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The Boss

By David Dayton McKean
This Web version, edited by GET NJ, COPYRIGHT 2003

As far as the people of Hudson County are concerned, sovereignty resides in the Mayor; they have delegated to him the selection of their representatives. He recognizes the fact, and believes, furthermore, that Democratic legislators from other counties are responsible to him; for example, in a speech at Bayonne in 1932 when the Democrats had a majority in the Assembly, he announced – of course without consulting any legislators – that there would be no increase in the gasoline tax: `I want to say to you that no such bill will become law in this state. It doesn't require such a demonstration to impress me.... I now want you to go to your homes and rest assured that there will be no increase in the gasoline tax.' (Newark Evening News., Mav 17, 1932.)

The governors elected by the Hague organization have, as far as their appointive power has permitted, filled up the eighty-odd boards, bureaus, and departments of the state government with Hague Democrats; and in those cases in which the law requires a bipartisan commission, Hague Republicans have usually been available. Among the important agencies now controlled by the organization are the Department of Labor, the State Board of Tax Appeals, and the Civil Service Commission.

Under the constitution of New Jersey the judges of all the state courts and the chancellor (who appoints the vice-chancellors) are appointed by the governor for terms of seven years, with the consent of the Senate. In the years that have followed the election of Governor Edwards in 1919 the three governors that Hague has elected have had occasion to ap- point many judges. An instance or two will show what sort of career has put a man in a position where a governor has decided that he should go on the bench, although it must be remembered that there are exceptional cases in which no career is required, such as that of Frank Hague, Junior.

Chief Justice Thomas J. Brogan of Jersey City may serve as an example for the law courts. He attended the College of Saint Francis Xavier and the Fordham Law School. In 1912 he was admitted to the bar in New Jersey and soon became active in Jersey City politics under Frank Hague. He became corporation counsel for the city in 1921, and held the job for eleven years. During that period, when Hague was summoned before the Case Committee, Mr. Brogan appeared as his attorney. Governor Moore made him an associate justice of the Supreme Court in 1932, and less than a year later, when Chief Justice Gummere died, raised him to chief justice.

Vice-Chancellor Charles M. Egan has had a career that shows how to rise in the equity courts. He was born in Jersey City, and educated in the parochial and public schools there. He went to the New York Law School. He was elected to the Assembly in 1911 and became Democratic floor leader in 1913, and then senator the same year. In 1917 he was appointed assistant corporation counsel of Jersey City, a position he held until 1923, when Governor Silzer made him judge of the court of common pleas of Hudson County. He was twice reappointed by Governor Moore, and then Chancellor Campbell made him a vice-chancellor in 1934.

Other biographies need not be reproduced here. Looking over the biographies of the state and county jurists printed in the Legislative Manuals it may be concluded that Edwards, Silzer, and Moore appointed men with careers approximately this: they tend to be Irishmen, who, after finishing their legal education, or even while completing it, get into politics. Soon they get elected to the Assembly, where they spend two or three years, rising to be Democratic floor leaders, or going to the Senate for a term or two. Their legislative records are perfectly regular; that is, obedient. Then they leave state affairs for a while to be counsel to their home city or county, prosecutor, or county judge. This period may last ten years or more, and since there are never enough places on the highest courts, many never get in the way when the lightning finally strikes.

The long period of testing and training has proved its worth in the justices and vice-chancellors who have survived. In re Hague is perhaps the most outstanding case in point, elsewhere discussed in these pages; in that, the Court of Errors and Appeals held that the legislature had no right to ask Mayor Hague questions about his wealth. Another notable case is In re New Jersey Bar Association. (111 N.J. Eq. 234; 112 N.J. Eq. 606; 114 N.J. Eq. 261.) On the petition of the New Jersey Bar Association, Chancellor Walker ordered Charles L. Carrick of Jersey City, a master in chancery, to use surplus court funds for an investigation of certain unsavory receiverships. Chancellor Walker, however, died, and the court reversed his ruling, holding both that a vice-chancellor could not be investigated by an officer of the court and that the chancellor could not remove a vice-chancellor, even if corrupt.

The decisions and rulings on Hudson County election cases handed down by some of these jurists who were formerly in the political organization are, to a layman, amazing. In one election district in Jersey City, for example, no votes were reported for opponents of the administration in the city election of 1933; a number of residents in that district filed with the superintendent of elections affidavits that they had voted for the anti-organization ticket. Chief Justice Brogan, however, ruled that the superintendent of elections had no right to open the ballot boxes, and the court, which had the power, refused to open them. In this decision he was upheld by the Supreme Court. In another case in Jersey City in 1937 the same jurist ruled that, while he had the right to open the boxes, no one had a right to look inside; so there was no use in opening them. This ruling arose when eleven persons in the Eleventh District of the Sixth Ward filed affidavits that they had voted for the opposition ticket from that district. When Senator Clee alleged that fraudulent votes had been cast for A. Harry Moore in Jersey City in 1937 and that returns had been falsified, the Supreme Court first denied the right of his counsel to see any of the election records, and then, without hearing any evidence, dismissed his petition. (Ferguson v. Brogan, 112 N.J.L. 471; Clee v. Moore, 119 N.J.L. 215; In re Clee, 119 N.J.L. 310.)


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