Contracts and Criminal Liability (Part 4)

by | Oct 25, 2018 | Blog, Criminal Law, Monmouth County, Ocean County

The Court continued: Moreover, if the Legislature intended to limit the meaning of the term “contract” to agreements for the procurement of goods and services from a vendor, it would have defined the term contract in the same manner it chose to define various other terms found in chapters 20 and 21 of the Code. But the Legislature chose not to define the term contract, and is fully aware that where the definition of a statutory term is not provided, we are required to apply the term’s ordinary meaning. The ordinary meaning of the term “contract” is not limited to agreements to purchase goods and services from vendors.

N.J.S.A. 2C:21-34(b) was enacted as part of legislation modifying contracting requirements under the Local Public Contracts Law, the Public Schools Contracts Law, “and the laws governing State procurement.” See Sponsor’s Statement to Assembly No. 3519 104 (Nov. 15, 1999). The legislation addressed contracting standards and procedures in varying contexts for different governmental entities, but did not include a definition of the term “contract” applicable to all of its provisions.

For example, the Legislature adopted the same definition of the term “contract” for use under the Local Public Contracts Law and the Public Schools Contracts Law: “Contract” means any agreement, including but not limited to a purchase order or a formal agreement, which is a legally binding relationship enforceable by law, between a vendor who agrees to provide or perform goods or services and a contracting unit or board of education which agrees to compensate a vendor, as defined by and subject to the terms and conditions of the agreement. A contract also may include an arrangement whereby a vendor compensates a contracting unit or board of education for the vendor’s right to perform a service, such as, but not limited to, operating a concession.

The opinion delves deep into the principles of contract law. Contract law relates to civil litigation and rarely comes up in criminal courts.