Katz & Dougherty Law Office
Katz & Dougherty Law Office

Government Law

Including land use, municipal ordinance and code violations

Who says "you can't fight City Hall"? 
Time and time again, Katz & Dougherty have shown that you can. 

Federal, State, County and Local government is, after all, subject to the American legal system. These institutions are not, as once thought, above the law. In fact, during the past three decades, Katz & Dougherty have been at the forefront of challenges to that notion.

In 1973 and 1974 they took their case to the highest two courts in New Jersey, and won overturned a State agency's denial of pension benefits to the widow of a career employee who died waiting for the Pension Board to process his widow's benefits. In re Vaccaro 131 N.J.Super. 264 (App. Div. 1974), aff'd., 66 N.J. 151 (1974) became a landmark case in New Jersey, standing for the proposition that a State Agency owes a duty of efficiency and fairness to the people whom it serves. Here, the Division of Pensions was found to have ignored common reason and practicality over a long summer, in failing to process a dying pension applicant's request for a lump sum death benefit, and was denied the right to hide behind a seemingly solid statutory barrier-- one which nullified the applicant's death benefits, if he failed to survive an additional thirty days after the Pension Board approved his last request. 

Full text of decisions

When Wall Township tried to “undo” a zoning amendment to block our client, a small cemetery company, from using its six acres as a cemetery, Katz & Dougherty fought back, bringing a suit which went to the Supreme Court, affirming the rights of the cemetery, and limiting the right of the Township to retract its approval. The case was Trinity Cemetery Assoc. v. Wall Township, Superior Court Law Division and, on appeal, the Appellate Division at 325 N.J.Super. 292 (App. Div., 1999) Certif. Granted 163 N.J. 396 (2000) 

In 2008, when the Mayor of the City of Trenton claimed to have the power to “waive” a residency requirement voted in by the citizens at a public referendum, Katz & Dougherty fought back and obtained a court ruling that the Mayor was not above the law. His choice for Police Director, who claimed to be exempt from having to move into Trenton, was declared to be disqualified for office and forced to resign. The case was Forester v. Palmer ……….

In 2007, Katz & Dougherty represented a group of Trenton citizens who filed a protest petition against a Trenton ordinance which sought to make radical changes to the organization of the Police Department. Although they had filed timely protest petitions (which would force the issue to be put to a vote by the entire City at a special election), the City sued to have their petitions set aside, claiming that the reorganization of the Police Department was not subject to voter protest. The Appellate Division and the Supreme Court disagreed, upholding our argument that “all” ordinances are subject to the voters’ right of protest, and ending a forty-year chain of cases which held otherwise. In re Ordinance 04-75 ………..

And in 2010, Katz & Dougherty went back to the Supreme Court once more to fight for the right of the Trenton citizens to protest against ill-advised ordinances. This time the issue was whether the City Council could permit the sale of a large portion of the City’s profitable water works to a large private company (NJ. American Water) without being subject to a petition for a referendum on the controversial transaction. Although the City and American Water were successful in blocking the protest petitions in the lower courts, the Supreme Court agreed with Katz & Dougherty’s interpretation of the law, and once more ruled that the citizens have the right to protest “any” ordinance, including the one which would have sold most of the City’s single largest asset. P.S., the protest referendum held June 15, 2010resulted in a landslide rejection of the sale. 
In re Ordinance 09-02. 



Katz & Dougherty

4020 Quakerbridge Rd

Lawrenceville NJ 08619


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