May a former public official, required by law to forfeit his office upon conviction for a crime and disqualified "forever" from holding office, seek public office again after receiving a gubernatorial pardon? No New Jersey court has decided that question.
This action is brought by residents and registered voters of the City of Linden. They challenge the right of John T. Gregorio, a recent recipient of a pardon by Governor Thomas H. Kean, to seek the Democratic Party nomination for mayor of the City of Linden.
Gregorio was convicted by jury on December 19, 1982 of a second-degree conspiracy. As a result, pursuant to N.J.S.A. 2C:51-2a, he automatically forfeited the two public offices he
then held, state senator for the 21st legislative district and mayor of the City of Linden.*fn1
On January 12, 1990, Governor Kean granted a full and free pardon to Gregorio for the aforesaid conviction.
Plaintiffs rely upon the plain language of the statute in asserting that Gregorio is barred from running for public office again:
In addition to the punishment prescribed for the offense, and the forfeiture set forth in 2C:51-2a, any person convicted of an offense involving or touching on his public office, position or employment shall be forever disqualified from holding any office or position of honor, trust or profit under this State or any of its administrative or political subdivisions. [ N.J.S.A. 2C:51-2c.]
The county clerk is joined as a party defendant because Gregorio has filed petitions seeking the nomination of the Democratic Party in the June 5, 1990 primary election as a candidate for mayor of Linden. The county clerk is under statutory duties to prepare the ballot for that election (see generally, N.J.S.A. 19:23-1 et seq. and more specifically, N.J.S.A. 19:23-22.4) and, although not entering an appearance, has agreed to be bound by the judgment of the court.
Many constitutional or statutory provisions provide that a conviction of certain crimes renders the one convicted ineligible to hold public office.
There is general agreement among the courts that the granting of a pardon to an offender will not restore him to a public office which he has forfeited as a result of his conviction. However, there does not appear to be such a well-settled rule concerning the effect of a pardon on the eligibility of the one pardoned to hold public office.
Crucial to the determination whether a pardon will restore eligibility of the one pardoned to hold a particular office is the view that the court takes as to the general effect of the pardon. [Annotation, "Pardon as Restoring Public Office or License or Eligibility Therefor," 58 A.L.R. 3d 1191, 1195 (1974).]
Historically, pardon was conceived as the voluntary act of the sovereign. Now, the pardon is recognized in almost all states as an executive function. In New Jersey, the pardon is a constitutional power bestowed upon the Governor. N.J.Const.
(1947), Art. V, § 2, par. 1 states: "The Governor may grant pardons and reprieves in all cases other than impeachment and treason. . . ." Pardon, ...