Will the trial be heard by a judge or a jury?
The case will be heard by a judge. Judge Shuster retired effective March 1, 2008, and Superior Court Judge Maria Sypek was appointed as his successor. On September 24, 2008, the Assignment Judge in Mercer County, Judge Linda R. Feinberg, informed the parties that Judge John Fratto would preside over the trial. The trial is scheduled to begin on January 20, 2009.
In 2006, Princeton moved to strike the plaintiffs’ late-in-the-day demand for a jury trial. New Jersey law provides that the types of claims raised by the Robertson plaintiffs—“equitable” claims and relief that concern issues of “fairness” as opposed to statutory or common law—do not entitle them to a jury trial. Moreover, plaintiffs did not file their demand for a jury trial when they initiated the litigation in July 2002, but waited until 2004 to request a jury trial, when they filed an amended complaint and asked that a subset of their claims against Princeton be tried before a jury.
Judge Shuster granted Princeton’s motion, stating “New Jersey’s judicial system gives primacy to equitable claims.” He then observed that plaintiffs’ legal claims arise out of the Foundation’s Certificate of Incorporation, which “leads to the inescapable conclusion that the legal claims are inextricably intertwined with [p]laintiffs’ equitable claims.” Consequently, the court granted defendants’ motion, deciding to retain jurisdiction over this entire matter and not to empanel a jury.