Monday, March 28, 2011

Anne Covey and the NJ Supreme Court

Anne Covey is the Republican candidate for Pennsylvania Commonwealth Court. I've been reviewing her personal data questionnaire.

One thing that caught my eye was one of the five cases she lists as "the most significant litigated matters which you personally handled ..." (q.13, p. 6 of the pdf). The first one she lists is a real estate case, and she mentions she represented herself. I don't remember seeing this before in judicial candidate questionnaires. Being mindful of the old saying about doctors being their own patients, I took a closer look at the case (Panetta v. Equity One). The case lasted several years and went all the way to the New Jersey Supreme Court. The opinion is available online at:

Voters are encouraged to read it for themselves. As I understand it, having no legal background whatsoever, someone owned a lot of land along a New Jersey waterfront. His family also owned the riparian land just in front of the water. He took out a mortgage on the larger plot and then defaulted on the loan. The bank held an auction on the land. One bidder wrote his bid for just the land with the mortgage. The other two bidders, including Ms. Covey, wrote theirs to include the waterfront land. Covey's bid was the largest but the bank awarded it to the man who bid was just for the part with the mortgage. Years of litigation ensued.

The court opinion includes the address for the land and looking at google maps you can see the little property division line for the waterfront. Of course, google maps didn't exist when the case was brought.

The case wound through the courts until it reached the New Jersey Supreme Court, which overturned the appellate court and ruled in favor of the man whose bid was just for the mortgaged land.

The court opinion includes these phrases (part III B 2):

"Covey's argument to the contrary is simply not correct."


"Covey argues that the deed language shows that a riparian grant is a lesser interest in property because, if separated from the uplands, it reverts to the State. Covey misapprehends the import of that language."

New Jersey is not Pennsylvania and some will discount the court opinion for that reason. However, if I were running for a judicial position I would not chose as one of my exemplary or significant cases one in which I represented myself, especially if I eventually lost the case, and the final court opinion specifically stated how wrong I was.

But that's just me.

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