On certification to the Superior Court, Appellate Division, whose opinion is reported at 300 N.J. Super. 389 (1997).
Justices Handler, Pollock, O'hern, Garibaldi, Stein and Coleman join in the opinion. Chief Justice Poritz did not participate.
(This syllabus is not part of the opinion of the Court. It has been prepared by the Office of the Clerk for the convenience of the reader. It has been neither reviewed nor approved by the Supreme Court. Please note that, in the interests of brevity, portions of any opinion may not have been summarized).
The County of Hudson v. Department of Corrections
The County of Camden v. Verniero (A-60-97)
Argued October 6, 1997 -- Decided December 10, 1997
The issue in this case is whether the State must comply with a duly-enacted administrative regulation that requires the transfer of state-sentenced juveniles from county to state facilities within three days.
The juvenile detention centers in Camden and Hudson Counties are overcrowded. This has led to the intermingling of state-sentenced and non-sentenced youth in the detention centers. The counties demanded that the State comply with N.J.A.C. 10:19-4.2(d), which requires the transfer of state-sentenced juveniles to State facilities within three days. The State refused because its own juvenile facilities were overcrowded. Instead, the State sought to transfer the juveniles as expeditiously as possible.
The Counties filed notices of appeal. The Appellate Division ruled that the regulation was valid and enforceable and ordered the State to transfer the juveniles within the three-day time period. The State petitioned for certification and filed an emergent application for a stay. The Court granted the petition for certification and granted the motion for a stay except as to the two counties in this litigation.
HELD : The State must adhere to the requirement of its existing regulation governing the transfer of state-sentenced juveniles to State facilities within three working days of being notified of the sentence.
1. In 1989, the Appellate Division determined that State statutes imposed the burden of housing state-sentenced juveniles on the State, not the counties. Accordingly, it ordered the Department of Corrections (DOC) to promulgate regulations to provide for the removal of those juveniles from county detention centers. In 1991, the DOC issued the three-day removal regulation. That regulation forms the basis for the holding of the Appellate Division in this case that the State is required to transfer within three days state-sentenced juveniles from county facilities to State juvenile detention facilities. (pp. 4-5).
2. In 1995, the Legislature established the Juvenile Justice Commission (JJC) to oversee all juvenile Justice matters. The legislation transferred and consolidated the authority over the juvenile Justice system from three separate departments (the DOC, the Department of Law and Public Safety, and the Department of Human Services) to the JJC. The State argues that the JJC enabling legislation was intended to cover the entire subject matter of juvenile Justice, including the detention and housing of all juveniles. There is, however, no indication that the Legislature intended to supersede and nullify any existing rules in the absence of regulatory action by the JJC. In fact, the statute expressly provides that all rules promulgated by the agencies formerly with authority over the system shall remain in full force and effect. The Court therefore concludes that the three-day rule remains a valid regulation. (pp. 5-10).
3. The State argues that the JJC has the implied authority to disregard the regulation. Because administrative regulations have the force and effect of statutory law, an agency ordinarily must enforce and adhere to the regulations it has promulgated. The State has not attempted formally to waive the transfer regulations. The informal policy of the JJC to disregard the transfer regulation does not constitute a valid waiver. The JJC has the power to amend, change, or repeal its regulations. The Administrative Procedure Act (APA) provides the manner by which an agency can amend existing regulations. The APA also enables an agency to adopt an emergency regulation in certain situations. Further, if warranted, the JJC can seek relief through executive order. Finally, statutes permit the State to contract with counties to prevent overcrowding. (pp. 10-15).
4. The Court is mindful of the State's evidence relating to overcrowding in State juvenile detention facilities and of its contention that it lacks resources to comply with the three-day transfer rule. In the exercise of its equitable discretion, the Court may take into account relevant circumstances in determining the effective date of its decision regarding the enforceability of the regulation. The Court determines that the effective date of this ruling shall be sixty days from the date of this decision except that, as to Camden and Hudson Counties, the three-day transfer regulation shall continue to be enforced consistently with this decision. (pp. 15-16).
The judgment of the Appellate Division is AFFIRMED.
JUSTICES HANDLER, POLLOCK, O'HERN, GARIBALDI, STEIN and COLEMAN join in the PER CURIAM opinion. CHIEF ...