Hoens, Driven Early From Bench, Led N.J. Court in Critical Rulings

, New Jersey Law Journal

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A recent notable example was the March 12 decision in D.D. v. University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey, 213 N.J. 130 (2013), where Hoens, backed by Rabner and Justice Anne Patterson, refused to allow a tort claim against the state for allegedly publicizing that the plaintiff had AIDS.

Dissenting Justices Albin and Jaynee LaVecchia agreed with two lower courts that would have extended the Tort Claims Act’s 90-day notice period because of the plaintiff’s medical problems and her attorney’s alleged inattentiveness.

To Hoens, however, allowing the suit “would create an entirely new rule that would permit wide latitude to claimants and counsel to circumvent the statute’s clear commands.”

She also sided with the state in the affordable housing and school funding cases, respectively, NAACP v. Mount Laurel and Abbott v. Burke, with which the court has been grappling for decades.

Christie cited those cases in declaring his intent to move the court in a more conservative direction. The purported first concrete step was denying reappointment to Justice John Wallace Jr. in 2010, even though he was widely deemed to be a centrist.

Hoens seemed to be the type of justice Christie wanted, as shown by two dissents in Mount Laurel matters during her last five months on the job.

One, joined by Patterson, parted company from a Sept. 26 decision that struck down the current round of affordable housing rules because they relied on growth-share methodology. And on July 10, she joined Patterson’s dissent from a ruling that Christie overstepped his authority when he tried to abolish the Council on Affordable Housing by way of an executive order.

In an Abbott case decided May 24, 2011, she and Rivera-Soto joined each other’s dissents from a decision on a motion to enforce litigants’ rights based on the state’s failure to fully fund poor school district as required by the School Funding Reform Act of 2008.

A 3-2 majority granted the relief but only for the 31 original Abbott districts and not the 187 other underfunded ones where students had also been found to be at risk. Hoens agreed with Rivera-Soto that four votes were needed to grant the relief motion and voiced her own view that it should have been denied because it “treads on the constitutional prerogatives of the Legislature and the Executive branch.”

On a challenge to legislation that increased the amount state employees, including judges, must contribute toward their pensions and benefits, Hoens once again sided with Christie.

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