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Law Offices of Gold v. Jersey City Municipal Utilities Authority

July 24, 2009

LAW OFFICES OF GOLD, ALBANESE, BARLETTI & VELAZQUEZ, PLAINTIFF-RESPONDENT,
v.
JERSEY CITY MUNICIPAL UTILITIES AUTHORITY, ITS AGENTS, SERVANTS, AND/OR EMPLOYEES, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR THOMAS KANE, CHAIRMAN HOWARD JACKSON, COMMISSIONER MARGARET DOYLE, COMMISSIONER GEORGE KELLY, COMMISSIONER KATHLEEN HARTYE, COMMISSIONER EILEEN GAUGHAN, FIRST ALTERNATE COMMISSIONER WILLIAM MACCHI, SECOND ALTERNATE COMMISSIONER JANET GAITA, INDIVIDUALLY AND IN THEIR OFFICIAL CAPACITIES AS COMMISSIONERS' OF THE JERSEY CITY MUNICIPAL UTILITY AUTHORITY, DEFENDANTS-APPELLANTS.



On appeal from Superior Court of New Jersey, Law Division, Hudson County, Docket No. L- 5270-05.

Per curiam.

NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION

Submitted May 6, 2009

Before Judges Lyons and Espinosa.

This is the second time this dispute over legal fees between plaintiff, Law Offices of Gold, Albanese, Barletti & Velazquez ("Gold"), and defendant Jersey City Municipal Utilities Authority ("Authority") has come before this court. The facts are set forth at length in our earlier unpublished opinion, Law Offices of Gold, Albanese, Barletti & Velazquez v. Jersey City Municipal Utilities Authority, et al., Docket No. A- 0875-06 (App. Div. Mar. 13, 2008), and need not be repeated at length here. In short, the dispute arises from two agreements for the performance of legal services by Gold that were reached in June 2004. The Authority authorized the retention of Gold by resolution. Each agreement contained a provision that acknowledged that the parties were unable to "anticipate the amount of legal services that may be required under [the] Agreement." A pre-approved amount of fees was allocated to each agreement with a total pre-approved amount of $115,000. In 2008, we reversed the trial court's order granting summary judgment to defendant and remanded the matter for further proceedings.

At the trial that followed, plaintiff presented the testimony of Robert Gold, Esq. Defendant rested without calling any witnesses. The trial court awarded plaintiff $98,337.98 for unpaid fees plus costs and interest. Thereafter, the trial court granted plaintiff's motion for counsel fees pursuant to N.J.S.A. 59:9-5, awarding plaintiff $74,797.82.

On appeal, defendant contends that it did not receive "proper notice" of the motion for counsel fees because the papers were delivered to "a vacant office that is not staffed." There is no indication that this issue was presented to the trial court. Neither party has complied with Rule 1:6-6 regarding this issue. Defendant did not provide a certification or any citation to the record to support its contention. In response, plaintiff has provided a copy of its proof of service from New Jersey Lawyers Service that is unsigned. Defendant appeals from the judgment and award of counsel fees. We affirm the judgment and reverse the award of counsel fees.

Defendant raises the following points on appeal:

POINT I

THE TRIAL COURT'S LEGAL CONCLUSIONS ARE UNSUSTAINABLE BECAUSE THEY ARE IN DEROGATION OF THE PUBLIC CONTRACTS LAW AND/OR THE APPELLATE DECISION.

A. THE JUDGMENT DOES NOT ATTRIBUTE DUE WEIGHT TO THE CONTROLLING STATUTE, COMPELS PAYMENT OF FUNDS THAT WERE NEVER AUTHORIZED, MISINTERPRETS THE AGREEMENTS, AND SETS A PRECEDENT THAT IS NOT IN THE PUBLIC INTEREST.

B. UNJUST ENRICHMENT SHOULD NOT BE A BASIS FOR RECOVERY WHERE BOTH STATUTE AND CONTRACT CLEARLY DEFINE RIGHTS AND OBLIGATIONS.

POINT II

THE TRIAL COURT'S FACTUAL CONCLUSIONS ARE UNSUPPORTED BY THE RECORD, AND THE JUDGMENT DOES NOT ADDRESS THE CONCERNS ...


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