April 3, 2019
appeal from Superior Court of New Jersey, Chancery Division,
Morris County, Docket No. F-031537-16.
B. Fagan-Rodriguez argued the cause for appellant (Rodriguez
Law Group, LLC, attorneys; Susan B. Fagan-Rodriguez, on the
Elliott J. Almanza argued the cause for respondent
(Goldenberg, Mackler, Sayegh, Mintz, Pfeffer, Bonchi &
Gill, attorneys; Keith A. Bonchi, of counsel and on the
brief; Elliott J. Almanza, on the brief).
Judges Koblitz, Currier and Mayer. 
tax foreclosure matter, defendant, U.S. Bank-Cust/Sass Muni
VI DTR (U.S. Bank), a large tax lien investment fund, appeals
from the January 10, 2018 final judgment and the February 22,
2018 order denying its motion to vacate final judgment. U.S.
Bank had previously obtained ownership of real property by
foreclosing on a tax sale certificate, and then failed to pay
property taxes. The Chancery Division granted the opposed
motion for final judgment without affording the requested
oral argument or providing a cogent reason to deny argument.
U.S. Bank thus was not told when final judgment would be
entered, which would also end its redemption period. Because
oral argument was not provided, we reverse.
November 21, 2016, Christiana Trust filed the present
complaint to foreclose the tax sale certificate. Christiana
Trust named U.S. Bank as a defendant because of a prior tax
certificate held on the property. On June 8, 2017, defendant
was served with an "order fixing the time, place and
amount of redemption." The order fixed July 24, 2017 as
the time for redemption. Defendant did not file an answer or
otherwise plead. Defendant did, however, file a notice of
appearance in August 2017.
August 14, 2017, Christiana Trust filed a motion for final
judgment with the Foreclosure Unit of the Superior Court.
Defendant asserts it was "unable to complete resolution
of the environmental assessment by the time [p]laintiff moved
for entry of final judgment." Defendant opposed the
motion and sought a temporary stay, alleging it had filed a
complaint in 2013, obtained final judgment in 2016, and owned
the property. Defendant certified the property had
"extensive environmental problems." Defendant
asserted it was "attempting to sell the
[p]roperty," and "hope[d] to have a contract to
sell the [p]roperty in the near future." After
opposition was filed, the Foreclosure Unit sent the contested
matter to the Chancery Division.
January 10, 2018, the court entered final judgment. In its
statement of reasons, the court explained:
Defendant fails to demonstrate any of the [Crowe v.
DeGioia, 90 N.J. 126 (1982)] factors. Defendant raises
no valid legal argument or defense that would defeat
[p]laintiff's right to proceed with the foreclosure.
Defendant asserts that it is in the process of attempting to
sell the property and it hopes to have a contract to sell
same in the near future. On the other hand, [d]efendant has
not paid the concurrent property taxes although it completed
its own foreclosure and has held an unrecorded ownership
interest for the past sixteen months since May 2016. Further,
[p]laintiff argues that [d]efendant is a large investment
fund with financial ability to redeem the tax lien, and that
it could easily redeem the tax lien and preserve its
interest. The court is persuaded that equities favor
[p]laintiff as [p]laintiff has been paying property taxes to
secure the priority of its lien, and [d]efendant has failed
to demonstrate any elements that warrant stay of the entry of
order further provided: "Plaintiff did not request oral
argument. Defendant opposed and requested oral argument. The
court did not hear oral argument pursuant to Palombi v.
Palombi, 414 N.J.Super. 274 (App. Div. 2010)."
Palombi, we considered Rule 5:5-4 in the
context of a litigious family matter. Rule 5:5-4(a)
states, in pertinent part:
Motions in family actions shall be governed by
[Rule] 1:6-2(b) except that, in exercising its
discretion as to the mode and scheduling of disposition of
motions, the court shall ordinarily grant requests
for oral argument on substantive and non-routine discovery
motions and ordinarily ...