The 1,500th Post- Making up a December Deficit

A major Appellate Division argument, appellate briefing, and other work has interfered with keeping up with the courts during December.  So it’s time for one of this blog’s periodic “catch-up” posts.  Here, in summary, is some of what the Supreme Court, the Appellate Division, and the Third Circuit have done in the past several weeks.

New Jersey Division of Child Protection and Permanency v. R.L.M., 236 N.J. 123 (2018).  Writing for a unanimous Court on an issue of first impression, Justice Patterson held that a parent has the right to represent himself or herself in an action to terminate parental rights pursuant to N.J.S.A. 30:4C-15 et seq.

State v. Hyppolite, 236 N.J. 154 (2018).  This was an appeal under the Criminal Justice Reform Act, N.J.S.A. 2A:162-15 et seq., a relatively new statute in which courts, including the Supreme Court, are feeling their way and making new law.  In this unanimous opinion by Chief Justice Rabner, the Court addressed what remedy is appropriate when the State fails to disclose all exculpatory evidence to the defendant before a hearing as to whether the defendant should be detained pretrial.  The Court held that a modified materiality standard should be applied in determining whether to reopen a hearing once a failure to disclose exculpatory evidence is revealed.  If there is a reasonable possibility that the result of such a hearing would have been different had the evidence been disclosed, the hearing should be reopened.  That standard called for reopening of the hearing in this particular case.

N.J. HIghlands Coalition v. New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection, 236 N.J. 208 (2018).  In this case under the Highlands Water Protection and Planning Act, N.J.S.A. 13:20-1 et seq. (“the Act”), the Supreme Court affirmed the Appellate Division substantially on the decision of that court below.  Both courts upheld an action of the Department of Environmental Protection regarding land covered by the Act, and both opinions addressed the general concept of  “final approval” in the land use context.  But the Supreme Court emphasized that its ruling was based on the definition of the term “all final approvals” in the Act, and that the Appellate Division’s invocation of the definition of “final approval” that appears in the Municipal Land Use Law, N.J.S.A. 40:55D-1 et seq. (“MLUL”), was not meant to and would not be read to engraft that MLUL definition onto the Act’s definition of “all final approvals.”  The Appellate Division’s opinion, written by Judge Simonelli, was simultaneously approved for publication and is here: N.J. HIghlands Coalition v. New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection, 456 N.J. Super.  590 (App. Div. 2017).

Residential Mortgage Loan Trust 2013-TT2 v. Morgan Stanley Mortgage Capital, Inc., 457 N.J. Super. 237 (App. Div. 2018).  In this unusual foreclosure-related case, Judge Reisner’s opinion upheld a grant of summary judgment for plaintiff and approved plaintiff’s use of a quiet title proceeding to establish its standing to pursue foreclosure.  The court also rejected the argument that plaintiff’s claim was barred by res judicata.  Plaintiff’s predecessor had filed a previous foreclosure case that was dismissed for lack of standing.  But that dismissal was without prejudice, and res judicata was therefore inapplicable.

Association of New Jersey Rifle and Pistol Clubs, Inc. v. New Jersey Attorney General, 910 F.3d 106 (3d Cir. 2018).  In this 2-1 decision, the Third Circuit upheld the constitutionality of New Jersey’s law limiting firearms magazines to no more than ten rounds of ammunition.  As a result, the panel affirmed a District Court denial of plaintiffs’ request for a ruling preliminarily enjoining enforcement of that statute.  Judge Shwartz wrote the majority opinion, in which Judge Greenaway joined.  Judge Bibas was the dissenter.

In re Community Bank of Northern Virginia Mortgage Lending Practices Litig., 911 F.3d 666 (3d Cir. 2018).  This opinion, issued today, is the latest installment in this long-running class action.  In it, Judge Shwartz, writing for the panel, ruled that, on the particular facts, a fee dispute between plaintiffs’ counsel and the firm that he was at when he began this case was properly to be decided in state court, and that the doctrine of ancillary jurisdiction did not confer power upon the District Court to decide the issue.

This is the 1,500th post on this blog.  It’s good to get back to being current with the courts after an unplanned hiatus in coverage.