On July 18, 2018, in Allstars Auto Group, Inc. v. New Jersey Motor Vehicle Commission, the New Jersey Supreme Court reversed the Appellate Division and held that the Motor Vehicle Commission acted improperly in suspending the licenses of eight motor vehicle dealers prior to holding hearings which had been requested by each dealer. Schiller, Pittenger & Galvin, P.C.’s Thomas Russomano argued the case for the dealers.
Following an inspection of the dealers’ facilities, the MVC issued notices of proposed suspensions of ten to twenty days and fines of $1,500 to $2,500. Although the dealers were permitted to request a hearing prior to the actual imposition of the proposed penalties, the MVC specifically required the hearing request to raise all factual and legal disputes. All of the dealers responded without counsel providing explanations for the alleged violations. The MVC denied all of the hearing requests and imposed the proposed penalties.
Thereafter the dealers retained Mr. Russomano who disputed the alleged violations and requested hearings for all of the dealers. The MVC denied the request and the dealers’ subsequent motion for reconsideration.
The dealers then appealed the final agency action to the Appellate Division, which affirmed the MVC’s actions based upon the dealers’ initial failure to establish factual disputes.
The Supreme Court granted certification and reversed. The Court held that the plain language of the governing statute mandated a hearing in all of the cases and found that the MVC’s denial of the hearings violated express or implied legislative policies and was arbitrary, capricious and unreasonable. The Court held that if the reasons given by dealers present a colorable dispute of facts or at least the presence of mitigating evidence, the Commission is required to provide an in-person hearing pursuant to the statute. An in-person hearing must be held prior to a license suspension or revocation when the target of the enforcement action requests it.
Thomas Russomano and his colleagues at Schiller, Pittenger & Galvin, P.C., have extensive experience in representing automobile dealers before the MVC and other regulatory agencies.