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Joseph Comprelli, et al v. Town of Harrison

January 21, 2011


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Debevoise, Senior District Judge



This matter comes before the Court on a motion for reconsideration submitted by Plaintiffs Joseph Comprelli, M&J Comprelli Realty, LLC, Joseph Supor III, J. Supor & Son Trucking & Rigging Co., Inc. and S&B Realty (collectively "Plaintiffs"). Plaintiffs seek to reverse this Court's November 16, 2010 Order dismissing their action against the Town of Harrison as barred by res judicata and the Parker Doctrine.

Plaintiffs argue that (1) the October 19, 2010 state court decision dismissing their claims with prejudice was made in error; (2) their claims should not have been dismissed by the state court, and in any event should not have been dismissed with prejudice; and (3) the state court has since reconsidered its decision and instead dismissed three of the counts without prejudice. Plaintiffs further argue that the Parker doctrine does not apply because Defendants were not acting pursuant to state authority.

Having examined these arguments, Plaintiffs' motion is DENIED.


The facts giving rise to this claim are summarized in this Court's November 16, 2010 Opinion and described in detail in a New Jersey Superior Court opinion by the Honorable Hector R. Velazquez, J.S.C., dated October 19, 2010. The relevant facts are as follows. Plaintiffs own and operate commercial surface parking lots in Harrison, New Jersey (the "Property").*fn1 In November of 1998 the Town Council adopted a redevelopment plan (the "Redevelopment Plan") that encompassed Plaintiffs' parking lots. The Redevelopment Plan changed the zoning for the Plaintiffs' Property such that surface parking lots were no longer a permitted use. In 2003 the Town adopted an ordinance amending the Redevelopment Plan. The amended Redevelopment Plan allowed for certain interim uses, including surface parking lots, subject to Planning Board approval.

From 1998 through 2005, Comprelli operated his parking lots pursuant to licenses obtained after site approval from the Harrison Planning Board. The licenses permitted Comprelli to operate between 145 and 198 spaces. Comprelli was granted renewal licenses in 2006 and 2007 to continue operating the 198 parking spaces. Then, in 2008, Comprelli obtained licenses to operate up to 1,050 parking spaces on his lot, licenses that were then renewed in 2009. However, when Comprelli filed for a third renewal of his licenses in 2010, the Town Clerk noticed that Comprelli had not filed the required plat showing the requested 1,050 spaces and that the last plat on file for the Property only showed the original 198 spaces. Thus, the Clerk issued a license for only 198 spaces and advised Plaintiffs that any increase in spaces would require Planning Board approval. Plaintiffs have not made the necessary application to the Planning Board but continue to operate 1,050 spaces on the Property.

On June 14, 2010 Plaintiffs filed two complaints -- one in this court and one in the Superior Court of New Jersey, Hudson County. The factual allegations in the two complaints are nearly identical and both complaints allege constitutional violations of due process, equal protection, and the right to just compensation. In addition to those claims, the complaint in this Court (the "Complaint") alleges four counts that are not alleged in the state action. They are: Count Four, violation of the Sherman Act, 15 U.S.C. § 1, et seq.; Count Five, violation of the New Jersey Antitrust Act, N.J.S.A. 56:9-1, et seq.; Count Six tortious interference with a contract; and Count Seven, tortious interference with prospective economic advantage. On October 19, 2010 the Honorable Hector R. Velazquez, J.S.C. found Plaintiffs' claims in the state action to be without merit and he dismissed Plaintiffs' complaint with prejudice.

Consequently, on November 16, 2010, this Court dismissed all of Plaintiffs' claims except for the Sherman Act claims as barred by the prior determination of the state court under the doctrine of res judicata. This Court dismissed Plaintiffs' Sherman Act claims as barred under the Parker doctrine. Plaintiffs moved for reconsideration of this decision, arguing that the state court erred in dismissing their case with prejudice and did not in fact render a judgment on the merits for res judicata purposes. Plaintiffs also argued that because Defendants acted illegally and for reasons other than the redevelopment of the town, they are not protected by the Parker Doctrine.

On January 7, 2011, Judge Velazquez modified his original order to dismiss three of Plaintiffs' state law counts without prejudice. The three counts were Count One (Inverse Condemnation), Count Two (Failure to Issue Required Parking License for 1,050 Spaces), and Count Three (Improper Revocation of Parking License). In their reply brief, Plaintiffs argue that this Court should vacate its order dismissing their complaint, as the state court determination no longer has preclusive effect.

While some of Plaintiffs' arguments have merit, they do not alter the result. Since the state court did not render a final decision on the merits for all of Plaintiffs' causes of action, this Court will not dismiss Plaintiffs' state law counts on the basis of res judicata. This Court will instead decline to exercise supplemental jurisdiction over these claims, as all federal causes of action are barred by either res judicata or the Parker Doctrine.

II. DISCUSSION "[I]t is well-established in this district that a motion for reconsideration is an extremely limited procedural vehicle." Resorts Int'l v. Greate Bay Hotel & Casino, 830 F. Supp. 826, 831 (D.N.J. 1992). As such, a party seeking reconsideration must satisfy a high burden, and must "rely on one of three major grounds: (1) an intervening change in controlling law; (2) the availability of new evidence not available previously; or (3) the need to correct clear error of law or prevent manifest injustice." North River Ins. Co. v. CIGNA Reins. Co., 52 F.3d 1194, 1218 (3d Cir. 1995).

Since the evidence relied upon in seeking reconsideration must be "newly discovered," a motion for reconsideration may not be premised on legal theories that could have been adjudicated or evidence which was available but not presented prior to the earlier ruling. See Id. Local Civil Rule 7.1(i), which governs such motions, provides that they shall be confined to "matter[s] or controlling decisions which the party believes the Judge or Magistrate Judge has 'overlooked.'" The word "overlooked" is the dominant term, meaning that except in cases where there is a need to correct a clear error or manifest injustice, "[o]nly dispositive factual matters and controlling decisions of law which were presented to the court but not considered on the original motion may be the subject of a motion for reconsideration." Resorts Int'l, 830 F. Supp. at 831; see also ...

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