EDISON TAX SERVICES, Plaintiff–Respondent, v. JERILEAN G. ROBERTS, Defendant–Appellant, FUN–B CUSTODIAN FOR D.H. ASSOCIATES F/K/A WACHOVIA BANK, N.A. N/K/A WELLS FARGO BANK, N.A.; FIRST UNION/FUNDCO, INC. F/K/A WACHOVIA BANK, N.A. N/K/A WELLS FARGO BANK, N.A.; ROBIN MORLEY; CRUSADER SERVICING CORP., Defendants–Respondents.
In this tax lien foreclosure proceeding, defendant Jerilean G. Roberts appeals from the Chancery Division's January 7, 2013 order denying Roberts's motion to vacate a final judgment entered on October 24, 2012. We affirm.
We glean the facts from the ultra-sparse record provided by Roberts and respondent Lienlogic NJ Holdings, LLC on appeal. Our review has been hampered by Roberts's (1) failure to provide any documentary materials besides the challenged January 7, 2013 order, see Siwiec v. Fin. Res., Inc., 375 N.J.Super. 212, 219 (App.Div.2005) (in an appeal from the denial of a motion to vacate a default judgment, appellant's appendix should have included the application therefor), and (2) neglectful inclusion of facts in her brief without supporting “references to the appendix and transcript.” R. 2:6–2(a)(4).
Nevertheless, from the complaint, which was supplied by respondent, it appears that Roberts has been the owner of real property located in Mercer County's Hamilton Township since 1978. In 1995, 1999, 2001, 2003, 2005, and 2008, the Township sold tax sale certificates related to Roberts's property to several different entities, including respondent's assignor, Edison Tax Services.
On March 1, 2011, Edison Tax Services commenced this action by filing its foreclosure complaint in the Chancery Division. On a date that is not revealed in the record, Roberts filed an answer, which we are unable to review because it was not supplied in Roberts's appendix. See R. 2:6–1(a)(1)(A) (requiring, in civil actions, appellant's appendix to contain “the pleadings”). However, on December 6, 2011, the Chancery Division entered an order granting summary judgment in favor of Edison Tax Services and “striking the [a]nswer of the defendant, on the grounds that the [a]nswer of the defendant, Jerilean G. Roberts set forth no genuine issue as to any material fact challenged.” The order entered default against Roberts, and transferred the case to the Office of Foreclosure, see R. 1:34–6, where it would “proceed as an uncontested matter, but no order of final judgment of foreclosure shall be entered prior to January 31, 2012.” For reasons that are unclear, the order further provided that the answer “be stricken without prejudice,” and Roberts was permitted “to file a new answer” no later than January 20, 2012.
Roberts failed to comply with the terms of the December 6, 2011 order, but apparently, she attempted to file a second answer in early March 2012.1 According to the October 24, 2012 final judgment, default had again been entered against Roberts on March 12, 2012.
Following the entry of the October 24, 2012 final judgment, Roberts filed a motion to vacate, presumably pursuant to Rule 4:50–1. Gleaned from the motion judge's findings, Roberts contended that the final judgment had been improvidently entered because “plaintiff failed to follow the Court[ ] rules because she was not informed of dates of hearing and she did not receive papers from plaintiff's counsel.” Furthermore, according to the motion judge, Roberts argued, “plaintiff was permitted to file papers improperly and that the [c]ourt misinterpreted a ruling by a different judge.”
After recounting the procedural history and reviewing the jurisprudence of Rule 4:50–1, the motion judge determined that Roberts's second answer was “contrary to [the December 6, 2011] fully defined order,” and she never “contest[ed] her ability to redeem the tax sale certificate.” Because “Ms. Roberts provide[d] no defense for the foreclosure action,” the motion judge concluded that there was no basis to vacate the final judgment. On January 7, 2013, the judge issued an order denying Roberts's motion to vacate the final judgment. This appeal followed.
On appeal, Roberts presents the following contentions for our consideration:
POINT I: JUDGE PAUL INNES ADDED A CONDITION TO THE FILING OF A REVISED ANSWER THAT WAS NOT SET FORTH IN THE ORDER SIGNED BY THE HONORABLE JACOBSON AND AS SUCH HIS ACTIONS CONSTITUTED A MODIFICATION OF THE ORDER WITHOUT A HEARING OR SUPPORTED BY ANY LEGAL ARGUMENT OR FACTS.
POINT II: THE APPELLANT FILED AN ANSWER IN MARCH OF 2012 AND IT WAS NEVER PROPERLY CONSIDERED BY THE COURT IN ANY OF THE PROCEEDINGS OR ACTIONS THAT OCCURRED AFTER THE FILING DATE.
POINT III: THE APPELLANT NEVER RECEIVED NOTICE OF THE HEARING DATES THE MOTIONS IN THIS MATTER WERE HEARD AND WAS DEPRIVED OF THE RIGHT TO PRESENT FACTS AND ARGUMENT TO THE COURT. WITHOUT PROPER NOTICE TO THE APPELLANT, THE MATTER SHOULD NEVER HAVE BEEN HEARD.
In support of these conclusory statements, Roberts presents no legal analysis; cites but a single inapposite case, Lombardi v. Masso, 207 N.J. 517, 535–36 (2011) (holding that a grant of summary judgment as to many but not all of the defendants in the case was only a partial grant and thus was interlocutory) in support of her claims; and fails to provide us with her motion papers submitted in the Chancery Division in support of her application to vacate the final judgment. Under these circumstances, we conclude that all of Roberts's arguments are without sufficient merit to warrant discussion in a written opinion. R. 2:11–3(e)(1)(E). We add only the following brief comments.
We consider Roberts's arguments in light of Rule 4:50–1, which provides, in pertinent part:
On motion, with briefs, and upon such terms as are just, the court may relieve a party ․ from a final judgment or order for the following reasons: (a) mistake, inadvertence, surprise, or excusable neglect; (b) newly discovered evidence which would probably alter the judgment or order and which by due diligence could not have been discovered in time to move for a new trial under [Rule ] 4:49; (c) fraud (whether heretofore denominated intrinsic or extrinsic), misrepresentation, or other misconduct of an adverse party; (d) the judgment or order is void; (e) the judgment or order has been satisfied, released or discharged, or a prior judgment or order upon which it is based has been reversed or otherwise vacated, or it is no longer equitable that the judgment or order should have prospective application; or (f) any other reason justifying relief from the operation of the judgment or order.
The rule is ‘designed to reconcile the strong interests in finality of judgments and judicial efficiency with the equitable notion that courts should have authority to avoid an unjust result in any given case.’ U.S. Bank Nat'l Ass'n v. Guillaume,
209 N.J. 449, 467 (2012) (quoting Mancini v. EDS, 132 N.J. 330, 334 (1993)).
Relief from a final judgment under Rule 4:50–1 is not granted lightly. Granting a request to vacate a judgment
constitutes extraordinary relief and, absent exceptional and compelling circumstances, may not be invoked in lieu of filing an appeal. Baumann v. Marinaro, 95 N.J. 380, 393 (1984) (citations omitted).
We afford substantial deference to a motion judge's determination of a motion filed under Rule 4:50–1, and will not disturb the result unless it represents a clear abuse of discretion. Guillaume, supra, 209 N.J. at 467 (citations omitted); see also Deutsche Bank Trust Co. Ams. v. Angeles, 428 N.J.Super. 315, 318 (App.Div.2012). A motion judge's exercised discretion may be found to have been unreasonable when the judge's decision is made without a rational explanation, inexplicably depart[s] from established policies, or rest[s] on an impermissible basis. Angeles, supra, 428 N.J.Super. at 319 (internal quotation marks and citations omitted). Guided by that standard, we conclude that the Chancery Division did not abuse its discretion by denying Roberts's motion. Roberts never
demonstrated her entitlement to relief either in that court or before us.
1. FN1. The record does not indicate the exact date that Roberts attempted to file this second answer, and her appendix does not contain a copy of this second answer. We have no way of knowing its contents.