Posted by: Patricia Salkin | February 26, 2012

Third Circuit Court of Appeals Affirms Dismissal of Claim through Res Judicata and the Parker Doctrine

This matter concerns a history of litigation between a surface parking lot owner, Comprelli, and the Town of Harrison.  Comprelli filed suit in both state court and federal court following the redesignation of his property as a result of a redevelopment plan.  The state court case was dismissed with prejudice, and the federal court case was dismissed as the federal claims where barred by the Parker doctrine and the state law claims by res judicata.  The state court decision was modified, dismissing the claims without prejudice.  Following the modification, the federal district court declined to exercise supplemental jurisdiction over the state law claims, finding all federal law claims barred by res judicata and the Parker doctrine.  Comprelli appealed the district courts determination.  The United States Court of Appeals, third district, affirmed. 

Comprelli alleged on appeal that the district court erred in finding the federal claims were barred because the claims where previously dismissed in error and the state court modified its dismissal.  Comprelli also alleged an error in the district courts’ failure to exercise supplemental jurisdiction over the state law claims. 

In addressing the res judicata claim of error, the court explained  that res judicata, under New Jersey law, requires dismissal where there is a final judgment on the merits, both parties are the same, and that the claim arose from the same transaction or occurrence as in the first action.  The court disagreed with Comprelli that the modification of the state court’s judgment affected the application of res judicata, as “the preclusive effect of a final judgment cannot be challenged on the basis of ‘errors’ in its legal conclusion.”

In addressing the Parker doctrine claim, the court provided that the doctrine “shields state governments from antitrust liability for anti-competitive actions taken in their capacity as sovereigns.”  This doctrine does not apply to municipalities, however, unless the municipality’s restriction in competitiveness results from the implementation of state policy.  Comprelli asserted that the redevelopment plan was not covered by the doctrine as the plan was not in the furtherance of a state policy, but rather was to make money.  The court rejected this argument, as Comprelli made no showing that the redevelopment plan, authorized by state law to remedy blight, was invalid.  As a result, the court found the redevelopment plan fell within the Parker doctrine, affirming the district court’s dismissal.

Comprelli v. Town of Harrison, No. 10-4666, 2012 WL 505859 (C.A. 3d Cir.(NJ), 2/16/2012)

The opinion can be accessed at: http://www.ca3.uscourts.gov/opinarch/104666np.pdf


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