Dispenziere v. Kushner Companies, ___ N.J. Super. ___ (App. Div. 2014).  In Atalese v. United States Legal Services Group, L.P., 219 N.J. 430 (2014), discussed here, the Supreme Court ruled that an arbitration clause that does not contain “clear and unambiguous language that the plaintiff is waiving her right to sue or go to court to secure relief” is not enforceable.  In today’s opinion, by Judge Carroll, the Appellate Division reversed a Law Division decision that had been issued before Atalese was decided.  The ruling applies Atalese in two respects that the Supreme Court did not address.  read more

Rutgers University Student Assembly v. Middlesex Cty. Bd. of Elections, ___ N.J. Super. ___ (App. Div. 2014).  Plaintiffs challenged the constitutionality of N.J.S.A. 19:31-6.3b, which, as Judge Haas described it in this opinion today, “requires all eligible persons to register to vote no later than twenty-one days prior to an election.”  Plaintiffs argued that, among other things, the development of a computerized Statewide Voter Registration System makes advance registration no longer necessary to protect the integrity of the election process, and that the advance registration requirement now violates the constitutional burden right to vote.  According to plaintiffs, only a same-day registration process would be constitutional. read more

L.T. v. F.M., ___ N.J. Super. ___ (App. Div. 2014).  This case began with plaintiff obtaining a final restraining order (“FRO”) against defendant in the Family Part because defendant had assaulted plaintiff on multiple occasions.  The FRO resulted from a three-day trial at which defendant, an attorney, was not represented by counsel and as to which no discovery was exchanged.  The judge who issued the FRO based that ruling on a February 27, 2008 assault.  The judge also found that two other alleged assaults, in April and August 2007, had occurred but could not determine whether a third alleged assault, in November 2007, had taken place.  Plaintiff stated that she also wished to sue defendant for damages arising out of the assaults, but the Family Part judge was not sure that that issue was ripe and reserved decision on plaintiff’s request to pursue a damage claim.  Defendant did not seek to appeal the interlocutory decision issuing the FRO against him. read more

Mortgage Grader, Inc. v. Ward & Olivo, LLP, ___ N.J. Super. ___ (App. Div. 2014).  In the legal malpractice context, a “tail” insurance policy is one that “provides insurance coverage for malpractice that occurs during the claims-made policy coverage period but is reported after the claims-made policy has lapsed.”  This involved a legal malpractice claim against the defendant LLP and its two named partners that was made after the firm had ceased practicing law and had begun winding up its affairs, and after the firm’s claims-made policy had expired.  Defendant Ward sought summary judgment on the grounds that he could not be liable for the alleged malpractice of his former partner, Olivo, under N.J.S.A. 42:1A-8c, which provides that a partner in an LLP is protected against from liability for the acts of another partner.  Alternatively, Ward argued that plaintiff had failed to follow the procedures of the Affidavit of Merit statute, N.J.S.A. 2A:53A-27, by serving Ward with an affidavit of merit.  Plaintiff responded that because the LLP had not purchased a “tail” policy, a violation of Rule 1:21-1C(a)(3), the LLP designation was to be stripped away, so that the entity would then become a general partnership.  In a general partnership, partners are liable for each other’s acts.  Plaintiff also asserted that it had substantially complied with the Affidavit of Merit statute by serving an affidavit of merit on Olivo and the LLP. read more

In an article in Tuesday’s New York Times, Adam Liptak reported that opponents of same-sex marriage are challenging the composition of Ninth Circuit panels that have heard cases involving gay rights.  The opponents assert that, against what they say are 441-1 odds, certain liberal judges have repeatedly been assigned to panels in such cases, while eighteen other judges of the Ninth Circuit have never sat on a panel in a gay rights appeal.  The article goes on to report that there are serious questions about the validity of the opponents’ challenge, and cites some scholarly articles about how Circuit Courts of Appeal assign judges to panels.  But the Times article provoked this question:  what are the odds of getting any particular Appellate Division judge on an appeal? read more

Education Law Center v. New Jersey State Bd. of Educ., ___ N.J. Super. ___ (App. Div. 2014).  In In re Grant of Charters to Merit Preparatory School and Newark Preparatory Charter School, 435 N.J. Super. 273 (App. Div. 2014), discussed here, the Appellate Division, speaking through Judge Ashrafi, held that the Commissioner of Education could approve charter schools whose programs included online instruction.  [Disclosure:  My firm, Lite DePalma Greenberg, LLC, was one of the counsel for the charter schools in that case].  Today, in another opinion by Judge Ashrafi, the Appellate Division ruled that the New Jersey State Board of Education “could lawfully adopt regulations to permit allow existing, successful charter schools to open satellite locations within their districts of residence.”  The court applied the de novo standard of review to the agency’s interpretation of the governing statute, the Charter School Program Act of 1995, N.J.S.A. 18A:36A-1 to -18 (“the Act”), while according deference to and presuming the validity of the regulations adopted by the agency. read more

Today is Veterans Day, which currently is made a federal holiday by 5 U.S.C. §6103(a) and a state holiday by N.J.S.A. 36:1-1.  The holiday began as Armistice Day, since it was first proclaimed by President Wilson in 1919, to commemorate the end of hostilities in World War I.  In 1954, Congress changed the name to Veterans Day, in order to honor veterans of all of the nation’s wars. read more

On this date in 1956, the Supreme Court decided Newark Publishers’ Ass’n v. Newark Typographical Union, 26 N.J. 419 (1956).  That unanimous opinion by Justice Heher involved whether the Newark Star-Ledger and one of its unions had agreed to arbitrate a particular labor issue.  But the opinion is best known for containing, in a single relatively short ruling, many of the fundamental principles of contract interpretation.  Many of those principles were stated without citation to authority, though those ideas were doubtless settled ones.  The following two-paragraph excerpt contains the meat of the contract interpretation portion of the opinion, a ruling that is still frequently cited today: read more