On appeal from the Tax Court of New Jersey.
Matthews, Antell and Francis. The opinion of the court was delivered by Matthews, P.J.A.D.
[190 NJSuper Page 529] Each of these three cases originated as a direct appeal filed in the Tax Court seeking a reduction in the assessed valuation of the subject property to true value. Substantially after the permitted time for filing a direct appeal but before any hearing had occurred, petitioner in each case sought to amend the
complaint to include an allegation that the assessment was discriminatory. The request was denied in each case based on case law which required a claim of discrimination to be pleaded separately and timely.
On appeal petitioners urge that Chapter 123 of Laws of 1973 does or should modify that prior case law.
Although prior case law clearly required an amendment, such as those herein requested, to be denied, Chapter 123, as recently interpreted by this court, so profoundly simplified the proofs of the elements of a claim of discrimination that the rigid procedural requirements became obsolete and in fact obstructionary of the Tax Court's duty to determine the proper assessment valuation.
Weyerhaeuser Company v. Closter
Plaintiff Weyerhaeuser owns industrial property known as Block 46, Lot 14 in the Borough of Closter, County of Bergen. On or about August 10, 1981, Weyerhaeuser filed a complaint in the Tax Court seeking review of the assessment of $1,994,700 for that property. The complaint alleges that the assessment was in excess of true value and asked that the assessment be reduced to true value.
On or about August 28, 1981, defendant Borough filed an answer denying that the assessment was in excess of true value and a counterclaim alleging that Closter "is discriminated against by the assessed valuation of said property in that it is less than the true value of said property." Closter asked that the assessment be increased by application of "L.1973, Chap. 123." Weyerhaeuser answered the counterclaim by denying the allegations and asking that the counterclaim be dismissed.
The pretrial order entered March 29, 1982, listed "valuation and discrimination" as the factual and legal issues.
On August 3, 1982 Closter filed a "withdrawal of claim" of discrimination. On August 5, 1982, the Tax Court judge heard oral argument on that motion as well as on a motion by
Weyerhaeuser for leave to amend its complaint to include an allegation of discrimination.
During arguments the court found that Closter had the absolute right to withdraw its claim of discrimination. Weyerhaeuser's motion to add a claim of discrimination was denied.
We granted leave to appeal.
Witco Chemical Corp. v. Perth Amboy
Witco owns industrial property known as Block 471, Lot 1 in Perth Amboy, County of Middlesex. Witco filed a complaint on or about August 12, 1981, in the Tax Court seeking a review of the assessment for 1981. The complaint alleged the assessment of $2,005,900 was in excess of the true value and asked that it be reduced to true value. No answer was filed.
The pretrial order entered following the pretrial conference held on June 3, 1982, preserved Witco's right to move to amend the order to include a claim for discrimination, if brought before September 17, 1982. On July 30, 1982, Witco filed a notice of motion requesting an order amending the pretrial order or alternatively the complaint, to include an allegation of discrimination. On September 7, 1982, the Tax Court judge denied the motion for the reasons set out in his letter opinion dated August 13, 1982.
Witco moved for leave to appeal which was granted October 18, 1982. We consolidated this appeal with Weyerhaeuser.
Alstores Realty Corp. v. Paramus
Plaintiff Alstores is the owner of commercial property at Block 701, Lot 7 in the Borough of Paramus, County of Bergen. Alstores filed a tax appeal on August 12, 1981 seeking review of the 1981 assessment of $25,500,000 which was allegedly in excess of true value. Plaintiff asked that the assessment be reduced to true value. Paramus filed a counterclaim on September 24, 1981 asserting that it was "discriminated against by the assessed valuation of the property." An answer to the counterclaim denying the allegation of discrimination was filed on October 2,
1981. On October 12, 1982, Alstores filed a notice of motion for an order requiring the court to apply Chapter 123 of Laws of 1973 or alternatively allowing plaintiff to amend its complaint to include an allegation of discrimination against plaintiff. For reasons expressed in his letter ...