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Reaves v. Egg Harbor Tp.

Decided: June 21, 1994.

REGINALD REAVES, SR., PLAINTIFF,
v.
EGG HARBOR TOWNSHIP, VINCENT MURPHY AND MARIE MURPHY, DEFENDANTS.



Gibson, J.s.c.

Gibson

CIVIL ACTION

GIBSON, J.S.C.

The plaintiff, Reginald Reaves (Reaves) instituted this action in August 1992 to vacate a 1977 tax foreclosure judgment against property formerly owned by his parents David and Winnie Reaves and located in Egg Harbor Township. The gravamen of Reaves' complaint is that his parents did not receive adequate notice of the 1977 foreclosure action. The defendants, Vincent and Marie Murphy, are the present owners of the property and now move for summary judgment pursuant to R. 4:46-1.

Findings of Fact

The material facts are undisputed and relatively simple. In 1963, David and Winnie Reaves, plaintiff's parents, purchased the subject property from the Atlantic City Development Corp. As a result of a subsequent tax foreclosure judgment in May 1977, title passed to I. Cyzner, D. Jaffe, N. Jaffe and S. Jaffe. Apparently, plaintiff's parents, as well the other defendants in the foreclosure action, failed to redeem the tax sale certificate. In June 1977, Cyzner, the Jaffes and Juffe conveyed the property to the Murphys for $2,300. The Murphys' title was recorded on June 25, 1977. From 1977 to the present, the Murphys have paid all property taxes and exercised their full ownership rights.

Findings of Law

Although Reaves has labeled this a quiet title action, he has failed to demonstrate compliance with a basic jurisdictional prerequisite for such a claim; that is, neither he nor his parents have been in peaceable possession of the property since 1977. See N.J.S.A. 2A:62-1. Since the 1977 judgment foreclosed any colorable interest. Reaves or his parents had in the property, the

present cause of action cannot succeed unless there is some basis for vacating the prior judgment. See R. 4:50-1. In addition, any application to vacate under R. 4:50-1 must be viewed in a context wherein a Disposition has already occurred; that is, where the matter has already been litigated. See Friedman v. Monaco & Brown Corp., 258 N.J. Super. 539, 543 (App. Div. 1992).

Since Reaves has not sought to reopen the earlier judgment, the present complaint constitutes a "collateral attack;" that is, it questions the validity and integrity of a separate and earlier adjudication of this court. Collateral attacks are usually not permitted based on notions of repose. See United States v. Throckmorton, 98 U.S. 61, 25 L. Ed. 93 (1878); see also 46 Am. Jur. 2d, Judgments § 622 (1969). The rational for the rule is that, in general, even "bad" results are better left undisturbed, rather than suffer the unpredictability of events that results from permitting endless judicial attacks. Throckmorton, supra, 98 U.S. at , 25 L. Ed. at 96; see also Fidelity Union Trust Co. v. Union Cemetery Assoc., 138 N.J. Eq. 50, 58 (Ch. 1946), aff'd, 139 N.J. Eq. 309 (E. & A. 1946). Although there are exceptions to that general rule, none are evident here. For example, plaintiff has not claimed that there has been a fraud on the court, as was the case in Giehrach v. Rupp, 112 N.J. Eq. 296, 301 (E. & A. 1932), or that the former judgment was "void" because the court never had jurisdiction over the parties or subject matter. See James v. Francesco, 61 N.J. 480 (1972). Nor has there been any allegation of fraud directed to third parties. See Catabene v. Waller, 16 N.J. Super. 597, 601 (App. Div. 1951). In sum, Reaves submits no valid exception to the collateral attack rule.

Whether this action is viewed as an effort to vacate the 1977 judgment or a collateral attack in the guise of a quiet title action, plaintiff bears a substantial burden. Reaves must prove why this ...


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