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Law School Case Brief

State v. Shack - 58 N.J. 297, 277 A.2d 369 (1971)

Rule:

Under New Jersey state law, the ownership of real property does not include the right to bar access to governmental services available to migrant workers. 

Facts:

Defendants, Tejeras, a field worker for the Farm Workers Division of the Southwest Citizens Organization for Poverty Elimination, and Shack, a staff attorney with the Farm Workers Division of Camden Regional Legal Services, Inc., entered upon a private property owned by Tedesco to aid migrant farmworkers employed and housed there. Tedesco said he would allow defendants to meet with the migrant workers they sought, but only in his presence in his office. When defendants asserted they had a right to meet alone with the worker,s the owner summoned the police to remove them for trespass. They were charged with violating N.J.S.A. 2A:170-31, which provides that “any person who trespasses on any lands after being forbidden so to trespass by the owner is a disorderly person and shall be punished by a fine of not more than $ 50." Defendants were convicted in the Municipal Court of Deerfield Township and again on appeal in the County Court of Cumberland County on a trial de novo. Defendants appealed their convictions.

Issue:

Was it proper to convict the defendants of trespassing?

Answer:

No.

Conclusion:

Applying the traditional state property law in deciding the case at hand, the Court held that defendants invaded no possessory right of property owner. Thus, the conduct of the defendants was beyond the reach of the trespass statute. Accordingly, the Court reversed defendants' convictions for trespass. According to the Court, there was no trespass when Tedesco was unable to bar access to governmental services available to migrant farm workers.

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