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State v. Woodlands Condominium Association

Decided: February 22, 1985.

STATE OF NEW JERSEY, PLAINTIFF-APPELLANT,
v.
WOODLANDS CONDOMINIUM ASSOCIATION, DEFENDANT-APPELLEE



Hamlin, J.s.c.

Hamlin

This is a de novo appeal from a determination by the Edison Township Municipal Court. It presents two questions of first impression: the right of the State to appeal an adverse determination by the municipal court pursuant to R. 2:3-1 and the applicability of N.J.S.A. 26:4A-1 et seq. to swimming pools operated and used solely by condominium owners and their invited guests within the context of a quasi-criminal prosecution in the municipal courts.

The procedural history is significant. On June 29, 1984 an officer of the Edison Health Department issued two summons to the Woodlands Condominium Association. One summons charged violation of sections 14 (provision of life guards) and 15 (bacteriological testing) of the 1955 swimming pool code of New Jersey, N.J.S.A. 26:4A-1 et seq. adopted by Edison as municipal ordinance article XXII, section 36-223. The second summons charged violation of article XXXI, section 36-296, failure to obtain a license. Although the township attorney entitled the papers on this appeal as a "civil action" it is clear that is not the case as conceded at argument. The form of summons is entitled "complaint, non-indictable offense" and requires the issuing officer to state that he has "reasonable

grounds to believe" that defendant "committed the offense." Defendant was summoned to appear in the municipal court on July 16, 1984. That court has no civil jurisdiction, N.J.S.A. 2A:8-21, R. 7:1, but it may impose criminal sanctions such as fines as set forth by penal statutes. In that proceeding the State had the burden of proof beyond a reasonable doubt and the court was limited to verdicts of dismissal, not guilty or guilty. R. 7:4-6. The action was quasi-criminal in nature with all inherent constitutional guarantees that attach to such proceedings. State v. Labato, 7 N.J. 137 (1951).

Defendant association entered a plea of not guilty and appeared by counsel at the trial on November 5, 1984. During colloquy counsel for defendant urged dismissal upon res judicata based upon an acquittal a year previously charging the same defendant with violation of the same ordinances. While there was no specific ruling on the application, it is clear that the municipal court judge did not accept the argument. In the absence of an appeal of a pretrial motion addressed to the Superior Court such action was appropriate. R. 7:4-2(e) and R. 3:24. The same may also be said in regard to defendant's argument that the State's adoption of a new swimming pool code in 1970 vitiated Edison's attempt to enforce 1955 standards subsequent to that legislative act. The State and defendant entered into certain stipulations:

1. The defendant is a not for profit corporation which operates but does not own the subject pool;

2. Woodlands Condominiums consist of 37 units with a common area, including the pool, owned in common by the owners of said units N.J.S.A. 46:8B-3(d) and N.J.S.A. 46:8B-6;

3. The pool is open to the common owners and their invited guests only. No admission or other charge is made for use of the pool. The public at large is not admitted;

4. Neither the association or the individual owners had obtained a license, hired a life guard or complied with the testing requirements of the ordinance.

The State presented no other evidence. Defendant produced an officer of the association who testified that all condominium units were owner-occupied and that there were no leases or

rental tenancies. The court reserved decision until November 26, 1984 when it rendered a verdict of "not guilty" without opinion. The State did not seek a statement of reasons or clarification of the verdict as provided by court rules. R. 1:7-4; State v. Hintenberger, 41 N.J. Super. 597 (App.Div.1956), certif. den. 23 N.J. 57 (1956). The township attorney filed a notice of appeal and the matter was heard on ...


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