On appeal from the Superior Court of New Jersey, Chancery Division, Hunterdon County.
Before Judges King, A. M. Stein and A. A. Rodriguez.
The opinion of the court was delivered by
Defendants, Quakertown Education Association, a school union, and its officers and employee members appeal from the order of the Chancery Division, awarding strike-related expenses to Franklin Township Board of Education. We affirm in part and modify the monetary award. We hold that in a case involving an action by a public body against its striking employees and their representative:
1. An award of counsel fees to the prevailing party pursuant to R. 1:10-5 is limited to those legal fees and costs incurred in obtaining relief from that conduct of the opposing party which is in violation of a litigant's rights; and
2. Other non-attorney strike-related expenses, such as the cost of substitute personnel for striking public employees, may be awarded pursuant to a claim by the public body for damages arising from violation of the common law duty prohibiting strikes by public employees. The matter should be handled as a summary proceeding pursuant to R. 4:67-2(b); and
3. Pursuant to R. 1:10-5, the trial Judge may impose additional monetary sanctions against striking public employees and their representatives, to continue in effect until there is compliance with the court order which is being violated.
On May 15, 1992, following the breakdown of contract negotiations, Franklin Township's school teachers and supporting personnel went on strike. That day, the chancery Judge issued a temporary restraining order requiring the employees to immediately return to work. In addition to injunctive relief, plaintiff's verified complaint sought
compensatory damages, particularly, but without limitation, the Board's expenses for security, substitute teachers, counsel fees and costs, and other expenses incurred by the Board in resisting and preparing to resist the illegal action of the defendants . . . .
The employees did not return to work. The board then moved on order to show cause to enforce the earlier order, in aid of litigants' rights, pursuant to R. 1:10-5.
On May 18, 1992, the Judge again ordered defendants to return to work. His order, prepared by plaintiff's attorneys, also ordered
that the defendants be required to reimburse the Board of Education for the legal and administrative costs of the illegal work-stoppage, including the cost of substitute teachers and the Board is given leave to present evidence of its costs within 30 days hereof.
The order also set forth that the county prosecutor be designated to prosecute defendants for contempt of the court's previous order of May 15, 1992, in ...