On December 30, 2020, the United States District Court for the District of New Jersey issued a ruling in Rosedale and Rosehill Cemetery Association v. Twp. of Readington. This matter involved a challenge of the Readington Township municipal governing body’s denial of an application to construct a large cemetery in Readington Township. The Township’s denial was authorized under the New Jersey Cemetery Act (N.J.S.A. 45:27-25, et seq), which, among other things, grants a municipality the power to consent to the establishment or enlargement of cemeteries within its borders. The gravamen of the Plaintiff’s challenge was that Act is unconstitutional because it was void for vagueness.
The U.S. District Court agreed with the Plaintiff, holding that, because N.J.S.A. 45:27-25 is a standardless delegation of state power, it violates the Due Process Clause of the United States Constitution. In response, the court invalidated the law in its entirety. The decision was stayed for 30 days to give the New Jersey Legislature the opportunity to enact a new version of N.J.S.A. 45:27-25, if it wishes to do so.
Invalidating the statue in its entirety strips municipalities of the ability to consent to new or enlarged cemeteries within their borders. This is clearly inconsistent with Legislative intent. Municipalities are in the best position to be the gatekeeper in these decisions since, in addition to the public safety, health and welfare issues, there are important land use considerations to take into account.
The League is actively making efforts to alert legislative leaders of this issue and have urged them to adopt corrective legislation in accordance with the federal court’s decision that ensures this important municipal control is restored. We have also requested that the Attorney General’s office seek additional time from the court, to provide the Legislature with adequate time to act.
We will be sure to keep our members posted on any progress on this matter.
Contact: Frank Marshall, Esq., Associate General Counsel, firstname.lastname@example.org or 609-695-3481 x. 137.