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Kravitz v. Murphy

Did we achieve our litigation objective? No. Executive Order No. 128 waived numerous state laws governing security deposits. Despite violating numerous laws, state courts did not protect Chuck Kravitz and his wife Dawn Johanson-Kravitz from losing rental income necessary to repair their damaged property.

Court Outcome: The Appellate Division of New Jersey Superior Court ruled that Executive Order No. 128 was legal, despite NCLA’s argument that Governor Murphy claimed sweeping authority he did not legally possess to violate numerous rights protected by state law.

Larger Impact: For many months, landlords were not able to enforce security measures included in voluntarily signed lease agreements. Initially enacted to stop the spread of Covid-19, Executive Order No. 128 violated the core constitutional concept of separation of powers by illegally seizing the New Jersey legislature’s authority in order to violate Matthew Johnson and other residential landlords’ constitutional and contractual rights.

Summary: NCLA filed the complaint, Chuck Kravitz, et al. v. Philip D. Murphy, et al., against Governor Murphy in the Cumberland County Superior Court of New Jersey, challenging Executive Order No. 128. The order, which NCLA also challenged on federal constitutional ground in Johnson v. Murphy, also violated the New Jersey Constitution by re-writing private contracts and the state’s landlord-tenant laws.

NCLA represented New Jersey property owners impacted by the order requiring them to use their tenants’ security deposits toward rent and criminalizing their failure to do so. Without statutory authority to do so, Governor Murphy interfered with the contractual rights and obligations of private citizens under the Civilian Defense and Disaster Control Act. However, none of the authority granted to Governor Murphy by the Act during the pandemic included any mandate even remotely connected to a power to modify the terms of residential leasehold contracts or to waive the statutory provisions relating to those leases. The specifically enumerated powers granted by the Act involve military defense, coordination between governments, and the taking of private property.

On its face, EO 128 claimed to waive numerous state laws governing security deposits that were adopted by proper, constitutional legislative process. Targeting a single group—residential tenants—for relief in this manner undermined freedom of contract, due process, and equal protection of the laws. It also ignored the governor’s limited role and disregarded the separation of powers among branches of New Jersey government.

The order clearly picked winners and losers in duly established contractual relations between tenants and landlords. More than six months after Governor Murphy’s unlawful order was issued, the Kravitzes were still struggling to track down their former tenants to recover funds needed to repair their damaged property. NCLA asked the court to issue a declaratory judgment that EO 128 was an unlawful waiver of law that violated the Contracts Clause, Due Process Clause, and Separation of Powers Clause of the New Jersey Constitution and to issue permanent injunctive relief prohibiting Governor Murphy from enforcing the unlawful order.

Kara Rollins
Litigation Counsel
NCLA FILINGS

Order Denying Petition for Certification

April 8, 2022 | Read More

Reply In Support of Petition For Certification of Appellants-Petitioners

November 15, 2021 | Read More

Brief of Respondents in Opposition to Petition for Certification

November 5, 2021 | Read More

Petition for Certification of Appellants-Petitioners

August 19, 2021 | Read More

Opinion of the Superior Court of New Jersey, Appellate Division

July 20, 2021 | Read More

PRESS RELEASES

NCLA Petitions Supreme Court of New Jersey to Check Governor Murphy’s Emergency Powers

August 19, 2021 | Read More

NCLA Asks NJ Appellate Court to Halt Governor’s Unlawful Interference with Rental Contracts

April 5, 2021 | Read More

NCLA Urges NJ Court to Nix Order Directing Landlords to Use Security Deposits to Offset Rent

December 16, 2020 | Read More

IN THE MEDIA

Local News with Jared McClain’s Comments

New Jersey 101.5

February 7, 2023

NJ landlords fight back: Lawsuit challenges Murphy executive order

New Jersey 101.5

February 7, 2023

Proposed legislation would help landlords, tenants with back rent

February 7, 2023

Landlords sue Murphy over ‘unconstitutional’ mandate allowing security deposit as rent

February 7, 2023

NJ landlords sue Gov. Murphy to end unconstitutional rent protections for tenants

February 7, 2023

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