October 23, 2008
MAX ROGERS, PLAINTIFF-APPELLANT,
ROCKAWAY TOWNSHIP REPUBLICAN MUNICIPAL COMMITTEE OF THE REPUBLICAN COUNTY COMMITTEE OF MORRIS COUNTY; PAUL MINENNA; JOSEPH J. BELL; JOAN BRAMHALL, CLERK OF MORRIS COUNTY; AND ROSE ANNE TRAVAGLIA, SUPERINTENDENT OF ELECTIONS OF MORRIS COUNTY, DEFENDANTS-RESPONDENTS.
On appeal from the Superior Court of New Jersey, Law Division, Civil Part, Morris County, L-2834-07.
NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION
Submitted October 8, 2008
Before Judges Rodríguez and Waugh.
Plaintiff Max Rogers appeals from the dismissal of his application to invalidate the selection of Paul Minenna by the Rockaway Township Republican Committee as the Republic Party candidate for the Rockaway Township Council in the November 2007 general election. We dismiss the appeal as moot.
Because of the resignation in July 2007 of an incumbent Republican councilman who had already been nominated as a candidate for re-election, the Republican Committee announced and held a special meeting on July 19, 2007, to select three names for submission to the Township Counsel as candidates to fill the unexpired portion of his term. After the stated purpose of the special meeting had been accomplished, the Committee decided to select a candidate to replace the resigned member as its candidate for the upcoming general election. Minenna was chosen to serve as the new candidate, but by the vote of a plurality rather than a majority of the members present.
Three months later, Rogers, who had sought selection as the replacement candidate, challenged the Republican Committee's action in the Law Division, citing violations of the Committee's by-laws. He argued that the Committee's by-laws were violated in two respects: (1) the notice of the meeting did not announce that the candidate to go on the general election ballot would be chosen (Article IV, § 3); and (2) the successful candidate was chosen by less than a simple majority of a quorum (Article V, § 2).
Although the action complained of was taken by the Republican Committee on July 19, 2007, Rogers did not seek judicial intervention until October 4, 2007, when he filed a verified complaint and order to show case. It appears from the record that, by that date, absentee ballots had already been mailed to some general election voters by the Morris County Clerk. The order to show cause was issued on October 12, 2007, with a return date of October 23, 2007. The trial court determined that it would be inappropriate to interfere in the internal decision-making process of a political party under the circumstances of this case and dismissed Rogers's amended verified complaint on October 23, 2007. This appeal followed.
We have determined that, because the November 2007 general election has already taken place, we do not have the authority to grant the relief sought on this appeal. For us to do so, we would have to invalidate the results of the election and require the political parties to nominate new candidates and put the public entities involved to the expense of a new election. We discern no basis in N.J.S.A. 19:21-1 for us to do so.
Consequently, we dismiss the matter as moot and make no comment on the merits of the legal arguments advanced by the parties.
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