leases had expired." Chase Manhattan Bank v. Josephson, 135 N.J. 209, 219, 638 A.2d 1301 (1994). When the Legislature revisited the statute in 1990, the newly-authorized good causes for eviction were engrafted onto the existing remedial structure.
To be sure, placement in a civil statute will not itself immunize a measure from being considered punishment. Cf. Halper, 490 U.S. at 447. But there is no evidence that casts doubt on the New Jersey Legislature's remedial purpose. For example, the remedy created by subsection "n"--eviction of an undesirable tenant--does not go further than necessary to effectuate the statute's purpose. This contrasts with Halper, where the law subjected a perpetrator of Medicare fraud to an exaction that vastly exceeded the sum necessary to compensate the government for the costs of investigating and prosecuting the defendant.
Moreover, the statute applies to private and public housing alike, setting it apart from the forfeiture or debarment measures which exclusively empower governmental action that effectuates remedial and, sometimes, punitive goals. Since punishment is generally the province of government alone, this law's empowerment of both public and private landlords convinces the Court that subsection "n" is purely remedial.
Taylor argues that the statute is punitive because the Authority's dilatory conduct contradicts an intention to rid the project of an undesirable tenant that imperils the quiet enjoyment of other residents. Even if one accepts that the Authority's leisurely pace
in terminating Taylor's tenancy suggests he posed a less-than-urgent danger to other tenants, this does not turn the statute on its face into a punitive enactment.
Plaintiff is left with the argument that eviction will throw one of society's most vulnerable members on the street, due to conduct for which he was already punished. Although the Court appreciates, and profoundly laments, the hardships that will likely befall Mr. Taylor upon eviction, the cases teach that we examine the statute's purposes, not its effect on the plaintiff.
Doe v. Poritz is particularly persuasive in this regard. There the New Jersey Supreme Court grappled with the question of whether registration and community notification of a sex-offender's presence violated, inter alia, the Double Jeopardy Clause. Even though community notification could potentially lead to lost employment opportunities, social stigma, and vigilantism directed at the plaintiff, Megan's Law did not constitute punishment. It remained a legitimate remedy devised to address a threat to public welfare. To the extent that subsection "n" and Megan's Law both embody strategies to protect the public--in one case landlords and tenants, and in the other, neighbors of convicted sex offenders--the biting effects for plaintiffs do not transform remedy into punishment. See also Halper, 490 U.S. at 447 n.7; Hudson, 14 F.3d at 542; Manocchio, 961 F.2d at 1542. Thus, in the absence of a clear indication that the New Jersey Legislature intended that subsection "n", effectuate retributive or deterrent goals, this Court will not consider the measure punishment. See Bae, 44 F.3d at 494, quoting Selective Service System v. Minnesota Public Interest Research Group, 468 U.S. 841, 855 n. 15, 82 L. Ed. 2d 632, 104 S. Ct. 3348 (1984) ("The Supreme Court has consistently required 'unmistakable evidence of punitive intent' to characterize a sanction as punishment."); Poritz, 142 N.J. at 57; Hudson, 14 F.3d at 540 ("We are careful to note that a determination that a sanction is at least in part punishment requires that it must be explained as also serving as a deterrent or retribution, not merely that it may be so explained.") (emphasis in original).
Plaintiff's final argument is that even if his eviction serves a remedial purpose, given his misconduct, it is so disproportionate as to constitute punishment. This argument relies on Halper, which held that a $ 130,000 civil False Claims Act penalty crossed the line from remedy to punishment because it was so disproportionate to the amount of money the government expended to investigate and prosecute the fraud. This is, of course, an "as applied" argument. Furthermore, Taylor ignores Halper's limiting language: "What we announce now is a rule for the rare case, the case such as the one before us, where a fixed-penalty provision subjects a prolific but small-gauge offender to a sanction overwhelmingly disproportionate to the damages he has caused." Halper, 490 U.S. at 449. The instant case does not involve a monetary-penalty statute designed to make the government whole.
The Court holds that subsection "n" does not impose a second punishment in violation of the Double Jeopardy Clause.
Excessive Fines Analysis
The Eighth Amendment provides: "Excessive bail shall not be required, nor excessive fines imposed, nor cruel and unusual punishment inflicted."
As with the Double Jeopardy Clause, plaintiff must, as a preliminary matter, demonstrate that subsection "n" constitutes punishment.
Taylor contends his eviction from public housing is tantamount to an excessive fine, analogizing his case to United States v. Robinson, 721 F. Supp. 1541 (D.R.I. 1989). In that case, the court held that compelling a recipient of Section 8 rental assistance to surrender her tenancy pursuant to a criminal forfeiture action would disproportionately punish the defendant, thereby violating the Eighth Amendment. The court based this holding on the fact that "an order of forfeiture here would be, in effect, a sentence of homelessness for the defendant and her three young children." Id. at 1544. This case does not help Taylor as much as he would like, however, because it involved a criminal forfeiture statute. Thus, the threshold requirement for Eighth Amendment application--that state action be intended to punish--was clearly satisfied. For the reasons explained above, plaintiff here cannot demonstrate that subsection "n" of the Anti-Eviction Act constitutes punishment. Accordingly, the Court need not reach the question of whether the punishment is excessive.
Due Process Analysis
Lastly, plaintiff makes a substantive due process challenge, arguing that subsection "n" imposes a punishment so "plainly arbitrary and oppressive as to violate the due process clause." Southwestern Telegraph and Telephone v. Danaher, 238 U.S. 482, 59 L. Ed. 1419, 35 S. Ct. 886 (1915). This argument is unavailing since the Court has already concluded that the challenged statute does not constitute punishment. Furthermore, subsection "n" is a rational strategy to effectuate New Jersey's legitimate goal of protecting landlords and tenants from the evils associated with tenant drug use. See United States v. Carolene Products Co., 304 U.S. 144, 152, 82 L. Ed. 1234, 58 S. Ct. 778 and n.4 (1938) (articulating rational basis standard). The Court holds as a matter of law, therefore, that subsection "n" does not contravene substantive due process.
November 28, 1995
John C. Lifland
United States District Judge