1
Both parties in each action brought motions in the trial court for summary judgment. In an oral opinion the trial judge granted the motions of defendants, relying solely on Sliger v. R.H. Macy & Co., Inc. , 59 N.J. 465 (1971) as authority for his determination. His opinion is somewhat equivocal. It appears to be premised in part, at least, on his reading of Sliger as directing that courts not interfere with legislative prerogative absent an "egregious situation" involving something more than the "no great disparity" between New Jersey RISA rates and those of the other state involved, in this case, Illinois. Recognizing
the single question presented of whether the Legislature intended RISA to have extraterritorial application, he said:
The problem in this state, however, is that the New Jersey Supreme Court decided the case of Sliger v. R.H. Macy & Co., Inc. , 59 New Jersey, Page 465 (1971). If that case had not been decided as it was decided, and even with or without the statute, the Court might be free to conclude differently or take a different view of the particular matters that are before it. Of course, I am bound by that decision, and I conclude that essentially based on the analysis and the applicability of the Supreme Court decision in Sliger v. R.H. Macy & Co. that I have cited, that the present New Jersey statute does not apply in the case before me, so that means that obviously I could not grant the relief requested by the plaintiff.
I want it clear that the decision I am making here this morning -- and I have a few other things I have to say -- is not meant to imply or suggest an out-of-state lender who sues in the New Jersey courts could collect higher interest charges, necessarily. That may be a different situation. It may be that an out-of-state company, mail order, such as the defendants in the two motions that are really being considered here might well be limited in such cases to the New Jersey rates on a lawsuit. I think, however, in terms of the agreement between the parties, they are free to agree in most cases as to which law should apply and they have done that and there is, obviously, nothing so shocking in what is before me that I could conclude that public policy would require that the Courts of this state step in at this particular point and say the New Jersey Retail Installment Sales Act is to have an extraterritorial application. It is up to the Legislature to act at this point. It is not up to the province of the Court unless there is some egregious situation which clearly, on its face, would create such a disparity that this Court, as a matter of equity, or based on public policy grounds, should not enforce the law of another jurisdiction on traditional rules.
It is true that at first blush Sliger appears quite apposite. There a usury statute was held not to be controlling with respect to time price differential payments, the Supreme Court being satisfied that the interplay between a "time-price doctrine [which] is firmly imbedded in this state" with the "element of
reliance upon that doctrine" and the usury statute be left "with the Legislature, the author of the usury laws." 59 N.J. at 469.*fn3
Here we have no such choice. Here we are called upon to determine, on an absolute rather than a relative basis, the perimeters of effectiveness of a statute. In such circumstance it becomes the duty of a court to fathom as well as it can the intent of the Legislature in the enactment of the legislation. "The goal of the interpretative process is the intent of the Legislature." State v. Provenzano , 34 N.J. 318, 322 (1961).
It is well settled that the law of the state chosen by the parties will be honored so long as that choice does not contravene a fundamental policy of New Jersey. Crinnion v. Great Atlantic & Pacific Tea Co. , 156 N.J. Super. 479, 483 (App.Div.1978); Knollmeyer v. Rudco Industries, Inc. , 154 N.J. Super. 309, 312-313 (App.Div.1977), certif.den. 77 N.J. 477 (1978); see Restatement, Conflict of Laws 2d, § 187 at 561. Nevertheless, "[a] court, subject to constitutional restrictions, will follow a statutory directive of its own state on choice of law." Restatement, supra , § 6(1) at 10.
We are of the opinion that our Legislature intended to offer New Jersey consumers the protection of RISA no matter from where the seller deals, and that this intent constitutes a statutory directive respecting choice of law. We believe that a contrary conclusion would contravene fundamental policy of this State as it appears documented in RISA. Thus we hold that that statute must be applied here despite the "election" of the parties in this ...