Lack of a ruling on Manalapan crematorium case is frustrating

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I am trying to understand how an employee can be asked to do something on her job and after two years of inaction still decline to tell her boss – the public – why she has not done what she was asked to do.

In October 2017, attorneys representing the Manalapan Township Committee and the Old Tennent Cemetery Association appeared before state Superior Court Judge Lisa P. Thornton, sitting in Freehold.

The attorneys were in court to present oral arguments regarding legal issues involved with the cemetery association’s proposal to construct a 1,300-square-foot addition on an office building on the Old Tennent Cemetery grounds and install two retorts (furnaces) that could conduct hundreds of cremations per year.

Today, two years have passed and municipal officials, the cemetery association, members of the public and inquiring local journalists are still waiting for Thornton to decide the matter at hand.

The case is important to the parties litigating the matter and to Manalapan residents who spoke out about the proposal.

What has the judge been doing all this time?

I called Thornton’s chambers to ask why the judge has never issued a ruling in the case. I had no illusions she would take my call and offer an explanation through me to the public. A law clerk offered the following comment: “We are not permitted to speak about anything that is in the court system.”

Given that Thornton was not interested in taking my call, I reached out to the New Jersey Courts. I explained the situation to Mary Ann Spoto, the communications manager for the division. Her response was, “It is our policy not to comment on pending cases, including the timeframe in which opinions will be issued.”

I remain interested in the crematorium case and I know residents do, too. I have sincere questions: Can a judge hear a case and decide not to rule on the matter? Is there a time limit for a judge to issue a ruling after hearing arguments? Does a judge owe the parties involved in a case and the public who pays her salary an explanation when she decides to do nothing?

Is there a responsible individual in the New Jersey judiciary who can explain what the deal is here? This case was argued more than 730 days ago and the lack of a ruling from the judge is baffling.

Mark Rosman is the managing editor of the News Transcript. He may be reached at [email protected]