News of the Law Firm

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Dasti Receives Award From Institute of Local Government Attorneys

On November 17, 2016 Managing Partner Jerry J. Dasti received the Fred G. Stickel Memorial Award from the New Jersey Institute of Local Government Attorneys (NJILGA).  The award was presented at the annual meeting of the NJILGA at the New Jersey League of Municipalities Conference in Atlantic City.

The Fred G. Stickel Memorial Award  is an annual award that has been created by the NJILGA to honor a member of the New Jersey bar who has demonstrated excellence in the field of public sector law and has contributed time and effort to advance the interests of municipal law.  The award is named in honor of Fred G. Stickel, III who practiced municipal law for over 50 years and was counsel to the New Jersey State League of Municipalities for many years.

Dasti has represented local governing bodies, planning and zoning boards, and utility authorities throughout the state for nearly 40 years.  His experience includes fourteen reported decisions dealing with local government law, including three New Jersey Supreme Court cases.


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Firm Scores Dismissal of Negligence Case

The Firm recently achieved dismissal of a negligence case in Superior Court.  In Henderson v. Barnegat Township, the plaintiff alleged negligence on the part of Barnegat Township and its police officers as a result of injuries he sustained from a motor vehicle accident in another town, Jackson Township.  The plaintiff admitted to driving while under the influence of heroine and alleged Barnegat Township police officer’s allowed him to drive from his residence while under the influence.  The Firm, representing Barnegat Township, filed a motion for summary judgment arguing that there was no evidence in the record that plaintiff was under the influence at the time township police officers made contact with him at his parents’ home.  The court agreed finding that the record in the case was clear that the witnesses at the scene, which included the plaintiff’s family, had no evidence he was under the influence at the time the police officers investigated the matter.  There was no casual link to the actions of the police officers and plaintiff’s subsequent motor vehicle accident hours later in Jackson Township.  The court granted summary judgment and dismissed the case.

After the court granted the motion for summary judgment, the plaintiff filed a motion to vacate the judgment alleging that his newly produced expert report was “newly discovered evidence” that warranted re-opening the case.  The Firm vigorously opposed the motion arguing that the expert report was not newly discovered evidence warranting vacating the court’s previous dismissal of the case.  Rather, the expert report was expert opinion evidence and did nothing to change the court’s early determination in dismissing the case because there was no evidence that the plaintiff was under the influence of heroine when the police officers investigated the matter.  The court once again agreed and denied plaintiff’s motion to re-open the case.

The Township was represented on the matter by Partner Christopher J. Dasti.  Mr. Dasti prepared the briefs and argued the motions.

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Firm’s victory at trial upheld by the Appellate Division

The Appellate Division recently upheld a trial court’s ruling in favor of the Firm.  In Hutler v. Marina at Southwinds, L.L.C., the Firm, representing the plaintiff, sought to enforce the terms of a contract for defendants to purchase and close title to a commercial property and business.  The trial court entered an order compelling defendants to close title and at trial dismissed all the defendants counterclaims.  The Appellate Division affirmed, finding that the trial court correctly applied the terms of the contractual provisions and correctly dismissed defendants’ counterclaims.

Jerry J. Dasti represented the plaintiff on behalf of the Firm and Timothy J. McNichols prepared the briefs.

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Firm achieves Summary Judgment in Boogie Board Case

The Firm recently achieved dismissal of a negligence action related to an injured bather in the waters off the cost of an Ocean County beach.  In Petrone v.  Borough of Ship Bottom the plaintiff alleged she was injured by a boogie board in the waters off the beach of Ship Bottom.  The Firm, representing the Borough of Ship Bottom and the beach patrol, filed a motion for summary judgment.

The Superior Court held that there was no admissible evidence that a boogie board actually caused plaintiff’s injuries.  Therefore, the alleged discretionary action of the lifeguards in allowing boogie boards to remain in the water was not the proximate cause of the plaintiff’s injures.  The court held that the New Jersey Tort Claims Act clearly immunizes discretionary acts of public entities that are not the proximate cause of a plaintiff’s injuries. Therefore, summary judgment was granted and the case was dismissed.

Victory on the case was a team effort.  The motion was argued by Partner Jerry J. Dasti, Partner Christopher K. Koutsouris contributed to the briefs and assisted at oral argument, and briefs were prepared by Timothy J. McNichols and Martin J. Buckley.

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Firm Scores Victory in Published Appellate Division COAH Ruling

In the wake of the New Jersey Supreme Court’s decision in In re Adoption of N.J.A.C. 5:96, 221 N.J. 1 (2015) (“In re N.J.A.C. 5:96 II”), the Court required municipalities to file declaratory judgment actions before the assigned Mount Laurel Judges. The Firm filed the required action representing Stafford Township. Thereafter, the Firm, as well as numerous other law firms representing various Ocean County municipalities filed an appeal to the Appellate Division concerning the narrow legal issue whether a “separate and discrete” gap-period affordable housing obligation is authorized by (1) the core principles of the Mount Laurel doctrine, as codified in the Fair Housing Act of 1985; and (2) In re N.J.A.C. 5:96 II. Resolution of this legal question specifically addresses whether a municipality’s prospective need involves a retroactive housing obligation starting in 1999.

On appeal, the Appellate Division in a published opinion rendered on July 11, 2016 ruled in favor of the Ocean County municipalities applying the core principles of the Mount Laurel doctrine and the plain language of the Fair Housing Act, including its unambiguous definition of “prospective need”–a forward “projection of housing needs based on development and growth which is reasonably likely to occur in a region or a municipality and following the Supreme Court’s admonition not to become an alternative administrative decision maker for unresolved policy issues surrounding the Third Round Rules, held that the Fair Housing Act does not require a municipality to retroactively calculate a new “separate and discrete” affordable housing obligation arising during the gap period. The previous methodologies employed in the First and Second Round Rules should be used to establish present and prospective statewide and regional affordable housing need and prior round unfulfilled obligations should be the starting point for a determination of a municipality’s fair share responsibility.

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The Ocean County Board of Freeholders appointed Christopher J. Dasti to the Ocean County Board of Health.  Mr. Dasti will served an unexpired term until March 23, 2017.  The Board of Health promotes healthy lifestyles and a clean and safe environment throughout the County.  The Board of Health assess the priority needs of the community through comprehensive health planning, educates residents about public health issues.

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The firm is proud to announce that it has two new Partners.  Christopher K. Koutsouris and Christopher J. Dasti were named Partners on June 9, 2016.  This event marks the addition of the first new shareholders to the firm in more than fifteen years.

Mr. Koutsouris joined the firm in 2003 and his practice focuses on personal injury, civil litigation,  municipal court practice, as well as both residential and commercial real estate transactions.  Mr. Koutsouris is one of only a handful of New Jersey attorneys to be certified by the New Jersey Supreme Court in municipal court law.  Mr. Koutsouris serves as municipal prosecutor or public defender in numerous municipalities through Ocean, Monmouth, Mercer, and Burlington counties.  Mr. Koutsouris has presented continuing legal education classes on municipal court issues.

Mr. Dasti joined the firm in 2012 and his practice focuses on municipal government law, civil litigation, and real estate.  Mr. Dasti serves as municipal attorney for various public entities in Ocean County.  Mr. Dasti also serves on the executive boards of numerous organizations in the community.