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Gormley v. Lan

Decided: October 1, 1981.

WILLIAM L. GORMLEY, INDIVIDUALLY, AND AS A MEMBER OF THE GENERAL ASSEMBLY OF THE STATE OF NEW JERSEY, APPELLANT,
v.
DONALD P. LAN, SECRETARY OF STATE OF THE STATE OF NEW JERSEY, JAMES ZAZZALI, ATTORNEY GENERAL OF THE STATE OF NEW JERSEY, RESPONDENTS



On appeal from a final decision of the Secretary of State.

Allcorn, Francis and Morton I. Greenberg. The opinion of the court was delivered by Morton I. Greenberg, J.A.D.

Greenberg

In July 1981 the Legislature passed concurrent resolutions providing that there be included on the 1981 ballot a proposed amendment to the New Jersey Constitution which amendment would provide:

No lands that were formerly tidal flowed, but which have not been tidal flowed at any time for a period of 40 years, shall be deemed riparian lands, or lands subject to a riparian claim, and the passage of that period shall be a good and sufficient bar to any such claim, unless during that period the State has specifically defined and asserted such a claim pursuant to law. This section shall apply to lands which have not been tidal flowed at any time during the 40 years immediately preceding adoption of this amendment with respect to any claim not specifically defined and asserted by the State within 1 year of the adoption of this amendment.

The form of the question to be put to the voters in the amendment was directed by the Legislature to read as follows:

RIPARIAN LANDS

Do you approve the amendment to Article VIII of the Constitution adding a new Section V and paragraph 1 thereto, requiring that lands shall have been tidal flowed within the last 40 years to be deemed riparian lands subject to State claims, and barring State claims not defined and asserted by law within that period?

The adoption of these resolutions triggered the application of N.J.S.A. 19:3-6, which provides in material part:

Any public question voted upon at an election shall be presented in simple language that can be easily understood by the voter. The printed phrasing of said question on the ballots shall clearly set forth the true purpose of the matter being voted upon. Where the question concerns any amendment to the State Constitution, or any act or statute or other legal titles of any nature, the printed phrasing on the ballots shall include a brief statement interpreting same. In event that in any statute the public question to be voted upon is so stated as not clearly to set forth the true purpose of the matter being voted upon and no provision is made in said statute for presenting the same in simple language or printing upon the ballots a brief statement interpreting the same, there may be added on the ballots to be used in voting upon the question, a brief statement interpreting the same and setting forth the true purpose of the matter being voted upon in addition to the statement of the public question required by the statute itself.

The Attorney General on July 31, 1981, pursuant to N.J.S.A. 19:3-6, submitted a proposed statement to the Secretary of State. This statement was twice revised and in its final form adopted on September 24, 1981 reads:

Land now or formerly flowed by the tide belongs to the people of this State. If these public lands are sold by the State, the monies received are placed in a fund to support public education for all schools in the State. The State has been locating and mapping these lands but the process has not been completed. Adoption of this amendment would require that the State establish any claims within a one year period to lands not flowed by the tides during the past 40 years or the public's claim to that land would be lost to private owners without any compensation whatsoever to the school fund on behalf of public education.

On September 25, 1981 appellant filed a pleading with this court entitled a verified complaint. In fact, the action of the Secretary of State in adopting the proposed form of notice was a final decision or action of a state administrative officer and consequently was appealable to this court as a matter of right. R. 2:2-3(a). Thus, we treated the ...


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