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Poff v. Caro

Decided: March 12, 1987.

PAMELA S. POFF, DIRECTOR OF THE DIVISION ON CIVIL RIGHTS, DEPARTMENT OF LAW AND PUBLIC SAFETY, STATE OF NEW JERSEY, PLAINTIFF,
v.
JULIO CARO, DEFENDANT



Humphreys, A.j.s.c.

Humphreys

[228 NJSuper Page 373] Three homosexual males have filed a complaint with the Division on Civil Rights contending that the property owner refused to rent a three bedroom apartment to them.*fn1 The Division on Civil Rights seeks a preliminary injunction restraining

the defendant from renting the apartment to anyone else while the discrimination complaint is unresolved.

The major and novel issue before this Court is whether a property owner violates the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination by refusing to rent to homosexuals because the owner fears that the homosexuals may later acquire the disease known as AIDS.

After consideration of the briefs and oral argument, the Court finds that: (1) Refusal to rent on such a ground constitutes discrimination by a landlord against members of the public who have a perceived handicap; (2) such conduct is a violation of the Law Against Discrimination. See N.J.S.A. 10:5-1 et seq.; and (3) the refusal to rent was probably based on that invalid ground. The preliminary injunction will therefore issue, but with certain safeguards to protect the rightful property interests of the owner.

I.

The Division has presented the following facts. The defendant advertised a three bedroom apartment for rent. Three men attempted to rent the apartment. Upon learning that the three men were homosexuals, the defendant refused to rent the apartment to them because he feared that they might later acquire AIDS and thereby endanger his family residing on the premises.

Upon a review of all the material submitted, the Court finds that the Division is likely to establish these facts at final hearing.*fn2

II.

A preliminary injunction "summons the most sensitive exercise of judicial discretion." Crowe v. De Gioia, 90 N.J. 126, 132

(1982). The legal principles underlying the exercise of that judicial discretion were set forth in Crowe v. De Gioia, and can be summarized as follows.

Preliminary injunctive relief should not issue except when necessary to prevent irreparable harm. Such relief should be withheld when the right underlying the claim is unsettled; nor should preliminary injunctive relief be granted when all material facts are controverted.

To prevail on such an application, the movant must make a preliminary showing of a reasonable probability of ultimate success on the merits. This requirement is tempered by the principle that mere doubt as to the validity of the claim is not an adequate basis for refusing to maintain the status quo. The Court must also weigh the relative hardship to the parties resulting from the grant or denial of preliminary injunctive relief. Crowe v. De Gioia, 90 N.J. at 132-134. The Court must always consider and apply principles of justice, equity and morality. Zoning Board of Adjustment v. Service Electrical Cable TV, 198 N.J. Super. 370, 379 (App.Div.1985).

The Division on Civil Rights is expressly authorized by statute to seek preliminary injunctive relief of this kind. See N.J.S.A. 10:5-14.1; Pfaus v. Palermo, 97 N.J. Super. 4, 8 (App.Div.1967); see also Pfaus v. Feder, 88 N.J. Super. 468 (Ch.Div.1965). Whether such preliminary injunctive relief should be granted and under what conditions is a matter for a Court to determine upon consideration of traditional principles governing the issuance of preliminary injunctive relief. See Pfaus v. Feder, 88 N.J. Super. at 476.

However, a Court should bear in mind that the statute authorizing the Division to seek the application "reflects further legislative emphasis upon adequate enforcement of a statute (the Law Against Discrimination) ranking high indeed in our public policy." Pfaus v. Palermo, 97 N.J. ...


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