State v. Shack – 277 A.2d 369 (N.J. 1971)

Case Name: State v. Shack
Citation: 277 A.2d 369 (N.J. 1971)
Appellant: Tejeras and Shack
Appellee: State

Issue: Do real property rights, specifically the trespass statute or right to exclude, supersede the fundamental rights of an individual?

Key Facts: Defendants entered the private property of Tedesco to aid migrant farm workers who were employed and housed on his property. Both defendants work for nonprofit organizations that provide health (Tejeras) and legal (Shack) services to migrant workers. The defendants were confronted by Tedesco who inquired of their purpose. Tedesco offered to locate the specific migrant workers that the defendants were seeking but required that any consultation must take place in his office and in his presence. The defendants declined his terms and Tedesco summoned a State Trooper to have the defendants removed from his property.

Procedural History: Defendants were convicted in the Municipal Court of Deerfield Township for trespassing (criminal).

Holding: The appellate court found that the defendants did not violate any property rights of the farmer-employer and that there conduct went beyond the reach of the trespass statute.

Reasoning: Being mindful of the employer’s interest in his and his employees’ security, the employer may require a visitor to identify himself and state his general purpose. However, the employer cannot deny the worker his right to privacy or interfere with his opportunity to live with dignity and other customary benefits among citizens. These basic rights are too fundamental to be denied by property rights and too fragile to be left to the unequal bargaining strength of the parties.

Judgment: The county court’s finding was reversed and the appellate court remanded to the county court so that the defendants could be acquitted.