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TIGER INN v. EDWARDS

June 9, 1986

The TIGER INN, a New Jersey Corporation, Plaintiff,
v.
W. Cary EDWARDS, Attorney General of New Jersey, and Pamela Poff, Director, New Jersey Department of Law & Public Safety, Division on Civil Rights, Defendants; The IVY CLUB, a New Jersey Corporation, Plaintiff, v. W. Cary EDWARDS, Attorney General of New Jersey, and Pamela Poff, Director, New Jersey Department of Law & Public Safety, Division on Civil Rights, Defendants



The opinion of the court was delivered by: COWEN

 The Division conducted further fact finding, and, in May 1985, issued a Finding of Probable Cause, both as to jurisdiction and as to discrimination. Upon the request of Sally Frank, the matter was transferred to the Office of Administrative Law. In December 1985, the ALJ granted partial summary decision (analogous to partial summary judgment) on the jurisdictional issue.

 The clubs then obtained a stay of proceedings "pending the completion of all possible means of reviewing the determination that the respondent clubs are subject to" the Law Against Discrimination. See Exhibit B, Brief of Ivy Club. In granting the stay, the ALJ noted:

 
This decision is based on my belief that the jurisdictional issue is important, if not critical, to the ultimate disposition of the matter and on the representation [ sic ] of Mr. Beatie that he will seek leave to appeal my ruling to the Appellate Division. . . .

 See Exhibit D, Brief of Ivy Club.

 After the stay was granted, the Director accepted the ALJ's decision. The Tiger Inn and Ivy Club then filed complaints in this court. *fn1" They allowed their time to seek an interlocutory appeal before the Appellate Division to lapse.

 Before this court, the clubs contend that the exercise of jurisdiction by the Division of Civil Rights violates their civil rights under the federal constitution. In particular, they claim that the Law Against Discrimination is void for vagueness; that application of the Law Against Discrimination to them violates their freedom of association; and that the administrative procedures have violated their due process rights. They seek a declaratory judgment and an injunction against the state proceedings. Defendants are Attorney General W. Cary Edwards and Director of Civil Rights Pamela Poff.

 Defendants move to dismiss for lack of subject matter jurisdiction. In the alternative, they move for abstention pursuant to Younger v. Harris, 401 U.S. 37, 91 S. Ct. 746, 27 L. Ed. 2d 669 (1971), and Railroad Commission of Texas v. Pullman, 312 U.S. 496, 61 S. Ct. 643, 85 L. Ed. 971 (1941).

 SUBJECT MATTER JURISDICTION

 Defendants claim that the clubs are attempting to appeal an adverse decision in the state legal system to a federal district court. Since this court's jurisdiction is original, not appellate, they argue that this court lacks jurisdiction.

 It is certainly true that a 42 U.S.C. § 1983 action is not an appropriate vehicle to appeal a state court judgment. District of Columbia Court of Appeals v. Feldman, 460 U.S. 462, 103 S. Ct. 1303, 75 L. Ed. 2d 206 (1982); Carbonell v. Louisiana Dept. of Health and Human Resources, 772 F.2d 185 (5th Cir.1985). However, nothing in this doctrine suggests that it applies to decisions made by state administrative agencies in administrative proceedings in addition to judgments rendered by state courts in judicial proceedings. Such an expansion of the doctrine would, in many cases, undermine the well established principle that a plaintiff need not exhaust state remedies before suing under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. See Monroe v. Pape, 365 U.S. 167, 81 S. Ct. 473, 5 L. Ed. 2d 492 (1961); Williams v. Red Bank Board of Education, 662 F.2d 1008, 1017 (3d Cir.1981).

 The court finds that it has subject matter ...


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