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Dragan v. Morgan

October 20, 2010

EDWARD F. DRAGAN, PLAINTIFF-RESPONDENT,
v.
DENICE S. MORGAN, DEFENDANT-APPELLANT.



On appeal from the Superior Court of New Jersey, Law Division, Special Civil Part, Hunterdon County, Docket No. DC-835-08.

Per curiam.

NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION

Submitted September 13, 2010

Before Judges Sabatino and Alvarez.

Defendant Denice S. Morgan appeals from the denial of reconsideration of an October 6, 2008 judgment awarding plaintiff Edward F. Dragan $2891.22 plus court costs on account of a balance due for expert's fees. Both parties appear pro se on appeal, as they were at the October 6, 2008 trial which resulted in the issuance of the judgment. We affirm, albeit with a correction as to the interest included in the $2891.22 award.

Morgan filed three motions for reconsideration of the judgment. The first motion, filed November 4, 2008, violated the twenty-day time requirements of Rule 4:49-2. Initially and on the second motion for reconsideration, therefore, the court did not analyze Morgan's contentions of error on the merits. On January 5, 2009, when the judge denied Morgan's third application for reconsideration, however, he said:

Reconsideration is again denied. Neither this [c]court nor [a particular court staff member*fn1 ] has authority to extend the reconsideration deadline. Further, the [c]court has reviewed the materials submitted and finds that the defendant simply disagrees with the court's decision. There is no new significant evidence which could not have been presented at the trial.

Thus, the judge did ultimately consider Morgan's application on the merits, despite the fact it exceeded the twenty-day time frame. We will also consider the merits.

Since the matter has been on appeal, Morgan has filed at least nine motions with our court, seeking, among other things, to supplement the record, to have us reconsider the denial of her request to supplement the record, to have us reconsider the denials of reconsideration, and a motion for a stay of the appeal until we explain the reasons her application to supplement the record was denied.

Dragan testified at the trial conducted on October 6, 2008, that he was retained by Morgan as an educational expert and was still owed approximately $4860.73 on account. Morgan was involved in a dispute with the Atlanta, Georgia school authorities regarding their classification of her nephew over the ten years he had been in their system. At the administrative law hearing conducted on November 2, 2005, Dragan testified by phone as Morgan's expert. His suit was for the balance owed on account of his fees.

At the start of the trial, the trial judge disclosed on the record that he was familiar with plaintiff from some past interactions that he had with plaintiff about two decades earlier before his appointment to the judiciary. The following colloquy on that subject took place:

THE COURT: All right. Mr. Dragan, we had some dealings with you in the past but I think it was when you were still a public official. I don't think we ever used you in [your] private capacity.

DR. DRAGAN: That's correct, Your Honor.

THE COURT: Ms. Morgan, I have a [son with a] disability. Mr. Dragan had a role, I forget exactly what it was, to some of the disability. Mr. Dragan was coordinator of special services for the County at the time. This goes back probably close to 20 years. He was in a public official status at that point. I have been involved with cases that he's been involved with subsequent to that and I don't feel there is anything by virtue of that contact which is quite old that would dispose me either for or against him. But I ...


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