November 24, 2008
TRUSTEES OF PRINCETON UNIVERSITY, PLAINTIFF-RESPONDENT,
YOHANAN FRIEDMANN, DEFENDANT, AND ZAFRIRA FRIEDMANN, DEFENDANT-APPELLANT.
On appeal from the Superior Court of New Jersey, Law Division, Special Civil Part, Mercer County, Docket No. LT-4843-06.
NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION
Argued November 13, 2008
Before Judges Fisher and Baxter.
Although this matter has had a convoluted history, with many procedural skirmishes, only the following circumstances are relevant.
Plaintiff commenced this landlord/tenant action in 2006 and, following a hearing, was awarded a judgment of possession of the leased premises. An appeal was filed but was amicably resolved through the execution of a settlement agreement, by the parties to that appeal, on March 21, 2007.*fn1
To bring the matter to a close, plaintiff moved for a dismissal of the appeal. Appellant opposed the motion. By order entered on April 17, 2007, we referred the matter to the Civil Appeals Settlement Program (CASP) and expressly gave the CASP judge the authority to "remand the matter to the trial court," if necessary, to place the settlement on the record.
A conference was scheduled by the CASP judge. When appellant failed to appear, the CASP judge entered an order on May 24, 2007, which both remanded the matter to the trial court "for the purpose of placing on the record the final settlement as set forth in the letter of March 21, 2007" and "dismissed with prejudice" the appeal then pending.
The trial judge scheduled a hearing in accordance with the CASP judge's order. Appellant failed to appear, asserting in a letter to the trial judge that the proceedings were in violation of one of our prior orders. The trial judge correctly rejected this assertion and entered an order on November 27, 2007, which incorporated the terms of the parties' written settlement agreement.
Appellant thereafter filed a number of motions in this court, which resulted in an order being entered on March 14, 2008. That order determined that one of appellant's motions should "be treated as a notice of appeal" from the November 27, 2007 trial court order. Following that, the parties filed their briefs on the merits.
In her brief, appellant raises the following arguments:
I. THERE WAS NO NOTICE AND THE COURT HAD NO JURISDICTION.
II. I WAS DEPRIVED OF DUE PROCESS AS I AM A TENANT AND SIGNATORY TO THE LEASE, THE LANDLORD IS REQUIRED TO NAME ALL TENANTS IN THE COMPLAINT, BUT DID NOT NAME ME.
III. IMPROPER PROCESS.
IV. LANDLORD OBTAINED WARRANT OF REMOVAL BASED ON PERJURIOUS AFFIDAVITS.
V. THE LANDLORD FAILED TO COMPLY WITH THE LANDLORD REGISTRATION ACT.
VI. NO CAUSE FOR EVICTION WAS ESTABLISHED.
VII. THE JUDGE BELOW ACTIVELY DENIED ME DUE PROCESS.
VIII. PLAINTIFF OBTAINED DISMISSAL OF MY APPEAL NUMBER A-811-06T1 BY MISREPRESENTATION AND FRAUD.
IX. BREACH OF THE SETTLEMENT BY THE LANDLORD.
X. THE SETTLEMENT IS UNENFORCEABLE DUE TO PUBLIC POLICY AND JURISDICTIONAL GROUNDS.
We would observe that most of appellant's arguments relate to the issues raised in the initial appeal, which were resolved by the settlement agreement and are thus no longer cognizable. In any event, we have carefully examined the record and find insufficient merit in all of appellant's arguments, and their subparts, to warrant discussion in a written opinion. R. 2:11-3(e)(1)(E). We add only the following comments.
Appellant complains when it is convenient that actions taken either in the trial court or in this court were without effect, violative of her due process rights, inconsistent with the statutes governing eviction matters, or beyond the jurisdiction of our courts because she was not a signatory to the lease and not named as a party in the trial court proceedings. We reject these contentions. The fact of the matter is that appellant was: an occupant of the leased premises at all relevant times; the only person who appeared to contest the landlord's action to regain possession of the premises; and the only party to file either the initial appeal or the present appeal. We thus find her objections to the procedural events in both the trial court and in this court to be without any merit. See, e.g., Bussell v. DeWalt Products Corp., 259 N.J. Super. 499, 508-11 (App. Div. 1992), certif. denied, 133 N.J. 431 (1993); see also Lyon v. Stanford, 42 N.J. Eq. 411, 414-15 (E. & A. 1886); Miller v. Headley, 109 N.J. Eq. 436, 445 (Ch. 1932), aff'd, 112 N.J. Eq. 89 (E. & A. 1933).
Moreover, as we have observed, the present appeal does not encompass the original trial court proceedings, which consume much of appellant's arguments, because the issues raised in the original appeal were settled. Instead, the present appeal is limited to a review of the November 27, 2007 trial court order, which placed the settlement entered into between the landlord and the appellant on the record. The trial court thus had subject matter jurisdiction because, in remanding, we expressly imbued the court with jurisdiction, and the trial court had personal jurisdiction over appellant because she was a party to the first appeal and a party to the settlement agreement. Indeed, we find frivolous appellant's continued arguments that either the trial court or this court may not now adjudicate any of the issues presented -- because only her husband was a named party -- when she is the only appellant and when the matter is now governed by a settlement agreement that she executed and from which she benefited.