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PRINCETON: University loses another round in tax exemption lawsuit

By Philip Sean Curran, Staff Writer
Princeton University still will have to prove to a New Jersey tax court judge that it deserves its property tax exemption, as a state appeals court on Monday refused to intervene in the potentially landmark case.
In fighting against a citizens’ lawsuit challenging the exemption, Princeton’s lawyers had sought permission from a two-judge appeals court to appeal a ruling in November by Tax Court Judge Vito L. Bianco, who said the burden of proof rests on the university.
But in its one-page decision released Monday, the appeals court turned the university down — just the latest in a string of procedural rulings to go against Princeton in its so far failed effort to fend off the case.
The attorney for the four residents suing Princeton over the exemption said Wednesday that this was the sixth court ruling to go against the Ivy League university in a case that originated in 2011.
“I guess they’re trying to play all their cards,” attorney Bruce I. Afran said by phone.
“We continue to prepare for trial,” said university vice president and secretary Robert K. Durkee by email Wednesday.
In theory, the university could appeal Monday’s ruling to the state Supreme Court. But Mr. Afran called that scenario unlikely. Instead, he said the university should see the “writing on the wall” and participate in settlement discussions.
Mr. Afran represents four Princeton residents — Kenneth Fields, Mary Ellen Merino and Joseph and Kathryn King–suing over the school’s property tax exemption. They contend that by sharing patent royalties with faculty and other things, the school is a for profit entity.

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