February 10, 2009
DEBORAH BELL, PLAINTIFF-APPELLANT,
HARVEY BELL, DEFENDANT-RESPONDENT.
On appeal from the Superior Court of New Jersey, Chancery Division, Family Part, Essex County, Docket No. FM-07-1644-02.
NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION
Submitted January 22, 2009
Before Judges Stern and Newman.
Plaintiff, Deborah Bell, appeals from a March 24, 2008, order entered by Judge Richard Camp, who retired as of March 31, 2008. The order grew out of a case status conference in this very tortured litigious matter involving allegations of parental alienation on the part of defendant, Harvey Bell, as to his sixteen-year-old daughter from her plaintiff mother. There is another appeal pending under Docket No. A-0308-06T3, which was presented to another panel of this court on October 8, 2008, and is awaiting decision.
The present appeal focuses on two paragraphs of the March 24, 2008, order. The first paragraph directs that the parties continue to attempt reconciliation and continue to comply with all prior court orders. The next two paragraphs are the focus of the appeal and read as follows:
2. In light of the fact that at this time, there is no action that the Court can take coupled with the fact that there currently is an appeal pending in the Appellate Division, this Court will place this case on the inactive list.
3. In the event either party wishes to reinstate the matter, as a condition precedent, he or she must apply to the Appellate Division, if the appeal is still pending, to avoid having an open case in both the trial and Appellate level.
On appeal, plaintiff raises the following issues for our consideration:
POINT I: JUDGE CAMP'S MARCH 2008 REVERSAL OF HIS MARCH 2007 FINDING THAT HE HAD CONTINUING ENFORCEMENT JURISDICTION PENDING PLAINTIFF'S 2006 APPEAL VIOLATES RULE 2:9-1(a).
POINT II: JUDGE CAMP'S MARCH 2008 ORDER SUSPENDING JURISDICTION IS WHOLLY IRRATIONAL AS IT CONTAINS SELF NULLIFYING DIRECTIVES, AND REQUIRES ALL PRIOR ORDERS TO REMAIN IN EFFECT WHILE RENDERING THEIR EFFECTUATION IMPOSSIBLE.
POINT III: JUDGE CAMP'S MARCH 24, 2008 ORDER EFFECTIVELY TERMINATES PLAINTIFF'S CUSTODIAL RIGHTS WITHOUT NOTIFICATION AND HEARING IN VIOLATION OF PLAINTIFF'S DUE PROCESS RIGHTS.
POINT IV: JUDGE CAMP'S CONCLUSION [THE PARTIES' DAUGHTER] RESISTANCE TO REUNIFICATION AT FIFTEEN YEARS OLD WAS CONCLUSIVE THAT THERE WAS NOTHING HE COULD DO IS UNSUPPORTED BY AND CONTRADICTS THE RECORD. IT IS THUS IRRATIONAL AND RESULTED IN A MANIFEST DENIAL OF JUSTICE.
POINT V: JUDGE CAMP FAILED TO MAKE ADEQUATE FINDINGS OF FACT TO SUPPORT HIS SUSPENSION OF JURISDICTION AND PLACEMENT OF THE CASE ON THE INACTIVE LIST. IT IS THUS IRRATIONAL AND EFFECTUATES IN A MANIFEST DENIAL OF JUSTICE.
POINT IV: PLAINTIFF WAS GIVEN NO NOTICE OR OPPORTUNITY TO PREPARE OPPOSITION TO JUDGE CAMP'S SUA SPONTE SUSPENSION OF JURISDICTION, IN VIOLATION OF HER DUE PROCESS RIGHTS.
Plaintiff raises the following points in her reply brief:
POINT I: DEFENDANT FAILED TO ESTABLISH THAT CONTINUING ISSUES AFFECTING CUSTODY, COPARENTING AND REUNIFICATION RELATE TO THE 2006 APPEAL OR RENDER IT MOOT. POINT II: JUDGE CAMP ABUSED HIS DISCRETION.
POINT III: DEFENDANT'S OTHER MISREPRESENTATIONS.
We are satisfied that the issues raised by plaintiff are without sufficient merit to warrant discussion in a written opinion. R. 2:11-3(e)(1)(E). We add only these brief comments.
The paragraphs under challenge do not affect the continuing enforcement jurisdiction retained by the trial court of its own orders, nor should the order be read as divesting the trial court of its enforcement jurisdiction. R. 2:9-1(a). The trial court has continuing jurisdiction to enforce judgments and orders. Rolnick v. Rolnick, 262 N.J. Super. 343, 365 (App. Div. 1993). Thus, prior orders of the court, which includes the order of October 17, 2007, which put a new reconciliation team of therapists in place, is still enforceable, even when there is a pending appeal or, as in this case, two appeals pending.
The fact that Judge Camp placed the case in an inactive status was because there was nothing left to consider while the prior appeal mentioned was still pending before the Appellate Division. Any attempt to change the reconciliation plan would be inconsistent with what was previously ordered and interfere with the opportunity to allow that plan a chance to work. Nevertheless, if plaintiff thought it appropriate to bring an enforcement motion, that application could serve as well for removing the case from the inactive list.
We discern no basis to disturb Judge Camp's exercise of discretion in placing the case in an inactive status under the circumstances.
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