On appeal from the Superior Court of New Jersey, Law Division, Morris County.
Approved for Publication July 31, 1995.
Before Judges Stern, Keefe and Humphreys.
The opinion of the court was delivered by: Keefe
The opinion of the court was delivered by KEEFE, J.A.D.
The West Milford Board of Education (West Milford) appeals from a final judgment entered by Judge Reginald Stanton providing, inter alia, that, as of January 1, 1993, West Milford was the district of residency of J.K., an autistic child, and as such, it was responsible for the cost of J.K.'s education at Heartspring Lifeskills Learning Center (Heartspring), the development of an Individualized Education Plan (IEP), and related determinations concerning J.K.'s appropriate educational placement pursuant to State and Federal law. West Milford also appeals from a subsequent judgment entered by Judge Stanton assessing counsel fees against it and in favor of J.K.'s parents in the amount of $15,717.20. In its original appellate brief West Milford presented the following issues for resolution:
POINT I THE TRIAL COURT'S DECISION THAT WEST MILFORD IS THE DISTRICT OF FINANCIAL RESPONSIBILITY FOR J.K.'s EDUCATION AT HEARTSPRING IS ERRONEOUS
A. The Trial Court Failed To Apply Pertinent Statutes and Regulations In Determining J.K.'s School District For School Funding Purposes
B. Judge Stanton's Failure To Follow This Statutory Scheme Set Forth In N.J.S.A. 18A:7B-12 Resulted In Great Inequities To West Milford
C. The Office Of Administrative Law's Actions In This Matter Were Those Of A "State Agency"
D. The Trial Court's Determination Of J.K.'s Domicile In West Milford Township Was Counter To Existing Case Law
POINT II THE TRIAL COURT ERRONEOUSLY AWARDED ATTORNEY'S FEES TO J.K.'s PARENTS UNDER 20 U.S.C.A. § 1415(4)(B)
A. The Trial Court Failed To "Balance the Equities" In Ordering That West Milford Pay J.K.'s Parents' Attorneys Fees
POINT III THE TRIAL COURT ERRED IN FAILING TO ORDER AN ACCOUNTING AND THE TURNOVER OF FUNDS AWARDED TO WALLINGTON TO WEST MILFORD
At initial oral argument before us on April 11, 1995, West Milford argued for the first time that the Law Division lacked subject matter jurisdiction to enter the judgments under review. In view of the well established principle that "jurisdiction over the subject matter cannot be waived or conferred by consent or lack of objection thereto[,]" McKeeby v. Arthur, 7 N.J. 174, 81 A.2d 1 (1951), we asked for supplemental briefs on the issue, and invited the participation of the Commissioner of Education (Commissioner) as an amicus curiae. For the reasons stated herein, we ...