Two Published Opinions From the Appellate Division

So far this week, the Appellate Division has issued two published opinions. Here are summaries:

257-261 20th Avenue Realty, LLC v. Roberto, ___ N.J. Super. ___ (App. Div. 2023). This was an appeal from the grant of a motion under Rule 4:50-1(f), the “catch-all” relief from judgment provision, to overturn a tax sale foreclosure judgment. The subject property was a commercial building, not a residence. Though there was an issue about the effect of Tyler v. Hennepin Cty., 598 U.S. 631 (2023), Judge Perez Friscia’s opinion for the Appellate Division made clear that “[i]rrespective of the precedent set forth in Tyler, the judge’s well-reasoned and detailed oral decision finding exceptional circumstances was supported by sufficient evidence in the record. The judge correctly weighed that defendant: escrowed the required funds into his attorney’s trust account, undisputedly had significant equity in the property, and certified he had compounded financial hardship from tenants’ COVID-19-related rental arrears. Additionally, the judge noted defendant was seventy-five years old and owned the property for over twenty years.” The abuse of discretion standard applied, and the Appellate Division held that the Chancery Division had not abused its discretion in granting relief from the judgment.

Horne v. Edwards, ___ N.J. Super. ___ (App. Div. 2023). Judge Marczyk wrote the Appellate Division’s opinion in this case, which involved a petition to invalidate the candidacies of two persons elected to the Trenton City Council. The Law Division denied the petition. The Appellate Division affirmed. Judge Marczyk found that plaintiffs lacked standing, having failed to comply with the requirements of N.J.S.A. 19:29-2 that a petition contain signatures of at least fifteen voters in the county or the signature of a defeated candidate. The petition had, at most, three signatures, and plaintiffs’ effort to belatedly add other voter signatures or that of a defeated candidate came too late and did not overcome the failure of standing. Regardless, the Appellate Division went on to address the merits, as the Law Division had done. Plaintiffs complained that they were denied an adjournment that they sought in order to obtain counsel, but Judge Marczyk found no abuse of discretion in the denial of that request, as “election matters are meant to be heard expeditiously, and plaintiffs did not provide sufficient details as to their search for an attorney that would have substantiated their need for an adjournment.” Finally, the panel rejected plaintiffs’ arguments that one candidate did not satisfy residency requirements and that the criminal record (a conviction in Pennsylvania for shoplifting) of the other candidate did not mandate disqualification, for a number of reasons.