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McNeil v. Legislative Apportionment Commission of the State of New Jersey

March 06, 2003

ANNE M. MCNEIL, THOMAS E. WILLIAMS, ROSEANNA SIEBERT, PAUL DIGAETANO, AND KEVIN J. O'TOOLE, PLAINTIFFS-RESPONDENTS,
v.
THE LEGISLATIVE APPORTIONMENT COMMISSION OF THE STATE OF NEW JERSEY, DEFENDANT-MOVANT, AND REGENA L. THOMAS, SECRETARY OF STATE OF NEW JERSEY, AND DAVID SAMSON, ATTORNEY GENERAL OF NEW JERSEY, DEFENDANTS.



54,209

ORDER

This matter having come before the Court on an application for a stay of the judgment of the Appellate Division pending disposition of movant's appeal,

And the Court having considered the moving papers and supplemental briefs filed by the parties,

And the Court being of the view that the standards informing the grant of a stay when an issue of significant public importance is raised must include not only the traditional factors applicable to disputes between private parties but also, and most paramount, considerations of the public interest,

And the Court being satisfied that the public interest is best served and harm to the voting public best avoided by assuring certainty at this time in the 2003 electoral cycle and consequently, by maintaining the status quo,

And it appearing that since the adoption of art.IV, §2, ¶3 of the New Jersey Constitution nearly forty years ago, Newark and Jersey City have been divided into at least three legislative districts each,

And it further appearing that that division constitutes the status quo in the case based on long-standing contemporaneous and practical construction of the New Jersey Constitution,

And good cause appearing; IT IS ORDERED that the motion for a stay pending disposition of defendant's appeal is granted.

JUSTICES COLEMAN, LONG, and ZAZZALI, and JUDGE PRESSLER (t/a) join in the Court's Order in its entirety. JUSTICE VERNIERO has filed a separate CONCURRING and DISSENTING opinion in which JUSTICE ALBIN joins. JUSTICE LaVECCHIA has filed a separate DISSENTING opinion.

VERNIERO, J., Concurring in part and Dissenting in part.

The parties essentially do not dispute that dividing Newark and Jersey City each into three legislative districts violates the plain language of article IV, section 2 of the New Jersey Constitution. The critical issue is whether the higher authority of federal law mandates that departure from State law. In my view, that issue presents a mixed question of law and fact for which summary judgment is not appropriate. From that narrow perspective, I conclude at this juncture that both the Law Division and the Appellate Division erred in disposing of this case in summary fashion.

Accordingly, I would remand this matter to the Law Division to conduct a hearing and establish a proper evidentiary record on which that court might then base an ultimate disposition. I would retain jurisdiction and review the Law Division's determination on the merits only after an adequate record has been created. Because my intended disposition is premised on the belief that the matter is not ripe for summary judgment, I would leave the existing district lines in place for the 2003 legislative elections. For all practical purposes, those elections already have begun notwithstanding that nominating petitions are not due until next month under the applicable provision of Title 19.

JUSTICE ALBIN joins in this ...


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