Property I, Pages 20–25

State v. Shack

Supreme Court of New Jersey, 1971

Facts:

Defendants entered Tedesco's private property to give two men medical and legal aid. Tedesco intercepted the defendants and asked them to leave, saying he could bring the men out to them, but that he would need to be present. The defendants said they had to see them in their private quarters owned by Tedesco and refused to leave.

Procedural History:

Defendants were initially convicted of violating the trespass statute.

Issue:

Can you prosecute government-funded agents from providing services to people residing on your property?

Plaintiff's Arguments:

  • Plaintiffs' actions were free speech.

  • Using the trespass statute to bar them would defeat the purpose of their federal funding.

Defendant's Argument:

The trespass statute is constitutional.

Rule:

You cannot use your property rights to prevent people from receiving governmental or charitable services they have the right to receive.

Page 21

...ownership of real property does not include the right to bar access to governmental services available to migrant workers...

Page 24

But we see no legitimate need for a right in the farmer to deny the worker the opportunity for aid available from federal, State, or local services, or form recognized charitable groups seeking to assist him.

Reasoning:

These people were government workers helping migrant workers and hence could not be barred. Therefore, they are not liable for trespass.

Holding:

No, you cannot prosecute government-funded agents from providing services to people residing on your property. Judgments reversed and remanded to be acquitted.

Takeaway:

Property rights are not absolute.

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