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Sunday, March 22, 2020

IN THE MATTER OF M.M., DEPARTMENT OF HUMAN SERVICES (NEW JERSEY CIVIL SERVICE COMMISSION) (CONSOLIDATED) (A-4038-17T4/A-2490-18T3)

The court holds that a career service employee who is disciplined by an appointing authority for violating the New Jersey State Policy Prohibiting Discrimination in the Workplace (State Policy), N.J.A.C. 4A:7-3.1, may not appeal directly to the Civil Service Commission (Commission), but instead must first appeal either in a departmental hearing or, if applicable, in accordance with the procedure in a collective negotiations agreement. The court interprets the plain language of N.J.A.C. 4A:7-3.2(n) and N.J.A.C. 4A:7-3.2(n)(3) to permit a direct appeal to the Commission from a finding an employee violated the State Policy only where no discipline is imposed.

DCPP VS. T.S. AND L.H. IN THE MATTER OF THE GUARDIANSHIP OF A.H. (FG-11-0051-18, MERCER COUNTY AND STATEWIDE) (RECORD IMPOUNDED) (A-3227-18T3)

For the first time in this appeal, the biological mother of a five-year-old child argues the judgment of guardianship, which terminated her parental rights, must be vacated and the case remanded for a new trial because the resource parent, with whom the Division of Child Protection and Permanency (DCPP) placed the child, worked as a domestic violence liaison in the district office that was responsible to investigate and manage this case from its inception. At oral argument, this court requested supplemental briefs from the parties exclusively on this issue.
This court holds the DCPP violated the Conflict of Interest Law, N.J.S.A. 52:13D-12 to -27, and the ethical standards and protocols promulgated by the Department of Children and Families in its Policy Manual when it failed to transfer this case to another regional office based on the resource parent's assignment as a domestic violence liaison. The Division's failure to take timely and effective action to address this material conflict of interest tainted the management of this case from its incepti.
Independent of this ethical transgression, the Family Part judge who presided over this trial did not: (1) make credibility findings regarding the biological mother's testimony, (2) identify which of the two psychologists who testified as expert witnesses he found more persuasive, or (3) incorporate the opinions offered by the experts in his analysis of the four statutory prongs in N.J.S.A. 30:4C-15.1(a). This court remands this matter for the judge to conduct a plenary hearing to determine whether reunification with her biological mother is in the child's best interest at this stage of her emotional, psychological, and cognitive development. The judge must assess what psychological and/or emotional harm the child may suffer if she were to be removed from the custody of the resource parent and returned to the physical custody of her biological mother.
Finally, pursuant to N.J.S.A. 52:13D-21(h), this court directs the Appellate Division Clerk's Office to forward a copy of this opinion to the State Ethics Commission Office

DELAWARE RIVERKEEPER NETWORK, ET AL. VS. NEW JERSEY DEPARTMENT OF ENVIRONMENTAL PROTECTION STONY BROOK-MILLSTONE WATERSHED ASSOCIATION, ET AL. VS. NEW JERSEY DEPARTMENT OF ENVIRONMENTAL PROTECTION (DEPARTMENT OF ENVIRONMENTAL PROTECTION) (CONSOLIDATED) (A-1821-17T3/A-1889-17T3)

In this consolidated appeal, Delaware Riverkeeper Network, Maya Van Rossum and Delaware Riverkeeper in one appeal, and Stony Brook-Millstone Watershed Association, Save Barnegat Bay, Raritan Headwaters Association, NY/NJ Baykeeper, Hackensack Riverkeeper and Association of New Jersey Environmental Commissions in the other, challenge the issuance of the Tier A municipal separate storm sewer system permit, claiming that it does not comply with federal and state law. They maintain that the permit does not include effluent limits and monitoring as required by federal law, and that the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection's (DEP) inclusion of best management practices rather than effluent limits was a further violation of applicable law. Appellants also argue that the permit requirements are neither "clear, specific, and measurable," nor provide for meaningful review and that the DEP violated federal law by issuing permits without the public's involvement. Acknowledging its deferential standard of review, the court affirms the final agency decision.

G.C. VS. DIVISION OF MEDICAL ASSISTANCE AND HEALTH SERVICES AND OCEAN COUNTY BOARD OF SOCIAL SERVICES E.M. VS. DIVISION OF MEDICAL ASSISTANCE AND HEALTH SERVICES AND ESSEX COUNTY BOARD OF SOCIAL SERVICES (DIVISION OF MEDICAL ASSISTANCE AND HEALTH SERVICES) (CONSOLIDATED) (A-0772-18T3

Appellants filed for benefits under New Jersey's Medicaid — Aged, Blind and Disabled (ABD) program. Both were disabled and lived with other family members; each applicant's total "countable income" was below the federal poverty level (FPL) for a family of their size, but each applicant's individual Social Security Disability benefits exceeded the FPL for a family of one. The Department of Human Services, Division of Medical Assistance and Health Services (the Division) applied N.J.A.C. 10:72-4.4(d)(1), which stated that an applicant was ineligible if his or her "countable income . . . exceed[ed] the poverty income guideline for one person[.]" The Division denied the applications.
The court held that the regulation did not violate the federal Medicaid statute, Title XIX of the Social Security Act, but did violate New Jersey's Medicaid statute, N.J.S.A. 30:4D-1 to -19.5, which defines a "qualified applicant" as, among other things, a disabled individual "whose income does not exceed 100% of the [FPL], adjusted for family size," N.J.S.A. 30:4D-3(i)(11), and defines FPL as "the official poverty level based on family size[.]" N.J.S.A. 30:4D-3(p).

Monday, March 16, 2020

K.K-M., ET AL. VS. BOARD OF EDUCATION OF THE CITY OF GLOUCESTER CITY, CAMDEN COUNTY (COMMISSIONER OF EDUCATION) (A-1158-18T1)

Because the Kinship Legal Guardianship Act, N.J.S.A. 3B:12A-1 to -7, provides a permanent home for children, we affirm the decision of the Commissioner of Education that the children must now go to school where their kinship legal guardian lives. Neither the educational stability law, N.J.S.A. 30:4C-26; N.J.S.A. 18A:7B-12(a)(2), nor the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, 20 U.S.C. §§ 1400 to 1482, allows the children to remain enrolled in the school district where their biological mother is located.

Samuel Mejia v. Quest Diagnostics (082739) (Essex County & Statewide) (A-88-18;

Third-party defendants are subject to the contribution claims filed against them by joint tortfeasors, unless there exists a right to a dismissal of the claims against them. Here, Fernandez fails to present a meritorious right to dismissal. Fernandez is therefore an active third-party defendant who must participate at trial.

Joseph Kornbleuth, DMD v. Thomas Westover (081898)(Camden County & Statewide) (A-71-18

There was no abuse of discretion with respect to either the imposition of sanctions or the denial of reconsideration