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Judge Uphold’s Pennsylvania Woman’s Right to Miss New Jersey Crown

July 30, 1985

JERSEY CITY, N.J. (AP) _ A judge Tuesday upheld the right of a woman to wear the Miss New Jersey crown in the Miss America Pageant even though she is from Pennsylvania.

″It is not this court’s function to judge beauty contests,″ said Superior Court Judge Robert E. Tarleton. ″I find no fraud and no bad faith has been established for this court to intervene and substitute its opinion″ for that of the pageant.

Runner-up Laura Ann Bridges claimed in a suit that Toni Georgiana had qualified for the pageant by falsely representing herself as a New Jersey student. Miss Georgiana registered for a short summer college course but never attended classes.

Attorney Philip Feintuch, representing Miss Bridges, said the ruling will be appealed.

Tarleton did recommend that state pageant officials draft new regulations requiring participants to attend school for a specified period to be eligible for the contest, saying his reading of the Miss America rules showed organizers did not intend to allow ″itinerant pageant shoppers.″ The judge did not recommend a specific lenght of time, however.

Tarleton said he didn’t believe Miss Georgiana was really a student in New Jersey but added, ″I conclude that the Miss New Jersey pageant is entitled to have its rules interpreted by its chosen representatives.″

Miss Georgiana said, ″I followed the rules and that’s all that was asked. ... I don’t have any grudges.″

Miss Bridges also said she had ″no bad feelings″ about the woman who won the July 6 state pageant.

But she added she was disappointed by pageant rules that allow potential contestants to sign up but not attend courses in order to meet entry requirements.

″It basically tells little girls to cheat and lie,″ said Miss Bridges, a 24-year-old dental student from Jersey City.

Miss Georgiana, a 21-year-old professional dancer from Philadelphia, testified that she registered May 20 for a two-week health course at Trenton State College but became ″just too busy″ with pageant preparations to attend any classes.

The state pageant follows the national Miss America contest rules. They stipulate that a contestant is eligible if she lives or works in the state for six months before the pageant or is a ″bona fide student registered at a college or university, whether or not she has been registered for six months,″ said Nathan Zauber, director of the state pageant.

Miss Georgiana’s attorney, George Botcheos, said in his closing argument that she was complied with the contest requirements by signing up for the course.

He said that although she did not attend any classes, Miss Georgiana’s intent was clear when she told college officials she would be living in Trenton with a friend while attending the school.

Feintuch said that Miss Georgiana had to attend, and not just register for, classes in order to be eligible.

″I submit that Miss Georgiana was not a bona fide student,″ he said. ″We don’t have to go beyond our borders to find a very able woman to represent New Jersey.″

The judge agreed last week to speed up the trial because the 65th Miss America Pageant starts in Atlantic City in mid-September.

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