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Philip Carroll v. Township of Mount Laurel

March 16, 2012

PHILIP CARROLL, PLAINTIFF,
v.
TOWNSHIP OF MOUNT LAUREL,
DEFENDANT.



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

MEMORANDUM OPINION

Plaintiff having filed a motion to reopen his case and a motion for relief from a judgment or order pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 60(b)(6) regarding this Court's Order granting summary judgment in favor of defendant, and it appearing that:

1. On November 16, 2006, pro se plaintiff, Philip Carroll, filed a complaint against defendant Township of Mount Laurel (the "Township") pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 for violation of his rights under the 5th Amendment's "Takings Clause."

2. On June 20, 2008, this Court granted the Township's motion for summary judgment and dismissed plaintiff's complaint on the ground that plaintiff's claim was not "ripe" and, therefore, not justiciable. See Carroll v. Twp. of Mt. Laurel, No. 06-5515, 2008 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 47777 (D.N.J. June 20, 2008).*fn1

3. Plaintiff appealed this Court's decision which decision was affirmed by the Third Circuit. See Carroll v. Township of Mount Laurel, 315 Fed.Appx. 402, 405 (3d Cir. 2009).

4. Following which, on February 3, 2010, plaintiff filed an "inverse condemnation" complaint against the Township in the Superior Court of New Jersey, Law Division, raising the same claim litigated in the Federal Courts.

5. On May 28, 2010, the Law Division granted the Township's motion to dismiss on grounds that plaintiff's claims had been fully adjudicated on the merits in the Federal Courts.

6. Plaintiff then appealed to the Appellate Division of the Superior Court of New Jersey which affirmed the decision of the lower state court. The New Jersey Supreme Court denied plaintiff's petition for certification.

7. Plaintiff now returns to this Court and files a motion to reopen his case, and a motion for relief from a judgment or order pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 60(b)(6).

8. Plaintiff essentially argues in his motion to reopen that since his claim was found "not ripe" for adjudication, that it was not decided on the merits, and his complaint was not dismissed.

9. While a dismissal of claim as "not ripe" is not a decision on the merits of the claim, see Rosendale v. Brusie, 374 Fed.Appx. 195, 197 (2nd Cir 2010), plaintiff's complaint was dismissed*fn2 because he did not provide any facts that could show the Township moved beyond an "intention" expressed in its resolution.

10. As this Court explained in detail in its previous opinion, the resolution passed by the Township merely stated an "intention" to protect the area which contains plaintiff's land from commercial and non-residential development; and that plaintiff did not proffer facts that if proven could show that the Township reached a final decision regarding the zoning or land use for plaintiff's property. Carroll, 2008 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 47777, at *13, 19. Thus, there was no "finality" as to the effect of the resolution on the property. Id.

11. This Court specifically outlined for plaintiff why his claim was not ripe: "He has not addressed the [State of New Jersey, Department of Environmental Protection's] concerns regarding the wetlands; he has not obtained [a "Letter of Interpretation" ("LOI")] or sought any administrative remedy for not obtaining the LOI; he has not sought to sell his property to another buyer; he has not shown that the property is no longer zoned for the use originally zoned (and if appropriate, that he could not obtain variances); he has not shown that he cannot sell his property, or must sell it at a reduced value because of the issuance of the resolution." Id. at *18-19.

12. The Third Circuit also instructed that plaintiff did not bring alternative claims such as a facial challenge to the resolution, or that the resolution lacked a public purpose. Carroll, 315 Fed.Appx. at 405 n.4 (citing County Concrete Corp. v. Town of Roxbury, 442 F.3d 159, 165 (3d Cir. 2006), ...


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