Winberry Realty P’ship v. Borough of Rutherford

The plaintiffs brought this action under the New Jersey Civil Rights Act (CRA), N.J.S.A. 10:6-1 to -2, and 42 U.S.C. §§ 1983 and 1985, alleging that the Tax Collector and the Borough violated their constitutional, statutory, and common law rights to reclaim their property. The trial court granted summary judgment to the defendants, finding that the Tax Collector was entitled to qualified immunity and the Borough derivative immunity. The New Jersey Appellate Division reversed and reinstated the case against the Tax Collector but dismissed the Borough from the case. The New Jersey Supreme Court affirmed in part and reversed in part. The Court affirmed the decision to deny the Tax Collector qualified immunity. Based on the record, the Tax Collector’s refusal to provide the redemption amount to the plaintiffs because their request was not in writing or timely made was not objectively reasonable. The Court disagreed with the Appellate Division and ruled that the plaintiffs established the basis for municipal liability. The Borough is liable if the Tax Collector violated the constitutional or statutory rights of the plaintiffs because the Tax Collector is the final policymaker on matters related to the redemption of tax sale certificates in the Borough.

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