November 5, 2009
STEVEN M. LONEGAN, PLAINTIFF-APPELLANT,
JON CORZINE, GOVERNOR OF THE STATE OF NEW JERSEY, THE STATE OF NEW JERSEY, DAVID ROUSSEAU, TREASURER OF THE STATE OF NEW JERSEY, LUCILLE E. DAVY, COMMISSIONER OF THE DEPARTMENT OF EDUCATION, AN AGENCY OF THE STATE OF NEW JERSEY, AND THE NEW JERSEY ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT AUTHORITY, AN ENTITY CREATED BY THE STATE OF NEW JERSEY, DEFENDANTS-RESPONDENTS.
On appeal from Superior Court of New Jersey, Law Division, Bergen County, Docket No. L-5712-08.
NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION
Submitted October 27, 2009
Before Judges Skillman and Fuentes.
This appeal involves a challenge under the Debt Limitation Clause of the New Jersey Constitution (N.J. Const. art. VIII, § 2, ¶ 3) to a 2008 amendment to the Education Facilities Construction and Financing Act (EFCFA), which authorized the Economic Development Authority (EDA) to issue an additional $3.9 billion of appropriation-backed contract bonds for the construction of educational facilities (L. 2008, c. 39). Plaintiff Lonegan previously brought a similar challenge to the EFCFA under the Debt Limitation Clause, which the Supreme Court rejected in Lonegan v. State, 174 N.J. 435 (2002) (Lonegan I). Judge Harris granted the State defendants' motion to dismiss plaintiff's complaint on the ground that his new challenge to the constitutionality of the EFCFA is precluded by principles of res judicata and collateral estoppel. We affirm the dismissal of plaintiff's complaint substantially for the reasons set forth in Judge Harris's December 8, 2008 oral opinion. We add the following supplemental comments.
Even if plaintiff's actions were not precluded by principles of res judicata and collateral estoppel, this appeal would still be controlled by the Supreme Court's opinion in Lonegan I, which is binding upon us as an intermediate appellate court. Plaintiff's challenge to the 2008 amendment to the EFCFA, which authorized the EDA to issue additional contract-backed bonds for the construction of educational facilities, is indistinguishable in any meaningful respect from his prior challenge to the EFCFA that the Court rejected in Lonegan I. The distinctions that plaintiff attempts to draw between the EFCFA as amended in 2008 and the version of the EFCFA upheld in Lonegan I are foreclosed by the Court's opinion in Lonegan v. State, 176 N.J. 2 (2003) (Lonegan II), which upheld the validity of appropriation-backed contract bonds on broader grounds than Lonegan I. Finally, we note that the 2008 amendment to the EFCFA was enacted and became effective on July 9, 2008, L. 2008, c. 39, which was prior to the approval by the electorate of the 2008 amendment to the Debt Limitation Clause that became effective on December 4, 2008. See N.J. Const. art IX, § 6. Therefore, this appeal does not require us to construe the 2008 amendment to the Debt Limitation Clause.
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