Chancery and Equity Practice
McLaughlin & Nardi’s attorneys have decades of experience successfully representing our clients in the Chancery Division of New Jersey’s Superior Court. We have represented people, businesses, estates and fiduciaries in a wide range of chancery matters.
The Chancery Division is New Jersey’s court of “equity.” This means that it can grant relief in civil and probate matters which goes beyond merely awarding a sum of money when a party wins a case. While it may, of course, award a monetary judgment to a successful litigant, it can also award “equitable” relief when necessary and in the best interest of the innocent parties. The Chancery Division has jurisdiction over matters where one of the parties is seeking principally “equitable” relief, and in probate matters.
In other words, the chancery judge has the power to order parties to “do something” – either to perform a specific act, or to refrain from doing some particular thing.
The Chancery Court’s equitable powers, and the fact that cases are heard by a judge without a jury (and often the most experienced judges are assigned to the Chancery Division) makes it particularly well-suited to handle complex business disputes. It is also the venue where ownership or division of real estate is in question.
Some of the more frequent types of cases brought in the Chancery Division are:
- Specific Performance and Other Equitable Contract Remedies. While breaches of contract often involve money damages, they also often cause much more harm than just dollars and cents. For instance, a piece of real estate has its own unique value, such as location, zoning and physical characteristics. Therefore, while breach of a contract to sell real estate causes money damages, the real estate is unique, and the Chancery court can therefore order the breaching party to perform what it was specifically required to do in the contract in addition to paying money damages. This is a remedy available in many areas, such as situations where one partner is required by a partnership agreement to perform certain tasks and the failure to do so would endanger the business.
- Quiet Title Actions. When there are completing claims to property, or where there are questions about title, the Chancery Division judge can hear the evidence and make a decision about ownership. That decision can then be recorded in the chain of title, thus “quieting title,” and allowing for the sale of the property, obtaining title insurance, and meeting lenders’ requirements for extending mortgage financing.
- Partition of Real Estate. The chancery judge has the equitable power under New Jersey law to divide land and split it among various valid claimants.
- Mortgage Foreclosure. Because the Chancery Division has the ability to determine ownership of property, it can also order title to property transferred in mortgage foreclosure actions. However, the judge also has the power to take an owner’s equitable defenses into consideration.
- Injunctions, Temporary Restraining Orders and Protective Orders. A chancery court has the equitable power to issue injunctions and restraining orders to stop parties from doing things which are harming others. It also has the power to order parties to do things which they are legally required to do, or which are necessary to prevent harm.
- Emergency Relief. The Chancery Division can order relief on an emergency basis. For instance, if one partner is stealing a company’s funds, the court can order that he be barred from access to the company’s funds.
- Contract Reformation and Rescission. New Jersey’s chancery courts have the power to use the equitable remedy of rescission. For example, when one party has used fraud to agree to enter into a contract, the judge can declare the contract void. Also, a chancery court has the equitable power to rewrite (or “reform) the terms of contracts, but only to make the language agree with the intent of the parties. Thus, if the contract is ambiguous and one party is doing something neither originally intended, the other party can ask the court to rewrite a term in the contract to enforce the parties’ original intention.
- Business and Partnership Breakups; Shareholder Litigation. The equitable powers which the Chancery Division of New Jersey’s Superior Court possesses make it perfectly suited to handle business disputes. When one owner is violating the rights of another owner, in addition to awarding a money judgment, the judge can order an accounting to see if theft has occurred, appoint a receiver or special fiscal agent to manage the company’s affairs to protect the rights of all the owners, order one owner to buy out the interest of another (taking into account any misappropriation by the departing owner), or order the company dissolved and its assets sold.
- Probate Matters. The Chancery Division handles probate matters, such as will contests, and actions against trustees and executors.
Our litigators have handled many matters in New Jersey's Chancery Division. Examples include:
- We successfully represented the owner of a Hackensack ambulance company in a dispute against his co-owner. The order to show cause filed by our litigators resulted in a temporary restraining order pending the successful outcome of the litigation.
- We successfully represented the owners of a Newark retail establishment whose partners were freezing him out of their business.
- We successfully defended the executor of a Morristown estate with multiple properties, which resulted in the lawsuit being dismissed.
- We achieved a positive outcome while defending a Jersey City medical practice in the defense of foreclosure of an SBA based loan
- Our attorneys obtained judgment for a Bergen County bank, quieting title, and receiving punitive damages in a mortgage fraud scheme.
For help with any Chancery Division matters, e-mail us or call (973) -890-0004. We are conveniently located in Totowa, in Passaic County, New Jersey. Our offices are near Clifton, Wayne, and Montclair. We have easy access to Routes 80, 46, 3, and 23, and the Garden State Parkway.