New Jersey Revised Statutes § 20:3-12 - Appointment Of Commissioners And Hearings

20:3-12. Appointment of commissioners and hearings
(a) Waiver of appointment of commissioners. By stipulation filed in the cause, the condemnor and all condemnees may waive the appointment of commissioners and in such event, the action shall proceed to trial before the court.

(b) Appointment and qualification of commissioners. Upon determination that the condemnor is authorized to and has duly exercised its power of eminent domain, the court shall appoint 3 commissioners to determine the compensation to be paid by reason of the exercise of such power. Such commissioners shall be residents of the county in which any part of the property being condemned is located or, in the case of the commissioner who must be an attorney, be actively engaged in the practice of law in the county. One of such commissioners shall be an attorney, admitted to practice in this State for at least 10 years, who shall preside at all hearings and rule on all questions of evidence and procedure, subject to a review by a majority of the commissioners. The commissioners shall take and subscribe an oath faithfully and impartially to perform their duties, and to make a true award to the best of their skills and understanding, which oath shall be filed with their award. Should a commissioner die, become disqualified, unable, neglect or refuse to act, the remaining 2 commissioners shall perform the duties of office with the same authority as if all commissioners were acting. The court may fill any vacancy in office, and for cause, may vacate any appointment and appoint a successor in office.

(c) Hearings--subpoena. Upon notice of at least 10 days, the commissioners shall hold hearings at which the parties and their witnesses may be heard, under oath, administered by any commissioner. The conduct of the hearings shall be governed by the rules of evidence except that testimony as to comparable sales shall be considered an exception to the hearsay rule. The compulsory attendance of witnesses and production of records thereat may be compelled by the commissioners. At the request of any party, and at his expense, a stenographic record of the hearing shall be maintained. A majority of commissioners shall be in attendance at all hearings.

(d) Limited discovery. At least 15 days prior to the hearing the parties shall exchange a list of comparable sales intended to be introduced by them setting forth as to each comparable sale the following information: name of seller and purchaser; location of property by block, lot and municipality; date of sale; the consideration; and book and page of recording. No party shall be permitted to offer testimony of any comparable sale not set forth in said list unless consented to by all other parties. There shall be no discovery on the issue of the authority to condemn except by leave of court.

(e) Proof. At the hearing, the condemnor shall proceed first to offer proof of the nature and extent of the taking, and its opinion of the compensation payable by reason thereof.

(f) Inspection of property. Commissioners may inspect the property being condemned, and shall so inspect when requested by any party, and in addition, when requested by any party, the commissioners shall inspect two of the comparable sales testified to by said party. Such inspection may be in the absence of the parties, unless attendance at inspection is requested by the parties, or any of them. This right of inspection shall exist notwithstanding that the structures on the property may have been demolished and the site altered.

(g) Award of commissioners. Within 4 months next following their appointment, or within any extended period in accordance with the rules, the commissioners, or a majority of them, shall make and file in form and content fixed by the rules, an award fixing and determining the compensation to be paid by the condemnor. The requirements respecting the time of filing of such award shall be directory and not mandatory, and a failure to make and file the same within the time specified, shall not invalidate the award or oust the commissioners of jurisdiction to complete their duties. Upon its own motion, or on application of any party, made within 60 days after the filing of the award, the court may authorize the commissioners to amend, supplement, modify, or correct their award.

(h) Judgment. Any award as to which no appeal is taken in accordance with the rules, shall become final as of course, and shall constitute a final judgment. If not paid within 60 days after final judgment, execution may issue as in other actions at law.

(i) Commissioners' fees and expenses. The court, upon application of any party, including the commissioners, shall fix reasonable fees, costs and expenses of the commissioners, clerks and other persons performing any of their duties, all of which shall be paid by the condemnor.

L.1971, c. 361, s. 12.

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Last modified: October 11, 2016