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Thursday, May 12, 2016

NEW JERSEY ELECTION LAW ENFORCEMENT COMMISSION VS. JOSEPH DIVINCENZO AND JORGE MARTINEZ A-1596-15T3

NEW JERSEY ELECTION LAW ENFORCEMENT COMMISSION VS. 
JOSEPH DIVINCENZO AND JORGE MARTINEZ 
A-1596-15T3 
The New Jersey Election Law Enforcement Commission (ELEC) has not had a full complement of commissioners since November 2011, when one of the commissioners died. In January 2013, ELEC authorized a complaint against respondents. At that time, one of the three commissioners recused himself and so, there were two commissioners who voted to authorize the complaint. An administrative law judge (ALJ) dismissed the complaint on the ground that ELEC did not have a quorum of members required to issue a complaint and therefore lacked jurisdiction to act. Pursuant to N.J.S.A. 52:14B-10(c), ELEC had forty-five days in which to adopt, reject or modify the ALJ's decision and was permitted to extend that time for one forty-five day period before the ALJ's decision was deemed adopted as the agency's final decision. However, ELEC could not obtain another extension of time without the consent of the respondents. Its ability to take action regarding the ALJ's decision was thwarted by the fact that a second commissioner had died, leaving only one commissioner who had not recused himself. 

As the forty-five day extension period was drawing to a close, ELEC sought emergent relief, asking this court to toll the remainder of that period until such time as the vacancies are filled. We granted ELEC leave to file an emergent motion, tolled the forty-five day period pending this decision and have held oral argument on the motion. After reviewing the arguments in light of applicable legal principles, we conclude that, notwithstanding the public interest involved and the debatable merits of the ALJ's decision, ELEC has failed to make the necessary showing, Crowe v. De Gioia, 90 N.J. 126, 132-34 (1982), to warrant the relief sought. We therefore deny ELEC's motion for emergent relief and vacate our prior order tolling the forty-five day period.