While the rest of us were preoccupied with goings on elsewhere, the New Jersey Tax Court was quietly working away, bringing in 2021 with a trio of published decisions.
The first, authored by Tax Court Judge Mary Siobhan Brennan, J.T.C., involved mutual appeals by taxpayer and municipality in 30 Journal Square Partners, LLC v. City of Jersey City, No. 009666-2020 (Tax Court December 30, 2020). In this case, the municipality filed its appeals in early June at the county tax board, and the taxpayer filed directly to Tax Court on the July 1 filing deadline. The taxpayer contacted the county board, requesting that the municipality’s appeals be dismissed for lack of jurisdiction. While the municipality did not object to a dismissal, the City wanted the right to appeal from the county’s judgment to the Tax Court. The taxpayer took the position that the county board was deprived of jurisdiction, and the judgment would be a nullity from which the municipality would not be able to appeal. The taxpayer moved before the Tax Court to have jurisdiction established in the Tax Court, and to required the City to withdraw its county appeals. While the municipality did not contest the Tax Court’s jurisdiction, it did insist that the proper procedure was for its appeal to be dismissed without prejudice, to allow it to appeal to the Tax Court and preserve its right to appeal.
The Tax Court confirmed its exclusive jurisdiction, but permitted the City’s county appeal to proceed on appeal to Tax Court. The court adopted the reasoning of the Tax Court in another unpublished opinion, wherein the Tax Court allowed an untimely counterclaim to proceed so as to “harmonize” the municipality’s right to appeal and the exclusive Tax Court jurisdiction established in the statute.
Practically, the Court’s ruling would allow filers to the county board to preserve their appeal in the event that their adversary files at the Tax Court and that party fails to file a timely counterclaim. However, this loophole is not consistent with the plain language of the statute, and it runs contrary to the principle of strictness required with regards to filing deadlines. However, until the Appellate Division, Supreme Court or Legislature speaks on the issue, it appears that county board filers will be protected from losing their claims if their adversary files at the Tax Court and they fail to file a timely counterclaim. You can read the full opinion here:
30 Journal Square Partners, LLC v. City of Jersey City
Stay tuned for parts 2 and 3, which involve a trial encompassing seven years of appeals, and the reconsideration of a reconsidered decision!