On appeal from the Superior Court of New Jersey, Law Division, Special Civil Part, Essex County.
Michels, Deighan and Stern. The opinion of the Court was delivered by Michels, P.J.A.D.
In these consolidated cases, defendant City of Newark (Newark) appeals from judgments of the Law Division, Special Civil Part, that (1) declared invalid a resolution passed by the Newark Municipal Council establishing an attorney's fee schedule which was intended to meet its responsibility to police officers under N.J.S.A.: 401A:14-155; (2) awarded plaintiffs Critchley and Roche (Critchley) and Thomas Waters (Waters) attorney's fees in the sum of $787.50; (3) awarded Critchley and plaintiff Joseph Orga (Orga) attorney's fees in the sum of $1125; and (4) awarded plaintiffs A. J. Fusco (Fusco) and Harry Romeo (Romeo) attorney's fees in the sum of $1125. These fees were awarded to Critchley and Fusco for their representation of police officers, Waters, Orga and Romeo, in connection with quasi-criminal charges which had arisen out of acts committed while the officers were performing their official duties. Each officer had been charged with assault, in a separate complaint, and each was subsequently acquitted after trial in Newark Municipal Court.
The facts giving rise to this appeal are not in dispute and were stipulated before the trial court. Moreover, the parties agreed to be bound by the stipulation as it related to Waters and, therefore, the facts as they relate to Waters alone are discussed herein. Briefly, in 1977, prior to the commencement of these actions, the Newark Municipal Council adopted Resolution
7RW, citing the obligation imposed upon it by N.J.S.A. 40A:14-155. This resolution provided a schedule of fees to be paid to private attorneys who are retained to fulfill Newark's obligations under the statute. Resolution 7RW, although subsequently amended, at all times here pertinent, provided:
2. That the fee schedule . . . is as follows:
(a) $15.00 per hour for first 35 hours for interviews with client, witnesses, prosecutor, judge, probation, research consultation and other out of court work.
(b) $10.00 per hour for any work set forth in paragraph (a) over 35 hours.
(c) $135.00 per day for court appearances for trials, sentencing, motions, arguments or any other form of court appearances. These services will be reimbursed at the rate of $22.50 per hour for those performed during the part of any day.
(d) There will be no compensation for waiting time in court.
3. That no private attorney will be paid pursuant to this resolution unless the Corporation Counsel has authorized his services in writing prior to the performance of those services and said private attorney has agreed in writing to work for the fee schedule drafted by the Corporation Counsel and made a part of this resolution.
Newark provided copies of this resolution to all its police officers, including the three plaintiff police officers, at roll call training, during a one week period ...