Band’s Refuse Removal, Inc. v. Borough of Fair Lawn
Superior Court of New Jersey, Appellate Division
163 A.2d 465 (N.J. Super. 1960)
The Borough of Fair Lawn (borough) (defendant) sought bids for the collection of garbage within the borough. The Capassos (defendants) won the bid, signed a contract with the borough, and began collecting garbage. Soon after, the borough adopted an ordinance that required a permit to collect garbage within the borough and provided that only those who had a contract with the borough could be granted a permit. At the time the ordinance was adopted, Band’s Refuse Removal, Inc. (Band’s) (plaintiff) had a contract to collect garbage from an electric plant in the borough. The new ordinance effectively prohibited Band’s from continuing to collect garbage from the electric plant because Band’s did not have a contract with the town. At about the same time, a grand jury investigation alleged that the borough’s bidding process for the garbage collection contract was rigged. Band’s brought suit, alleging that the ordinance was unconstitutional and that the Capasso contract was invalid because it was not the result of an open bidding process. Prior to the trial, Band’s’ attorney mentioned to the trial judge that he was considering dropping the allegation of the impropriety of the bidding process. In response, the trial judge said that if the attorney did so, the judge would “immediately declare the [Band’s-electric plant] contract void.” Subsequently, at trial, the trial judge stated that it was “imperative in the public interest” that the issue of the bidding process be investigated. Accordingly, he appointed an amicus curiae to take part in the trial on that issue. He also issued subpoenas, called witnesses, and offered exhibits in trial. He then proceeded to rule on his own questioning of witnesses and the admissibility of his own exhibits. In all, the judge arranged or called about five times as many witnesses as the parties to the case combined. In the end, the trial judge ruled that the Capasso-Fair Lawn contract was invalid. The defendants appealed on the grounds that the trial was conducted inappropriately by the trial judge.
Rule of Law
Holding and Reasoning (Goldmann, J.)