State v. Shack

Supreme Court of New Jersey, 1971

58 N.J. 297, 277 A.2d 369

 

Facts

Defendants enter on to private property to aid migrants living on said private land. Owner demands they leave, defendants refuse, charged with violating NJSA 170-31, which covers a defiant trespasser who is charged $50 for doing so. This is a criminal case involving trespass on a state level.

Procedural History

Defendants were convicted in Municipal Court of Deerfield Township, and again in an appeal, with new evidence in the County Court of Cumberland. This is the appeal of the Cumberland appeal.

Issue

Does the right to real property supersede the right to freedom of speech for disenfranchised groups of people?

Arguments for Both Parties

Tedesco argues that he has an absolute, constitutional right, to bar the defendants from trespassing on his real property.

Tejeras and Shack argue that they have a First Amendment right based upon Marsh v. Alabama, 326 US 501 (1946), where freedom of speech was allowed on the grounds of a company town. And, also, that the Supremacy Clause of the Constitution allows for the Federal Statue that created the organizations that house the impetus for the Defendants even being there to begin with, trump the constitutionality of the trespass claims of the owner.

Holding

The court holds that it does not believe Marsh v. Alabama has enough of an analogous punch to warrant a serious comparison, and the court does not think that it is necessary to delve into the Supremacy clause issue, it holds that “the right to real property does not include the right to bar access to governmental services to migrant workers and hence there was no trespass within the meaning of the penal statute,” and furthermore that “Property rights serve human values. They are recognized to that end and are limited by it. Title to real property cannot include dominion over the destinies of the persons” working on the farm.

Policy Arguments

The disparity of power between the migrant workers and the owner of the farm is so great that the migrant workers’ rights need to be alleviated to a level that keeps their dignity intact.

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