A New Jersey state court judge has ruled against an effort by Philadelphia developer Carl Dranoff to have a City of Camden lawsuit against him dismissed, rejecting arguments by Dranoff’s lawyers that it would improperly interfere with a separate dispute between the two being litigated in federal court.
Camden County Superior Court Judge Steven J. Polansky said during a hearing Friday that it was too soon in Dranoff’s earlier-filed U.S. District Court suit against the city for the state’s “entire controversy doctrine, " which holds that disputes should be handled before one judge at a time, to be applicable.
“The City of Camden has not had a fair opportunity to litigate,” said Polansky, adding that he may be inclined to defer to decisions by the federal judge in elements of the two cases that explicitly overlap, if such situations arise as the cases run their course.
Dranoff and Camden struck a deal in 2002 — part of the city’s urban-revitalization efforts — that exempted the developer from property taxes on the 349-unit apartment Victor Building project for 30 years in exchange for an agreement to pay a much-reduced “service charge." Polansky’s ruling was in connection with a lawsuit filed in December by the city that accused Dranoff of scheming to avoid paying what it described as “excess profit” payments owed under the terms of that deal.
The developer’s lawyers responded with a motion asking for the suit to be thrown out, under the argument that issues in the city’s claims duplicate those that come up in a complaint he filed in federal court in June.