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Rosenblum v. Borough of Closter

July 20, 2000

JESSE ROSENBLUM, PLAINTIFF-APPELLANT,
v.
BOROUGH OF CLOSTER, CLOSTER PLANNING BOARD, TEMPLE EMANU-EL OF ENGLEWOOD, JEROME MORRISON, LINDA RICHARDSON, AND GREEN ACRES PROGRAM OF THE NEW JERSEY DEPARTMENT OF ENVIRONMENTAL PROTECTION, DEFENDANTS-RESPONDENTS. JESSE ROSENBLUM, PLAINTIFF-APPELLANT,
v.
THOMAS SIMCOX, SARAH H. SIMCOX, CLOSTER ZONING BOARD OF ADJUSTMENT AND CLOSTER TAX ASSESSOR, DEFENDANTS-RESPONDENTS.



Before Judges Stern, Wefing, and Steinberg.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Stern, P.J.A.D.

NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION

Submitted March 15, 2000

On appeal from Superior Court of New Jersey, Law Division, Bergen County.

These appeals, consolidated for purposes of this opinion, require us to decide whether a pro se litigant can be enjoined from filing a complaint on the grounds that his or her prior complaints have been frivolous and result in harassing and vexatious litigation. We hold that an Assignment Judge can prevent the filing of a complaint, or issuance of a summons thereon, when the plaintiff's prior litigation demonstrates a pattern of frivolous pleadings, provided that it is also demonstrated that traditional sanctions for frivolous litigation have provided no deterrent to the plaintiff and the Assignment Judge reviews the complaint and is satisfied that it has no merit. As the record in these cases does not reflect consideration of these factors, we remand for proceedings consistent with this opinion.

In 1995, a Superior Court judge barred plaintiff from filing a complaint in the Superior Court without prior approval from the Assignment Judge or Presiding Judge of the Civil Division in Bergen County. The order was apparently entered because plaintiff had a history of filing numerous frivolous complaints.

The judge:

ORDERED, that Plaintiff JESSE ROSENBLUM be and is hereby prohibited from filing any civil lawsuit or administrative law complaint unless and until said complaint has been reviewed and approved for filing by the presiding civil assignment Judge in Bergen County, and it is further

ORDERED, that the Bergen County Clerk is hereby directed to refuse to accept any complaint for filing unless and until receipt of approval from the sitting civil assignment Judge in Bergen County, and it is further

ORDERED, that the Office of Administrative Law be and is hereby enjoined from accepting any complaints from Plaintiff unless same has been reviewed and approved by the presiding civil assignment Judge in Bergen County. *fn1

When plaintiff endeavored in February 1999 to file the first complaint before us, after writing to the Assignment Judge for permission in light of the 1995 order, the Assignment Judge directed the Civil Division Manager not to accept the complaint because she had not given plaintiff permission for its filing. Her reasons were detailed in a letter dated February 19, 1999, as follows:

First, there is an Order in place, which is controlling. Judge Napolitano ordered that you be prohibited from filing any civil lawsuit or administrative law complaint unless and until said complaint has been reviewed and approved for filing by the Civil Assignment Judge in Bergen County. That order was never appealed and is still applicable.

Second, it is clear to me (despite not having spoken to former Judge Napolitano) that the order was generated as the result of an application which led to him granting frivolous lawsuit counsel fees against you in the matter of Rosenblum v. Miele, L- 6304-94. He was obviously frustrated by the volume of cases filed by you and by the fact that he found that specific case was frivolous.

Third, I have reviewed our files to determine the number of lawsuits in which you have been involved since 1990. Attached is a list of all the cases in which you have been involved since 1990. The total is 16, not including the within case. This is an ...


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