Tax Court: No Show, No Go!
In Harshad Patel v. Township of Maple Shade, the New Jersey Tax Court granted Maple Shade’s motion to dismiss plaintiff’s 2012 tax appeal complaint for lack of prosecution because plaintiff failed to appear at the scheduled hearing before the Burlington County Board of Taxation. The facts were not disputed by the parties. Plaintiff’s attorney faxed a letter to the County Board, with a copy to Maple Shade’s assessor, requesting that the assessment be affirmed without prejudice because a 2011 appeal was pending before the Tax Court. Plaintiff’s attorney did not fax a copy to Maple Shade’s attorney. One day before the hearing, Maple Shade’s attorney left a message with a staff member at plaintiff’s attorney’s office that Maple Shade did not consent to an affirmance without prejudice, and no written letter followed the phone call.
The judge noted that, although it is the common practice to affirm matters that have multiple years pending so the matters may be resolved by one tribunal, a party is not entitled to an affirmance by right. The court reasoned that municipalities have an interest in attempting to resolve matters at the county board level to potentially avoid further litigation expenses at the Tax Court level. The Tax Court found plaintiff deliberately failed to appear at the hearing even though he had not received word from the board that it agreed to affirm the assessment without prejudice, and the failure to appear supporting dismissing the 2012 appeal for lack of prosecution.
A copy of the Tax Court’s unpublished opinion in Harshad Patel v. Township of Maple Shade, (December 4, 2013), can be found here.
For more on lack of prosecution and county board issues in tax appeal cases, please see the following blog posts: