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George E. Norcross III. Photo by Kevin Sanders for the New Jersey Globe

Judge dismisses Norcross lawsuit against Murphy

Powerbroker alleged tax incentives task force was illegal

By David Wildstein, July 31 2019 6:51 pm

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George Norcross’ lawsuit against Gov. Phil Murphy alleging that a task force investigating New Jersey’s tax incentive programs was illegally constituted was dismissed today by a Superior Court Judge Mary Jacobson, the Philadelphia Inquirer has reported.

Jacobson had denied a requested for a preliminary injunction last month after Norcross’ lawyers sought to delay the release of a task force report that suggested companies tied to the Democratic powerbroker had no intention of moving jobs to Philadelphia if they failed to get tax credits from the New Jersey Economic Development Authority.

Attorneys for Norcross sought to subpoena documents from Murphy aides and consultants following a New Jersey Globe report that revealed the existence of weekly calls between the governor’s staff and political advisors called Inside/Outside calls.

”I was extremely concerned that you would try to prevent the court from looking at such a critical document and instead suggest that a blog post was something that should look at,” Jacobson said in her ruling, according to a tweet this evening by POLITICO New Jersey’s Matt Friedman.

Statements on the dismissal of the Norcross lawsuit:

Dan Fee, spokesman for Norcross:   “We are disappointed that Judge Jacobson believes there is no requirement that people and organizations being investigated by a public body have the opportunity to defend themselves.  The plaintiffs were not given even five minutes to provide facts at the Task Force’s public hearing where their applications were first discussed, nor were they given the opportunity to dispute false allegations contained in its report before it was released.  The judge’s decision sets a dangerous precedent that this administration — or any administration — can hold investigatory hearings without allowing their targets basic Due Process rights. In fact, the judge’s decision is contrary to the law that she, and the Task Force, contends grants the Task Force the authority to hold its hearings. The plaintiffs remain willing to testify publicly, provided they are granted basic due process rights, before any appropriate authority, including the ongoing legislative committee hearings.

The plaintiffs will review the Judge’s written decision in order to make a determination about whether and how to move forward to protect their rights and the good names they’ve built over decades in business.  The plaintiffs are proud they are to have brought new jobs to Camden, invested more than $300 million in the city’s future, and become an integral part of its ongoing renaissance and neither today’s ruling, nor the Task Force’s actions, will diminish this success.”

Ronald Chen, Task Force Chair, Jim Walden & Pablo Quinones, Special Counsel to the NJ EDA Task Force:   “We are grateful for Judge Jacobson’s careful consideration of the various issues, and for the exceptional advocacy of Ted Wells, Yahonnes Cleary and the Paul Weiss team.  We will continue our important work to provide as much transparency as possible to problems and challenges of administering these tax-incentive awards.”

Darryl Isherwood, spokesman for Murphy:  We are grateful that this action against the Task Force on EDA’s Tax Incentives has been dismissed, allowing it to continue the important work of ensuring the EDA properly administered programs that distributed billions of taxpayer dollars.  We would like to thank Judge Jacobson for her thorough and thoughtful decision. The Governor also thanks Ted Wells and the team of exceptional attorneys from both Paul, Weiss and the Governor’s Office who handled this matter.”

This story was updated at 12:26 AM on August 1 to include additional comments.

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