ROBINSON v. CAHILL
69 N.J. 133 (1975)
351 A.2d 713
KENNETH ROBINSON, AN INFANT BY HIS PARENT AND GUARDIAN AD LITEM, ERNESTINE ROBINSON, ET AL., PLAINTIFFS-RESPONDENTS,
WILLIAM T. CAHILL, GOVERNOR OF THE STATE OF NEW JERSEY, ET AL., DEFENDANTS-APPELLANTS.*
The Supreme Court of New Jersey.
Argued March 18, 1975.
Decided May 23, 1975.
Honorable Brendan T. Byrne, pro se, and Mr. Lewis B. Kaden, Special Counsel to the Governor, argued the cause for appellant Governor of the State of New Jersey. (Mr. Kaden, of counsel and on the brief; Mr. John J. Degnan, Ms. Judith Nallin, and Mr. Arthur Winkler, Assistant Counsel to the Governor, on the brief).
Mr. Stephen Skillman, Assistant Attorney General, argued the cause for appellants Treasurer of the State of New Jersey, Commissioner of Education of the State of New Jersey, New Jersey State Board of Education, and State of New Jersey (Mr. William F. Hyland, Attorney General of New Jersey, attorney; Mr. Skillman, of counsel and on the brief, Ms. Jane Sommer, Deputy Attorney General, on the brief).
Mr. David Goldberg argued the cause for appellants President of the Senate of the State of New Jersey and the Senate of the State of New Jersey. (Messrs. Warren, Goldberg, and Berman, attorneys).
Mr. Jack Borrus argued the cause for appellants Speaker of the General Assembly of the State of New Jersey and the General Assembly of the State of New Jersey (Messrs. Borrus, Goldin and Foley, attorneys; Mr. Borrus, of counsel and on the statement in lieu of brief; Mr. David M. Foley, on the statement in lieu of brief).
Mr. Harold J. Ruvoldt, Jr. argued the cause for respondents (Messrs. Ruvoldt and Ruvoldt, attorneys and Special Counsel to Mr. Dennis L. McGill, Corporation Counsel of the City of Jersey City, Mr. Frank H. Blatz, Jr., Corporation Counsel of the City of Plainfield, Mr. Joseph LaCava, Corporation Counsel of the City of Paterson, and Mr. Julius Fielo, Corporation Counsel of the City of East Orange).
Mr. Paul L. Tractenberg and Mr. David G. Lubell, of the New York bar, argued the cause for amici curiae Education Committee, Newark Chapter, National Association for the Advancement of Colored People and American Civil Liberties Union of New Jersey (Messrs. William J. Bender and Frank Askin, attorneys).
Mr. William J. Zaino argued the cause for amicus curiae New Jersey School Boards Association.
Mr. Cassel R. Ruhlman, Jr. argued the cause for amicus curiae New Jersey Education Association (Messrs. Ruhlman and Butrym, attorneys).
Mr. Andrew T. Berry argued the cause on behalf of amici curiae Township of Livingston and the Boards of Education of the School Districts of Montclair, Berkeley Heights, Chatham Township, New Providence, Rumson, Sandyston-Walpack, Summit and Millburn, Avon-by-the-Sea, Belmar, Englewood, Mendham Township, and the City of Englewood and the Mayor of the Borough of Carlstadt (Messrs. McCarter and English, attorneys for amici curiae Township of Livingston and the Boards of Education of the School Districts of Montclair, Berkeley Heights, Chatham Township, New Providence, Rumson, Sandyston-Walpack, Summit and Millburn; Mr. Berry of counsel and on the brief; Mr. Peter F. Shebell, Jr. filed a brief on behalf of amici curiae Boards of Education of Avon-by-the-Sea and Belmar; Mr. Walter T. Wittman, attorney for amicus curiae Board of Education of City of Englewood; Mr. Arthur W.Lesemann, attorney for amicus curiae City of Englewood; Messrs. Mills, Doyle, Hock and Murphy filed a brief on behalf of amicus curiae Board of Education of Township of Mendham, Mr. Eugene F. Doyle, of counsel and on the brief; Mr. Paul S. Barbire filed a brief on behalf of amicus curiae Mayor of the Borough of Carlstadt).
Mr. Bruce LaCarrubba appeared on behalf of amicus curiae New Jersey State Office of Legal Services.
Mr. Martin L. Greenberg, Member of the Senate of the State of New Jersey filed a brief pro se and on behalf of Ms. Anne Martindell and Messrs. Alexander Menza, Joseph P. Merlino and John Russo, Members of the Senate of the State of New Jersey (Mr. Stephen N. Dratch, on the brief).
Mr. Anthony Scardino, Jr., Member of the Senate of the State of New Jersey filed a statement in lieu of brief pro se.
Mr. Thomas H. Kean, Member of the Assembly of the State of New Jersey, filed a statement in lieu of brief pro se and on behalf of Messrs. William J. Bate and James W. Bornheimer, Ms. Jane Burgio, Ms. Mary Keating Croce, Ms. Barbara A. Curran, Messrs. Walter E. Foran, Kenneth A. Gewertz, Francis J. Gorman, Robert P. Hollenbeck, Alan J. Karcher, Robert E. Littell, Carl A. Orechio, George J. Otlowski, Victor A. Rizzolo, Robert M. Ruane, C. Gus Rys, Clifford W. Snedeker, John A. Spizziri, A. Donald Stewart, Ms. Rosemarie Totaro and Messrs. Richard F. Visotcky and Karl Weidel, Members of the Assembly of the State of New Jersey.
Mr. George J. Otlowski, Member of the Assembly of the State of New Jersey, filed a statement in lieu of brief pro se.
Mr. Alan J. Karcher, Member of the Assembly of the State of New Jersey, filed a statement in lieu of brief pro se.
Mr. Herbert C. Klein, member of the Assembly of the State of New Jersey, filed a brief pro se.
Mr. Robert B. Meyner submitted a brief on behalf of amicus curiae Morris School District (Messrs. Meyner, Landis and Verdon, attorneys; Mr. Jeffrey L. Reiner, on the brief).
Mr. Milton A. Buck, Corporation Counsel for the City of Newark, submitted a brief on behalf of amicus curiae City of Newark (Ms. Rosalind L. Bressler, Assistant Corporation Counsel, on the brief).
Mr. James D. Checki, Jr. submitted a brief on behalf of amicus curiae Board of Education of Township of Lyndhurst (Messrs. Checki and Politan, attorneys).
Mr. Robert T. Pickett submitted a brief on behalf of amicus curiae The Education Reform Project of The Greater Newark Urban Coalition (Messrs. Pickett and Jennings, attorneys; Messrs. David C. Long and Daniel M. Schemker on the brief).
Mr. Morton Feldman submitted a brief on behalf of amici curiae Pleasantville Taxpayers Association, Weymouth Taxpayers Association, Association of Concerned Citizens of Vineland and Gilbert Cramer.
The opinion of the Court was delivered by HUGHES, C.J.
The Court has now come face to face with a constitutional exigency involving, on a level of plain, stark and unmistakable reality, the constitutional obligation of the Court to act. Having previously identified a profound violation of constitutional right, based upon default
in a legislative obligation imposed by the organic law in the plainest of terms,1 we have more than once stayed our hand, with appropriate respect for the province of other Branches of government. In final alternative, we must now proceed to enforce the constitutional right involved.
The compulsion upon the Court to act in the present state of affairs is evident:
The people's constitutional reposition of power always carries with it a mandate for the full and responsible use of that power. When the organic law reposes legislative power in that branch, for instance, it is expected that such power will be used, lest it wither and leave the vacuum of a constitutional exigency, requiring another branch (however reluctantly) to exercise, or project the exercise of, that unused power for the necessary vindication of the constitutional rights of the people. Robinson v. Cahill,62 N.J. 473 (1973), cert. den. sub nom. Dickey v. Robinson, 414 U.S. 976, 94 S.Ct. 292, 38 L.Ed.2d 219; Jackman v. Bodine,43 N.J. 453 (1964); Asbury Park Press, Inc. v. Woolley,33 N.J. 1 (1960). [American Trial Lawyers v. N.J. Supreme Ct.,66 N.J. 258, 263] In Robinson v. Cahill,62 N.J. 473 (1973), we held violative of the Education Clause of the Constitution the existing system of education provided public school children in this State. We construed the Constitution basically to command that the State afford "an equal educational opportunity for children" (Id. at 513), however the burden of doing so would be distributed and borne,2 and we agreed
with the determination of Judge Botter (118 N.J.Super. 223, 119 N.J.Super. 40 (Law Div. 1972)) that "the constitutional demand had not been met * * *" on the basis of gross "discrepancies in dollar input [expenditure] per pupil." 62 N.J. at 515. We so ruled because dollar input was "plainly relevant and because we [had] been shown no other viable criterion for measuring compliance with the constitutional mandate." Id. at 515-16.3
Thus we considered as the principal cause of the constitutional deficiency the substantial reliance (under our present system of financing education) upon local taxation, entailing as it does "discordant correlations between the educational needs of the school districts and their respective tax bases." Id. at 520.
Nevertheless, although we expressed doubt that the Constitution could be satisfied "by reliance upon local taxation"
(Id. at 520), we did not foreclose that possibility. We indicated that the State could meet its obligation by financing education either on a statewide basis, with funds provided by the State, or, in whole or in part, by delegating the fiscal obligation to local taxation. Id. at 509-13. Should it choose the latter alternative, however, it would be incumbent upon the State, either legislatively or administratively "to define * * * the educational obligation and * * * compel the local school districts to raise the money necessary to provide that [equal educational] opportunity." Id. at 519 (emphasis in the original). If local government fails in that endeavor "the State must itself meet its continuing obligation." Id. at 513. The State aid plan under the current statute, N.J.S.A. 18A:58-4 (L. 1970, c. 234, hereafter the 1970 Act), was found inadequate because "not demonstrably designed to guarantee that local effort plus the State aid will yield to all the pupils in the State that level of educational opportunity which the * * * [Constitution] mandates." Id. at 519.