An Anniversary of a Key Prerogative Writs Opinion

Sixty-five years ago today, on November 20, 1950, the Supreme Court decided Fischer v. Bedminster Tp., 5 N.J. 534 (1950).  That opinion, written by Justice Heher, contains one of the earliest and best post-1947 Constitution expositions of the action in lieu of prerogative writs, which is a staple in municipal land use and other types of cases.

The main issue was whether legislation imposing a statute of limitation could defeat an action in lieu of prerogative writs.  The Court explained the background and function of the action in lieu of prerogative writs, and ruled that “[t]he statute of limitation is without efficacy” in that regard.  “The statutory limitation contravenes the Constitution.”

Fischer ensured that actions in lieu of prergoative writs could be pursued with full vigor.  That has proceeded to happen, especially in the land use area.  Though Fischer is a relatively short opinion, it has had lasting effect and is well worth revisiting.