Policeman’s Benevolent Association, Local 292 v. Borough of North Haledon

A-3092-96T2, 1997 WL 726046 (N.J. Super. App. Div. 1997)
  • Opinion Date: November 5, 1997

ARBITRATION—A party seeking confirmation of an award under the New Jersey Arbitration Act must file a claim within three months after the decision is handed down.

A borough sought to employ a special police officer to work regular shifts in the police department. The local policeman’s benevolent association claimed this action violated its collective bargaining agreement with the borough. An arbitrator resolved the matter in favor of the policeman’s association and awarded damages of more than $8,000. Although it is well settled that the New Jersey Arbitration Act requires a losing party to institute an action to vacate an arbitration award within three months of its delivery, the policeman’s association did not file an action seeking confirmation of the award until after that time had passed. The justification for the delay was that the policeman’s association waited to see if the borough would bring an action to vacate the award within the three month period, something which could not be known until after the period had passed. The borough claimed that the action to confirm was untimely. The trial court found for the policeman’s association.

The applicable provision of the Arbitration Act states that, “a party to the arbitration may, within 3 months after the award is delivered to him…commence a summary action in court for the confirmation of the award or for its vacation.” The Appellate Division first stated that the trial court properly refused to hear the borough’s counterclaim, since case law clearly holds that a losing party must seek vacation of the award within three months, even if vacation is sought through the form of a counterclaim. The Appellate Court held that the language of the Arbitration Act treats the right to judicial relief for either party with the same words, and therefore the three month limitation for obtaining judgment applies equally to both sides. For example, even though the statute says a party “may” bring the matter within three months, case law has consistently construed it to mean “must”. The Appellate Court concluded that a party seeking confirmation of an arbitration award obtained pursuant to the Arbitration Act must file a claim within three months after the arbitrator’s decision is handed down.