Home>Campaigns>GOP leaders who fought Morris GOP line won’t have to pay legal fees from challenge, judge says

Former Morris County Republican Chairman John Sette. (Photo: Morris County.)

GOP leaders who fought Morris GOP line won’t have to pay legal fees from challenge, judge says

Sette, Scapicchio mounted legal bid to stop Morris Republicans from establishing organization line in 2021

By David Wildstein, August 19 2021 8:41 am

A Superior Court Judge has vacated an order requiring two party leaders to pay the legal fees in a court case earlier this year where they challenged the creation of a new Republican organization line in Morris County.

In February, Judge Maritza Berdote Byrne ordered former GOP county chairman John Sette and former freeholder David Scapicchio to pay legal fees after she ruled against their claim that the Morris County Republican Committee violated their own by-laws in a vote to create a line.

Berdote Byrne found that the party could proceed with their first organization line in the June 2021 Republican primary.  Morris had always had an open primary, including the seventeen years Sette served as chairman.

A lawyer for Sette and Scapicchio, Alan Zakin, challenged the judge’s decision that the two should pay the Morris GOP legal fees.

Zakin argued that the judge missed a court rule that prevented her from relying on “facts that were not raised in the initial motion to justify reconsideration when those facts were either known or could have been known at the time of the initial hearing.”

He alleged that Morris Republicans did not file their motion properly in their bid for attorneys fees, including a notice requirement that they planned to seek attorney fees and sanctions.

Berdote Byrne agreed, saying that there was “no warning to (Sette and Scapicchio) it would seek sanctions pursuant to the frivolous litigation rule and afforded plaintiffs no prior notice to withdraw their application.:

“While the court stands by its factual and legal analysis of plaintiff’s misconduct, the rule requires strict adherence and affords the court little deference in its application,” Berdote Byrne wrote in an opinion.

It’s now up to Joseph J. Bell IV, the counsel to the Morris GOP, to decide if he wants to appeal.

The line, new to Morris Republicans in 2021, played a decisive factor in the defeat of veteran Assemblywoman BettyLou DeCroce (R-Parsippany) in the June primary.  She had narrowly lost the Republican convention to Christian Barranco, who ran on a line with State Sen. Joseph Pennacchio (R-Montville), Assemblyman Jay Webber (R-Morris Plains), and three incumbent GOP county commissioners.

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