May 10, 2017
appeal from the Tax Court of New Jersey, Docket Nos.
14080-2014 and 7736-2015, whose opinion is reported at 29
N.J.Tax 91 (Tax 2016).
W. Heck argued the cause for appellants (Testa Heck Scrocca
& Testa, P.A., attorneys; Mr. Heck, on the briefs).
D. Russell argued the cause for respondent.
Judges Lihotz, Hoffman and Whipple.
Krystal Fisher appeals from a Tax Court order denying a
personal residence real estate tax exemption, granted by the
Legislature to certain disabled veterans. In a written
opinion, Tax Court Judge Mark Cimino reviewed the statute and
concluded defendant, the City of Millville, correctly denied
plaintiff's request for exemption. Fisher v.
Millville, 29 N.J.Tax 91, 101-02 (Tax 2016). The judge
found, although plaintiff is completely disabled as a result
of her military service, her injuries did not occur "in
direct support" of military operations in Afghanistan,
which was required to claim the disabled veterans personal
residence tax exemption.
appeal, plaintiff challenges the judge's statutory
interpretation as "incorrect." We are not persuaded
Court's review resulted from cross-motions for summary
judgment. Id. at 92. The parties submitted a joint
statement of stipulated material facts. Ibid.
October 2002, plaintiff suffered injuries during an Army
training exercise, when she fell from a two-story building at
Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri. Ibid. The injuries did
not preclude her continued military service, and plaintiff
was transferred to Fort Stewart, Georgia, in March 2003,
where she was assigned to a unit scheduled to deploy to
Afghanistan. Id. at 93. However, in light of her
injuries, plaintiff was not sent overseas. Instead, she
remained at Fort Stewart, assigned to the "Rear
Detachment" for her unit in Afghanistan. Ibid.
In this role, plaintiff's duties included
shipping weapons, food, clothing and processed supplies for
the overseas portion of her unit; keeping inventory logs of
weapons utilized by her unit, including checking in and out
each weapon; retrieving, processing, and formalizing reports
for her unit overseas as to their military police activities;
assembling protective shield units for Humvee military
vehicles utilized in overseas combat; performing military
police duties at Fort Stewart, a staging base; and
participating in prisoner of war camp studies and simulations
at Fort Stewart along with the development of prisoner camp
protocols to be utilized overseas. Moreover, while stationed
at Fort Stewart, plaintiff continued to train for potential
deployment to Afghanistan as part of the military police.
Army honorably discharged plaintiff on December 20, 2003. On
May 21, 2014, she was declared 100 percent disabled by the
United States Department of Veterans Affairs.
submitted an application to defendant, claiming a disabled
veteran's property tax exemption, pursuant to N.J.S.A.
54:4-3.30. Ibid. The Millville City Tax Assessor
issued a notice of disallowance on June 26, 2014.
Ibid. Plaintiff appealed to the Cumberland County
Board of Taxation, which concluded the exemption was properly
denied. Id. at 94. Plaintiff appealed to the Tax
Court, which conducted a hearing on the parties'
respective motions for summary judgment. Analyzing the
requirements for exemption, the judge concluded
plaintiff's injury was not suffered "in direct
support" of military operations in Afghanistan.
Id. at 101. He denied plaintiff's motion and
granted defendant's motion for summary judgment.
Id. at 102.
review an order granting summary judgment applying the same
standard guiding the trial judge. Conley v.
Guerrero, 22 8 N.J. 339, 346 (2017). "[S]ummary
judgment will be granted if there is no genuine issue of
material fact and 'the moving party is entitled to a
judgment or order as a matter of law. '"
Ibid. (quoting R. 4:46-2(c)).
issue presented here is a legal question requiring
examination of statutory interpretation. "An appellate
court interprets . . . statutes . . . de novo."
Meehan v.Antonellis, 226 N.J. 216, 230
(2016) (quoting Mort. Grader, ...