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Pfizer Inc. v. Director, Division of Taxation

24 N.J. Tax 116 (2008)

TAXATION — Where entry of an amicus curiae into a court proceeding, such as a Tax Court proceeding, would prejudice a party to the litigation, even by delaying the resolution of the pending litigation, a court may refuse to admit the amicus curiae.

A pharmaceutical company, based out of New Jersey, appealed an assessment of the corporate tax that it owed for business conducted in New Jersey. The company challenged the constitutionality of the method used to calculate the tax by the State’s Taxation Division. In a separate proceeding, an engine manufacturer brought a similar action against the Tax Division. While a pending deadline for the pharmaceutical company to file a motion for summary judgment approached, the manufacturer sought to enter the proceedings as an amicus curiae, or friend of the court. The manufacturer claimed that it had a special interest in the matter and that the constitutional challenge to the method of tax assessment was of public importance. Both the pharmaceutical company and the Director of the Division of Taxation opposed the entry of the manufacturer into the proceedings.

The Tax Court noted that entry of an amicus curiae into a court proceeding is permissible if the motion to enter is timely, if the party’s entry would assist in the resolution of a matter of public importance, and if no party to the litigation would be prejudiced by the party’s entry. It agreed with the manufacturer that the matter was one of public importance and that its motion was timely, but found that the manufacturer’s entry would not have helped to resolve the constitutional issue. The Tax Court found that the manufacturer’s entry into the proceedings would have allowed it to challenge the tax assessment’s constitutionality without being bound by the decision, and then to raise additional arguments in its own appeal. It noted that it could have consolidated the matters but that in anticipation of the pharmaceutical company filing a motion for summary judgment, the manufacturer’s entry could have unfairly delayed the disposition of the pharmaceutical company’s appeal. In the interest of having the matter fully resolved, the Tax Court, which was also scheduled to hear the manufacturer’s appeal, directed the manufacturer to file a motion simultaneous to that of the pharmaceutical company’s for summary judgment on its challenge of the tax assessment motion. It reserved its option to decide both matters at the same time or to render separate decisions.

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