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County of Essex v. Commissioner

Decided: June 14, 1991.

COUNTY OF ESSEX, A BODY POLITIC AND CORPORATE OF NEW JERSEY, PLAINTIFF-RESPONDENT,
v.
COMMISSIONER, NEW JERSEY DEPARTMENT OF HUMAN SERVICES, AND HARRIET CANIK, CHIEF, BUREAU OF FINANCIAL STANDARDS AND PROCEDURES, DEFENDANTS-APPELLANTS



On appeal from the Superior Court of New Jersey, Law Division, Essex County.

King, Long and R.s. Cohen. The opinion of the court was delivered by King, P.J.A.D.

King

This is an appeal and cross-appeal from a decision by Judge Villanueva on cross-motions for summary judgment in the Law Division. We conclude that the judgment in the Law Division must be affirmed for the reasons given by Judge Villanueva in his 94-page oral opinions of September 25, 1989 and October 19, 1989.

These are the contentions as framed by the State on its appeal and in response to the cross-appeal:

POINT I -- THE TRIAL COURT ERRED IN ORDERING INJUNCTIVE RELIEF AND CREDIT TO ESSEX COUNTY BECAUSE N.J.S.A. 30:4-68.1 APPLIES ONLY TO STATE HOSPITALS FOR THE MENTALLY ILL AND NOT TO FACILITIES FOR THE DEVELOPMENTALLY DISABLED.

A. The Legislative History of N.J.S.A. 30:4-68.1, Which Was Given Short Shrift and Misconstrued By The Trial Court, Shows That The Statute Was Only Intended To Apply To The State Hospitals for the Mentally Ill.

B. The Internal Context of N.J.S.A. 30:4-68.1 And Comparison To Related Statutes In Title 30 Support The Conclusion That Counties Are Only Relieved From Maintenance Payments For Psychiatric Hospital Residents and Not For DDD Facilities Residents.

C. Caselaw Construing Title 30 Maintenance Responsibilities Supports The Conclusion That N.J.S.A. 30:4-68.1 Does Not Relieve Essex County From Maintenance Payments For Residents of DDD Facilities.

D. The Longstanding Administrative Interpretation of N.J.S.A. 30:4-68.1 Without Legislative Intervention Further Supports The Conclusion That the Statute Only Applies To State Hospitals For The Mentally Ill.

POINT II -- IF THE TRIAL COURT'S ORDER APPLYING N.J.S.A. 30:4-68.1 TO THE DDD FACILITIES IS NOT REVERSED, THEN THE TRIAL COURT'S RULING DENYING RELIEF RETROACTIVE TO JANUARY 1, 1980 MUST ALSO BE AFFIRMED AS AN APPROPRIATE EXERCISE OF JUDICIAL DISCRETION TO AVOID DISASTROUS FISCAL CONSEQUENCES TO THE STATE UPON ANNOUNCEMENT OF A NEW PRINCIPLE OF LAW.

These are the counter-contentions of the County of Essex in response to the State's appeal and on its own cross-appeal:

POINT I -- THE TRIAL COURT APPROPRIATELY ORDERED INJUNCTIVE RELIEF AND CREDIT TO ESSEX COUNTY SINCE N.J.S.A. 30:4-68.1 APPLIES TO STATE INSTITUTIONS AND FACILITIES FOR THE DEVELOPMENTALLY DISABLED AS WELL AS THE MENTALLY ILL.

POINT II -- THE TRIAL COURT ERRED IN AWARDING PLAINTIFF ONLY PARTIAL RELIEF PROSPECTIVELY FROM MARCH 30, 1989. THE

PLAINTIFF IS LEGALLY ENTITLED TO FULL RETROACTIVE RELIEF FROM JANUARY 1, 1980, THE EFFECTIVE DATE OF N.J.S.A. 30:4-68.1.

A. THE COURT'S DENIAL OF RETROACTIVE RELIEF BASED ON THE APPLICATION OF THE ...


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