May 7, 2010
New Jersey Court Rules Gov. Christie's EO Invalid
The New Jersey intermediate appellate court ruled on Friday that Governor Chris Christie's executive order including labor unions in the state's anti-pay-to-play law infringed upon the legislature's core law-making authority in violation of state constitutional separation-of-powers. (We previously posted on Governor Christie's relationship with the New Jersey courts here.)
The case, Communication Workers of America, et al. v. Christie, involved Governor Christie's Executive Order Number 7, which added labor unions to the state law that prohibits "business entit[ies]" from receiving government contracts after making a political contribution to a state official or political party.
The Governor argued that state employee labor unions' collective bargaining agreements were "government contracts" for the purpose of the anti-pay-to-play law, effectively prohibiting public sector labor unions from contributing to state political campaigns.
But the language of the anti-pay-to-play law suggests that the law applies only to more traditional, procurement-related government contracts. And by its plain terms the law applies to "business entit[ies]."
The court ruled that Governor Christie's executive order stretched the meaning of the law in applying it to collective bargaining agreements (which aren't traditional, procurement-related contracts) and to labor unions (which aren't business entities).
The ruling has a terrific state constitutional separation-of-powers analysis between pages 33 to 55, relying upon precedent, structure, and text--like this separation-of-powers clause in Article III, paragraph 1:
The powers of the government shall be divided among three distinct branches, the legislative, executive, and judicial. No person or persons belonging to or constituting one branch shall exercise any of the powers properly belonging to either of the others except as expressly provided in this Constitution.
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