In eminent domain case, fight ensues over brief: Asbury Park NJ Press, 2/14/07

By Carol Gorga Williams

[New Jersey] State Public Advocate Ronald K. Chen is fighting the city's efforts to have his friend-of-the-court brief disallowed in the case of oceanfront property owners opposing the city's right to take their parcels by eminent domain.

The city filed a motion last month to block the advocate's brief, filed Jan. 11, in defense of some property owners in the Marine Terrace, Ocean Terrace and Seaview Avenue area.

Assistant City Attorney Lawrence H. Shapiro maintained that Chen did not follow proper court rules and that Chen raised issues in his brief that were not before Superior Court Judge Lawrence M. Lawson, sitting in Freehold, when Lawson in June upheld the city's right to condemn the homes and replace them with luxury condominiums in phase 2 of the Beachfront North project.

Lawson said the property owners were not entitled to an evidentiary hearing, and made his decision based on oral arguments, briefs and exhibits. Chen thinks the property owners deserve that hearing.

In a prepared statement, Chen said he is issuing the brief in support of 38 property owners, but city officials say half of them have agreed to sell.

Chen's brief was filed Tuesday.

Chen maintains that the issue of whether the property owners received proper notice of the pending condemnation was an issue before Lawson, an allegation the city denies.

The city also said Chen's appendix, which he says contains documents, scholarly reports and matters of public record, should be stricken but fails to specify why, according to Chen.

City Attorney James G. Aaron said the city is not worried about Chen's motion.

"The city is prepared to meet the allegations as enumerated in the brief and appendix as submitted by Chen if it is allowed by the appellate court, and the city will . . . respond in the manner that is appropriate in the city's briefs when they are filed and based upon the limits as imposed, if any, by the appellate division," Aaron said.

The city's response is due April 9.

Asbury Park NJ Press: http://www.app.com