Three New Supreme Court Grants of Certification

The Supreme Court announced yesterday that it has granted certification in three new matters. One of them is a taxation appeal, a type of matter that does not frequently appear on the Court’s docket. The others are a Megan’s Law case and a matter that calls for interpretation of the Highlands Act.

The tax case is Verizon of New Jersey, Inc. v. Borough of Hopewell. The question presented, as phrased by the Supreme Court Clerk’s office, is “What is the proper interpretation of the phrase ‘local telephone exchange’ in N.J.S.A. 54:4-1?” Two published Tax Court opinions ruled against Verizon in this dispute, which centers on whether Verizon was obligated to pay municipal tax on its business personal property in the Borough for the year 2009. A three-judge Appellate Division panel affirmed those rulings in an unpublished 105-page opinion that was issued nearly eighteen months after oral argument in that court.

In the Matter of Registrant R.S. is the Megan’s Law case. That case presents this question: “Is a Megan’s Law registrant whose risk of re-offense is moderate or low entitled to an evidentiary hearing to determine if the registrant’s conduct was characterized by a pattern or repetitive, compulsive behavior and therefore the registrant’s information should be included on the Sex Offender Internet Registry, N.J.S.A. 2C:7-13?” In an unpublished per curiam opinion, a two-judge panel of the Appellate Division affirmed in part and reversed in part a ruling of the Law Division concluding that R.S. was a Tier 2 moderate risk offender under Megan’s Law. The panel “remand[ed] with direction that the trial court enter a new order classifying R.S. as a Tier One low risk offender, but because his conduct was found to be characterized by a pattern of repetitive and compulsive behavior, his information is to be included on the Sex Offender Internet Registry. N.J.S.A. 2C:7-13(e).”

The final new appeal is In re Proposed Construction of Compressor Station. The question presented there is “In Exemption 11 of the Highlands Act, N.J.S.A. 13:20-28(a)(11), which exempts ‘the routine maintenance and operations, rehabilitation, preservation, reconstruction, repair, or upgrade of public utility lines, rights of way, or systems, by a public utility, provided that the activity is consistent with the goals and purposes’ of the Highlands Act, does the word ‘routine’ refer only to ‘maintenance or operations’ or to all of the activities listed in Exemption 11?” An opinion of a three-judge Appellate Division panel that was reported at 476 N.J. Super. 556 (App. Div. 2023) and discussed here, held that “routine” referred to “upgrades.” But for procedural reasons, the matter was remanded to the Department of Environmental Protection for further proceedings in light of the panel’s decision.