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GH v Township of Galloway

7-15-2008 and 5-7-2009 New Jersey:

G.H. v. TOWNSHIP OF GALLOWAY (951 A.2d 221 (2008))

G.H. v. TOWNSHIP OF GALLOWAY (971 A.2d 401 (2009))

From 2009 case: We granted certification in this consolidated appeal to review an Appellate Division determination that Megan's Law, see N.J.S.A. 2C:7-1 to -19, preempted and required the invalidation of municipal ordinances enacted by Cherry Hill Township and Galloway Township. The challenged ordinances each operated to prohibit convicted sex offenders from living within a designated distance of any school, park, playground, public library, or daycare center in its respective municipal jurisdiction. We now affirm the judgment of the Appellate Division substantially for the reasons expressed in Judge Lisa's comprehensive opinion. G.H. v. Twp. of Galloway,401 N.J.Super. 392, 951 A.2d 221 (2008). Accordingly, we hold that Cherry Hill Township's and Galloway Township's ordinances, establishing residency restrictions that formed buffer zones for convicted sex offenders living within their communities, are precluded by the present, stark language of Megan's Law. It is that language which controls.

That said, we add the following. At oral argument, this Court was urged to provide guidance about the limits to Megan's Law's preemption of municipal action in respect of convicted sex offenders. Cherry [ 971 A.2d 402 ]

Hill also sought to have this Court address hypothetical variations of its present ordinance, presumably to glean advice that might salvage an ordinance to replace the one invalidated. We cannot answer abstract questions or give advisory opinions. See Crescent Pk. Tenants Ass'n v. Realty Eg. Corp. of N.Y.,58 N.J. 98, 107, 275 A.2d 433 (1971); N.J. Tpk. Auth. v. Parsons,3 N.J. 235, 240, 69 A.2d 875 (1949). The judicial function operates best when a concrete dispute is presented to the courts. All that is before us is the viability of the challenged ordinances. That was all that was before the Appellate Division and that is all we can address. Accordingly, we decline the municipalities' requests that we answer hypothetical questions about unenacted ordinances or that we provide advisory opinions to function in the abstract.

The judgment of the Appellate Division is affirmed.

Articles: (After first decision) N.J. high court nullifies sex offender residency restrictions (After second decision) N.J. high court nullifies sex offender residency restrictions

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