Kenneth Mr. Vercammen was included in the 2020 “Super Lawyers” list published by Thomson Reuters.

To schedule a confidential consultation, email us at VercammenAppointments@NJlaws.com, call or visit www.njlaws.com

(732) 572-0500

Saturday, January 16, 2021

CHRIS DOE VS. RUTGERS, THE STATE UNIVERSITY OF NEW JERSEY, ET AL. (L-1651-18, MIDDLESEX COUNTY AND STATEWIDE) (A-5285-18T2)

 CHRIS DOE VS. RUTGERS, THE STATE UNIVERSITY OF NEW JERSEY, ET AL. (L-1651-18, MIDDLESEX COUNTY AND STATEWIDE) (A-5285-18T2)

Plaintiff appeals the trial court's denial under the Open Public Records Act (OPRA), N.J.S.A. 47:1A-1 to -13, to his right of his access to various records, including his own Rutgers University graduate student records, and his request for attorney's fees and costs (collectively "attorney's fees").

The court concludes OPRA only allows plaintiff to obtain copies of his own academic transcripts, discipline records, and financial records subject to redaction to preclude the identity of other students. The court remands for the trial court to determine whether plaintiff is entitled to any attorney's fees related to his efforts to obtain these records.

The court also remands for the trial court to issue findings of facts and conclusions of law regarding plaintiff's entitlement to attorney's fees related to defendants' voluntary release of information pertaining to specific university professors' and administrators' disclosable records. No position is taken as to whether plaintiff is entitled to any attorney's fees that shall considered on remand. All other aspects of the trial court's order are affirmed.

JONATHAN CRUZ VS. THE CAMDEN COUNTY POLICE DEPARTMENT, ET AL. (L-3570-17, CAMDEN COUNTY AND STATEWIDE) (A-1276-19T3)

 JONATHAN CRUZ VS. THE CAMDEN COUNTY POLICE DEPARTMENT, ET AL. (L-3570-17, CAMDEN COUNTY AND STATEWIDE) (A-1276-19T3)

The court holds that a grand jury witness, including a law enforcement witness, has absolute immunity from a civil rights claim under New Jersey law for grand jury testimony that is alleged to have omitted relevant information. Accordingly, the court adopts and applies to the New Jersey Civil Rights Act (NJCRA), N.J.S.A. 10:6-1 to -2, the ruling by the United States Supreme Court in Rehberg v. Paulk, 566 U.S. 356, 367-69 (2012), which held that a witness testifying before a grand jury has absolute immunity from a civil rights claim under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. The court did not decide whether a witness who lies to a grand jury has absolute immunity because there was no evidence that the witness in this case lied.

Consequently, the court affirmed an order granting summary judgment to a detective who was alleged to have violated the NJCRA in a civil action by failing to tell a grand jury certain information that may have raised questions about an eye witness' identification of a criminal defendant who was later acquitted at trial.

Elmer Branch v. Cream-O-Land Dairy (083379)(Hudson County & Statewide) (A-29-19;

 Elmer Branch v. Cream-O-Land Dairy (083379)(Hudson County & Statewide) (A-29-19; 083379)

None of the decisions identified by defendant satisfy the requirements of the good-faith defense under the plain language of N.J.S.A. 34:11-56a25.2. The Court acknowledges, however, the dilemma faced by an employer such as defendant, which repeatedly prevailed in overtime disputes before subordinate Department employees but was unable to seek a ruling that would satisfy that statute because each of those disputes was resolved without further review. The Court respectfully suggests that the Department would further the Legislature’s intent if it instituted a procedure by which an employer in defendant’s position could obtain an opinion letter or other ruling clarifying its obligations under the WHL’s overtime provisions. The Court remands this matter for consideration of defendant’s argument that it is a trucking-industry employer within the meaning of N.J.S.A. 34:11-56a4(f) and for determination of whether defendant complied with the applicable WHL overtime standards in compensating its employees.

Monday, January 11, 2021

Metz Family Ltd. Partnership v. Township of Freehold, Docket Nos. 001064-2015; 000482-2016; 000783-2017

Metz Family Ltd. Partnership v. Township of Freehold, Docket Nos. 001064-2015; 000482-2016; 000783-2017


Tax Court: Metz Family Ltd. Partnership v. Township of Freehold, Docket Nos. 001064-2015; 000482-2016; 000783-2017;opinion by Sundar, J.T.C., decided October 20, 2020. For plaintiff - Daniel J. Pollak and Michael Rienzi (Brach Eichler, L.L.C. attorney); for defendant - Martin Allen and Wesley E. Buirkle (DiFrancesco, Bateman, Coley, Yospin, Kunzman, Davis, Lehrer & Flaum, P.C., attorney); for the Monmouth County Board of Taxation and the Director, Division of Taxation - Abiola G. Miles and Michelline Capistrano Foster (Gurbir S. Grewal, Attorney General of New Jersey, attorney).

Held: Defendant’s motions to require joinder of the Monmouth County Board of Taxation and the Director, Division of Taxation under R. 4:28-1 are granted. Only these two governmental entities can explain why they considered, verified, and certified the annual assessments in the defendant to be “reassessments” excepted from the application of the Chapter 123 ratio (or the average ratio), which is an issue of first impression and involves significant public interest.

B.B. VS. S. BRADLEY MELL, ET AL. (L-7200-19, ESSEX COUNTY AND STATEWIDE)


B.B. VS. S. BRADLEY MELL, ET AL. (L-7200-19, ESSEX COUNTY AND STATEWIDE)


Defendant Mell, a wealthy businessman, engaged in sexual relations with B.B. over a period of months when she was fifteen years old. Upon discovery, Mell was arrested and soon convicted of federal and state crimes; he is presently incarcerated in a federal penitentiary. B.B. commenced this action for damages against Mell and others and obtained an order attaching some of Mell's assets. Soon after, Mell sought an order permitting the payment of his attorneys in this civil action from the attached funds; the judge granted that motion and later entered another order fixing the amount of fees to be paid from the fund. The court granted B.B.'s motions for leave to appeal those two orders and reversed, holding that B.B. had a greater priority to the fund even though she has yet to obtain a judgment and that the equities preclude such an invasion of the fund, noting it would be perverse to allow Mell's expenses to be paid from the fund established through valid court procedures for the benefit of his victim.

Sunday, December 27, 2020

Brian Delaney v. Trent S. Dickey and Sills Cummis & Gross, PC (083440)(Essex County & Statewide) (A-30-19; 083440)

 Brian Delaney v. Trent S. Dickey and Sills Cummis & Gross, PC (083440)(Essex County & Statewide) (A-30-19; 083440)

For an arbitration provision in a retainer agreement to be enforceable, an attorney must generally explain to a client the benefits and disadvantages of arbitrating a prospective dispute between the attorney and client. Such an explanation is necessary because, to make an informed decision, the client must have a basic understanding of the fundamental differences between an arbitral forum and a judicial forum in resolving a future fee dispute or malpractice action. See RPC 1.4(c). That information can be conveyed in an oral dialogue or in writing, or by both, depending on how the attorney chooses best to communicate it. The Court refers the issues raised in this opinion to the Advisory Committee on Professional Ethics, which may propose further guidance on the scope of an attorney’s disclosure requirements. The new mandate will apply prospectively, except as to Delaney, who must be allowed to proceed with his malpractice action in the Law Division.

Sunday, December 13, 2020

GARDEN STATE INVESTMENT VS. TOWNSHIP OF BRICK, NEW JERSEY AND THE APPROVED REALTY GROUP VS. TOWNSHIP OF BRICK, ET AL. (C-0234-17 and C-0080-18, OCEAN COUNTY AND STATEWIDE) (CONSOLIDATED) (A-0082-1

 GARDEN STATE INVESTMENT VS. TOWNSHIP OF BRICK, NEW JERSEY AND THE APPROVED REALTY GROUP VS. TOWNSHIP OF BRICK, ET AL. (C-0234-17 and C-0080-18, OCEAN COUNTY AND STATEWIDE) (CONSOLIDATED) (A-0082-19T2/A-0093-19T2)

After only physically inspected the properties and examining the assessment records and tax map, plaintiffs purchased tax sale certificates on vacant lots in Brick Township. They paid accruing taxes and bided their time until entitled to commence foreclosure actions. Once their foreclosure actions were underway, plaintiffs finally obtained title searches and learned the properties were encumbered by a conservation easement, which rendered the properties undevelopable. That discovery prompted plaintiffs to commence these actions, seeking rescission of their tax sale certificate purchases and reimbursement of taxes paid. The chancery judge granted summary judgment in favor of Brick Township, and in distinguishing Twp. of Middletown v. Simon, 193 N.J. 228 (2008), the court affirmed because, unlike Middletown's conduct there, Brick Township's tax assessor was as much in the dark about the conservation easement as plaintiffs and, unlike Middletown, the township took no active steps to deprive plaintiffs of the value of their investments.