Supreme Court Rejects Gov. Christie’s Request for Interim Relief on Executive Power Case
Posted by Kevin Walsh on June 11th 2012
Supreme Court Refuses to stay Appellate Division Order Reinstating Council on Affordable Housing
June 11, 2012 - Trenton, NJ - The New Jersey Supreme Court rejected Gov. Christie’s request to stay the Appellate Division’s decision that his abolition of the Council on Affordable Housing was illegal. The Court’s decision, available today, allows the prior decision, that Gov. Christie’s actions violated the New Jersey Constitution and intruded on the Legislature’s powers, to stand.
“The Governor’s role under the constitution is to enforce the laws, not to make them,” Fair Share Housing Center Associate Director Kevin D. Walsh said. “The Supreme Court’s decision allows the Appellate Division’s reversal of the governor’s action to stand. Gov. Christie simply does not have the power to unilaterally abolish independent agencies he doesn’t like. In doing so, the Court properly protected the independence of agencies such as the Election Law Enforcement Commission, State Ethics Commission, Public Defender, and dozens of other agencies that would have been subject to political interference from the Governor if his plan for COAH had been upheld.”
The decision comes on the heels of the unanimous approval by committees in both houses of the Legislature last week of legislation to extend the time that municipalities have to expend local housing trust funds, with bipartisan support for rejecting Governor Christie’s attempt to seize those funds to help provide a tax cut to millionaires.
“The Supreme Court’s decision further reinforces the wisdom of the Legislature’s recent actions,” Walsh said. “Municipal housing trust funds should go to help create and rehabilitate homes as intended, not be seized by Governor Christie.”
Today’s announcement means that the appellate court’s decision, which relied on arguments from Associate Justice Antonin Scalia on the proper separation of powers in the original meaning of the Constitution, remains the law of the state. That decision rejected Governor Christie’s argument that the constitution gave him unlimited power to change the structure of state government. The decision stated, “While the framers of our Constitution intended to create a strong executive in the office of Governor (perhaps the strongest in the United States), they also recognized the need to insulate functions and agencies from executive control.”
“As the decision in March properly found in citing authorities such as Justice Scalia and New Jersey’s constitutional drafters, Governor Christie’s actions are inconsistent with our democratic form of government,” Walsh said. “The Governor must in all his actions be limited by our statutes and constitution, and not create new powers without basis in law.”
The decision, which is available here, reinstates COAH’s board and authority over municipal fair share obligations. The Court’s order, which is available here, means that Gov. Christie must comply with that decision now, based on an analysis of the likelihood of success on appeal and the equities involved. The Court still has not ruled on Gov. Christie’s request that the Court review the decision on appeal in the future.
The COAH reorganization plan was proposed on June 29, 2011 and went into effect 60 days later. The plan was immediately appealed by the Center, and also opposed by amicus curiae Corporation for Supportive Housing, Housing and Community Development Network of New Jersey, and Mercer Alliance to End Homelessness. The Appellate Division accelerated its briefing and argument in view of the public interest nature of the matter. The Appellate Division invalidated the plan on March 8, 2012, and Gov. Christie shortly after filed for a stay of that decision which both the Appellate Division and Supreme Court have now denied.