Caption: GRAY v. MARTINO, 91 N.J.L. 462; 103 A. 24 (N.J.1918)

Gray (cop) v. Martino (crime victim)

Procedural History

  • Cop sues for reward money.
  • District court awards money to the cop.
  • Defendant appeals.


At the time the contract was formed, was the plaintiff acting as a police officer charged with a legal duty to catch criminals without further reward?


  • Plaintiff makes a verbal contract with defendant. In return for $500, plaintiff will find defendant’s stolen jewels.
  • Plaintiff had knowledge of whereabouts of jewels at contract formation.
  • Plaintiff is a special police officer and has dealings with prosecutor’s office.
  • Defendant published advertisement for reward.
  • Plaintiff finds stolen goods and arranges return.

Rule of Law

  1. A public officer cannot demand or receive remuneration or a reward for carrying out the duty of his job as a matter of public policy and morality
  2. However, it is not against public policy for a police officer to receive a reward in performance of his legal duty if the legislature passes a statute giving the reward to the public at large in furtherance of some public policy – such as preventing treason against the US.

Reasoning or Analysis

  • Court finds sufficient evidence to characterize Gray as a public official.
  • His interaction with the prosecutor’s office weighed in as a factor in suggesting he had a legal duty.
  • Since he is characterized within the rule as a public official, he cannot, as a matter of law, receive a reward for the performance of his duties.

Holding or Conclusion

Court reverses decision of lower court in favor of the plaintiff since he was characterized as a public official. “Pre-existing duty Rule”.

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