The opinion of the court was delivered by: Debevoise, Senior District Court Judge
Originally this matter came before the court on plaintiffs' complaint seeking injunctive relief to prevent defendants from implementing a redistricting plan for New Jersey's Senate and General Assembly districts (Counts One and Two) and challenging New Jersey's one-year district residency requirement as a requisite for an individual to be eligible to run for legislative office. Because plaintiffs challenged the constitutionality of the apportionment of a statewide legislative body, pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §2284 the case was assigned to a three judge court.
Defendant moved before that court for summary judgment on all three counts. The three judge court heard oral argument on plaintiffs' application for injunctive relief (the parties having agreed to consolidate the preliminary and permanent injunction hearings) and on defendants' motions for summary judgment. *fn1
At the conclusion of the hearing the three judge court orally granted defendants' motion for summary judgment on the first and second counts of the complaint dealing with the redistricting issues, reserving judgment on the third count pending further briefing by the parties on whether that count should be referred to a single judge for disposition.
In its formal opinion, Robertson v. Bartels, 2001 WL 726 707 (D.N.J. 2001) the three judge court articulated its reasons for granting defendants' motion for summary judgment on the first and second counts. As to the third count the three judge court stated, "[w]e think that it is plain that the redistricting and residency issues are so distinct that the sound exercise of discretion should lead us to refer the voting rights issue to a single judge for disposition." Id. at 16. An order was entered to that effect, and the remaining portion of the case was referred to me. Because I was a member of the three judge court I heard the oral argument on the defendants' motion for summary judgment on the third count and thus no further hearings were necessary.
The remaining parties having an interest in this case are plaintiffs Dennis E. Gonzalez and Jay R. Schwartz and defendant John Farmer, Attorney General of the State of New Jersey. *fn2
The one-year district residency requirement which is challenged in this case is set forth in Article IV, §1, ¶ 2 of the New Jersey Constitution which provides:
No person shall be a member of the Senate who shall not have attained the age of thirty years, and have been a citizen and resident of the State for four years, and of the district for which he shall be elected one year, next before his election. No person shall be a member of the General Assembly who shall not have attained the age of twenty-one years and have been a citizen and resident of the State for two years, and of the district for which he shall be elected one year next before his election. No person shall be eligible for membership in the Legislature unless he be entitled to the right of suffrage.
Gonzalez is, as he alleges, "a near lifelong resident of Passaic County, New Jersey." In January 2001 he moved from Paterson to Clifton. Under the legislative districting in effect at that time, i.e., the districting in effect during the last decade, this move would have meant that he would not have been eligible for election to the General Assembly in 2001 because Paterson was in District 35 and Clifton was in District 34. Adoption of the redistricting plan does not eliminate this barrier because Paterson and Clifton remain in Districts 34 and 35.
Schwartz is, as he alleges, "a near lifelong resident of the State of New Jersey," born and raised in the Borough of West Paterson. In March 2001 he moved from West Paterson to Little Falls. Under the former legislative districting this move would have made him ineligible for election to the General Assembly in 2001, as West Paterson was in District 35 and Little Falls was in District 34. Under the redistricting plan West Paterson has been moved to District 34 and Little Falls has been moved to District 40. Thus Schwartz remains ineligible to run for the General Assembly in 2001.
Both Gonzalez and Schwartz, by virtue of their moves, were ineligible to run for the General Assembly under the former districting plan, and the new districting plan did not cure their ineligibility by placing their old and new residences in the same district. In this action these ...