Stapleton v. Pinckney

Decision Date19 July 1944
Citation57 N.E.2d 38,293 N.Y. 330
PartiesSTAPLETON et al. v. PINCKNEY, Commissioner of Jurors, et al.
CourtNew York Court of Appeals Court of Appeals

OPINION TEXT STARTS HERE

Appeal from Supreme Court, Albany County.

Action by Edward A. Stapleton and another, as taxpayers of Albany County, agaisnt Elizabeth F. Pinckney, as Commissioner of Jurors of the County of Albany, to restrain the defendant from carrying out the provisions of chapter 206, Laws 1944, McK.Unconsol.Laws, s 3951 et seq., wherein Nathaniel L. Goldstein, as Attorney General of the State of New York, intervened and was added as a defendant. From a judgment of the Supreme Court, in favor of plaintiffs, entered upon an order of the court at Special Term, Bergan, J., denying separate motions by defendants for judgment on the pleadings, granting plaintiffs' motion therefor, and directing the entry of judgment for the relief demanded in the complaint, 182 Misc. 590, 50 N.Y.S.2d 409, the defendants appeal on constitutional grounds. In substance the judgment appealed from declared chapter 206 of the Laws of 1944, McK.Unconsol.Laws, s 3951 et seq., unconstitutional as in contravention of that clause of section 17 of article 3 of the State Constitution which forbids the passage by the Legislature of a local bill selecting, drawing, summoning, or impaneling grand or petit jurors and also in contravention of the second sentence of subdivision (b) of section 1 of article 9 of said Constitution. Further provisions of the judgment restrained defendant Elizabeth F. Pinckney, as Commissioner of Jurors of the City of Albany, from proceeding in compliance wih said statute.

Affirmed.

LEWIS, J., dissenting. Nathaniel L. Goldstein, Atty. Gen. (Wendell P. Brown, Orrin G. Judd, and John R. Davison, all of Albany, of counsel), for intervener, defendant-appellant.

Walter L. Collins, Co. Atty., of Albany (Frank Pedlow, of Albany, or counsel), for Elizabeth F. Pinckney, Commissioner of Jurors, defendant-appellant and respondent.

Robert E. Whalen and M. Michel Dobris, both of Albany, for plaintiffs-respondents.

LEHMAN, Chief Judge.

The plaintiffs, residents and taxpayers of the City of Albany, challenge the validity of chapter 206 of the Laws of 1944, McK.Unconsol.Laws, s 3951 et seq., entitled: ‘An Act relating to jurors and commissioners of jurors in counties having a population of not less than two hundred thousand and not more than two hundred fifty thousand and containing a city with a population of one hundred twenty-five thousand or more.’ The Act purports to define the powers and duties of the Commissioner of Jurors in such counties and to regulate the manner of selecting jurors. It provides, among other things, that the Commissioner shall not place on the list of jurors ‘any person who has served as a trial or grand juror during the three years preceding the preparation of such list.’ Section 4. No county except the County of Albany contains a city with a population of 125,000 and has a population of not less than 200,000 and not more than 250,000, and at presentthe statute does not apply in any other county.

Article III, section 17, of the Constitution provides: ‘The legislature shall not pass a private or local bill in any of the following cases * * * selecting, drawing, summoning or empaneling grand or petit jurors.’ Since the challenged Act does provide for ‘selecting, drawing, summoning or empaneling grand or petit jurors' it is of course invalid if the bill is ‘local’ within the meaning of that section of the Constitution. The plaintiff contends, and the court below has held, that the Act violates not only section 17 of article III, but also article IX, section 1(b) of the Constitution. The appellants maintain that the latter section of the Constitution does not apply to bills in the ‘cases' specified in article III, section 17. We do not reach that question if the Act is ‘local’ within the meaning of article III, section 17.

The intent of the restriction placed by that section of the Constitution upon the exercise of legislative power is plain. Other sections of the Constitution confer governmental powers upon local units of government within defined fields and regulate or even prohibit interference within those fields by the Legislature. City of New York v. Village of Lawrence, 250 N.Y. 429, 165 N.E. 836. Some of the matters specified in section 17 of article III are of State concern, and legislative power in relation to such matters may be vested exclusively in the Legislature, but the Constitution has imposed restrictions upon the manner in which that power may be exercised. Statutes relating to those matters may not confer benefits or impose burdens upon particular persons or localities named or designated therein, and exclude others perhaps in similar situation. Classification by the Legislature is not excluded where the classification has reasonable relation to the subject, but the classification must be based upon standards of general application to all persons or localities within a class created by the statute. The courts have in all cases applied that test where the validity of a statute relating to any of these matters had been challenged on the ground that it is a local not a general law, but the line dividing classification from designation is shadowy where identifying marks are many and particular. Matter of Elm Street in City of New York, 246 N.Y. 72,158 N.E. 54.

This court has from the beginning recognized that a law relating to a matter of State concern applicable to all municipal corporations or localities in a class based upon population or upon proximity to great centres of population may be a general law though only a single municipal corporation or locality can at the time receive its benefits. Matter of New York Elevated R. Co., 70 N.Y. 327. In commenting upon that decision this court said: ‘A law relating to particular persons or things as a class was said to be general; while one relating to particular persons or things of a class was deemed local and private.’ Matter of Application of Church, 92 N.Y. 1, 4. The court recognized in that case that it is difficult to define the test; at times it is more difficult to apply it. In Matter of Henneberger, 155 N.Y. 420, 426, 429, 430,50 N.E. 61, 62,42 L.R.A. 132, the court analyzed the earlier cases where the court had been called upon to put a law on one side or the other of the line which separates a general act from a ‘local’ act, and the court pointed out with respect to the section we are now considering, that ‘an act which embraces all things of a certain class is a general, act and not a local, act, although, by reason of some limitation based on population, or other condition, only a particular city, or the inhabitants of a single locality, can, at the time, receive its benefits' citing Ferguson v. Ross et al., 126 N.Y. 459, 27 N.E. 954; Matter of Application of Church, 92 N.Y. 1. The court, however, also pointed out that in the cases it analyzed, each challenged statute was made applicable to all municipal corporations or localities in a class and that class ‘was based on population, or some other condition, which might be recognized as possibly common to a class, or which might permit of classification’ (italics are new), and the court added that ‘the classification of cities by population is an idea recently embodied in the constitution, and good reasons exist why, in a general law, reference may be had to conditions of population, whether in counties, cities, towns, or villages, or with respect to a proximity to cities of a certain growth.’ Though the court in Matter of Henneberger, supra, recognized that adherence to that rule might at times make possible legislative evasion of the command of the Constitution, it is said that we ‘shall adhere to the rule, now settled, that an act embracing all things of a certain class is a general, and not a local, act,’ but it refused to extend or apply the rule to a case where attempted ‘classification’ is based on conditions ‘which cannot be recognized as common to a class' and have no reasonable relation to the subject. In such case there is in truth no ‘class...

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16 cases
  • Hotel Dorset Co. v. Trust for Cultural Resources of City of New York
    • United States
    • New York Court of Appeals Court of Appeals
    • December 27, 1978
    ...whatever its size, would have to be "based on conditions common to a class and germane to the subject of the Act" (Stapleton v. Pinckney, 293 N.Y. 330, 335, 57 N.E.2d 38, 40). There must be reasons, not just excuses, for including some taxpayers and excluding Thus, statutes which apply only......
  • People ex rel. Du Page County v. Smith, 36299
    • United States
    • Illinois Supreme Court
    • March 29, 1961
    ...to the vital object and purpose of protecting health and property and we believe, as the court did in Stapleton v. Pinckney, 293 N.Y. 330, 57 N.E.2d 38, 39, 155 A.L.R. 783, that 'proximity to great centres of population,' may present a reasonable basis for classification, particularly where......
  • Grumet v. Cuomo
    • United States
    • New York Supreme Court — Appellate Division
    • August 26, 1996
    ...be given general application, when the five criteria are considered together they simply identify the Village (see, Stapleton v. Pinckney, 293 N.Y. 330, 334-336, 57 N.E.2d 38; Matter of Henneberger, 155 N.Y. 420, 424-428, 50 N.E. 61; cf., Hotel Dorset Co. v. Trust for Cultural Resources of ......
  • Roosevelt Raceway, Inc. v. Nassau County
    • United States
    • New York Court of Appeals Court of Appeals
    • June 9, 1966
    ...or with respect to a proximity to cities of a certain growth' (pp. 429--430, 50 N.E. p. 64). In 1944 in Stapelton v. Pinckney, 293 N.Y. 330, 334, 57 N.E.2d 38, 39, 155 A.L.R. 783 we said that a statute need not be classified as local for Home Rule purposes but although it contained classifi......
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