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John C. Gillespie

Of Counsel, Chair, Municipal & Government

Overview

As chair of the firm's municipal and government department, John concentrates his practice in the areas of municipal law, governmental defense litigation, land use and redevelopment. He has represented public entities, as well as land use applicants, his entire career. He regularly represents national clients in processing development applications before land use boards. He also represents dozens of public entities in defending class action lawsuits, police liability claims, constitutional law challenges, and various other actions against public entities.

John has specialized in local government law for 35 years, with experience in tort claims, municipal litigation and appeals, affordable housing, employment law, municipal tax appeals, redevelopment law, eminent domain, transfer of development rights, real estate, the Open Public Records Act, the Open Public Meetings Act, land use, and entitlements, Green Acres and County Open Space programs, NJDEP regulatory law, and virtually all sections of Titles 40 and 40A of the New Jersey Statutes.

John has lectured to Joint Insurance Fund organizations, police associations, and on behalf of the New Jersey State League of Municipalities, the New Jersey Association of Counties, and the New Jersey Institute for Continuing Legal Education on such topics as federal constitutional law issues, suits brought under 42 U.S.C. Section 1983, the New Jersey Tort Claims Act, Transfer of Development Rights legislation, “Pay to Play” issues, class action lawsuits and the daily operations of local government.

Honors & Awards

  • 2020 International Municipal Lawyers Association Award for longevity of service to a community.
  • 2019  recipient of the Professional Lawyer of the Year Award, Burlington County Bar Association and New Jersey Commission on Professionalism in the Law.
  • 2015 recipient of the Martin L. Haines Award, the Burlington County Bar Association’s highest honor
  • 2011 recipient of the Michael A. Pane Award, given by the New Jersey State League of Municipalities and the New Jersey Institute of Local Government Attorneys (NJILGA)
  • 2010 recipient of the Fred G. Stickel Award issued by the NJILGA for excellence in local government law and the highest commitment to ethics
  • One of the first-ever recipients of the International Municipal Lawyers Association Amicus Service Award. The award recognizes lawyers who have done exemplary work to protect and advance local government interests.  
  • 1990 Recipient of the Robert W. Criscuolo Award, presented annually by the Burlington County Bar Association to a young attorney committed to the legal profession and the community. 

Professional Activities

  • New Jersey State League of Municipalities (Associate Counsel)
  • New Jersey Institute of Local Government Attorneys (President, 2019-2020)
  • International Municipal Lawyers Association (Third Circuit Regional Vice President, 2007-Present; New Jersey State Chair, 1996-2007)
  • Burlington County Bar Association (served two terms as a trustee)
  • New Jersey Planning Officials

Community Activities

  • Virtua Health Foundation Board of Trustees: 2019 - 2021

  • Samaritan Healthcare & Hospice: Board of Trustees, Immediate Past Chairman (2016-2018); Trustee (2009 to 2015)
  • Burlington County Chamber of Commerce: Board of Directors (2014-Present)
  • Church of St. Isaac Jogues, Evesham, NJ: Founding Trustee (1996-2019)
  • Crossroads Runaway Program Inc.: Past President; Board of Directors
  • Whitesbog Preservation Trust: Board of Trustees and President of the Board
  • Pemberton Alumni Scholarship Fund: Founder and President

Experience

Experience

  • Serves as Municipal Attorney in two municipalities in Burlington County, and has previously served as Township Attorney to four other municipalities in Burlington County.
  • Successfully argued cases before the New Jersey Supreme Court, Appellate Division, and Trial Courts; the Third Circuit United States Court of Appeals, and Federal District Courts of New Jersey.
  • Successfully argued for the dismissal of a wrongful death/excessive force claim against a local municipality and five (5) police officers in Federal Court, which was upheld by the Third Circuit United States Court of Appeals.
  • Represented a potential class of ninety-nine (99) municipalities in the State of New Jersey in successfully convincing the Federal District Court to dismiss a Civil Rights lawsuit arising from municipal ordinances regulating public intoxication, which decision was affirmed in a published decision by the Third Circuit United States Courts of Appeals, McMullen v. Maple Shade Twp., 643 F.3d 96, 98 (3d Cir. 2011).
  • Secured land use approvals, tax advantages, and other entitlements for national clients building millions of square feet of warehouse, commercial, and office space in New Jersey.
  • Handled over one thousand (1,000) tax appeals at both the county tax board and tax court levels, in a wide range of areas, including but not limited to residential properties, shopping centers, industrial furnace facilities, golf courses, banks, warehouses and numerous other commercial, office and industrial properties. 

Case Studies

News

News & Speaking Engagements

Publications

"The Professional and Ethical Obligations of Municipal Attorneys," July-August 2019 Municipal Lawyer

“Local Government Attorney Continues Consideration of Ethics," May 2019 New Jersey Municipalities Magazine 

"Time to Get Our Act Together: The Need for Civility in Local Government Dialogue," April 2019 New Jersey League of Municipalities Magazine

Opinions and Decisions

Opinions and Decisions

A. Federal Court Decisions:

    Third Circuit United States Court of Appeals:

  1. El Mujaddid v. Andrew Brewer, et al, 808 App'x 73 (3d Cir. 2020)
  2. Township of Bordentown, New Jersey, Township of Chesterfield, et al v. Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, 903 3d 234 (3d Cir. 2018; Precedential)
  3. Patterson v. Strippoli/Borough of Lindenwold, 639 App’x. 137 (3d Cir. 2016)
  4. Gunter v. Lumberton Township, et al, 2013 U.S. APP. LEXIS 15735 (3d Cir.); Civil Action No. 07-cv-4839-NLH/KMW
  5. McMullen v. Maple Shade Twp., 643 3d 96, 98 (3d Cir. 2011; Precedential)

   Second Circuit United States Court of Appeals:

  1. In Re: World Trade Center Disaster Site Litigation, 2008 U.S. App. LEXIS 6222 (U.S. Court of Appeals – Second Circuit: Amicus Curiae Brief on behalf of the International Municipal Lawyers Association in support of the positions of the City of New York)

   Federal District Court of New Jersey:

  1. Patterson v. Strippoli/Borough of Lindenwold, 2014 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 153120 Civil Action No. 12-cv-04688-RBK/KMW
  2. O. ex rel. C.O. v. Borden, Civil Action No. 10-cv-2339-NLH/AMD, 2011 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 35443 (D.N.J. March 31, 2011)
  3. McMullen v. Maple Shade Twp., Civil No. 08-2902-RBK/JS, 2009 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 100191 (D.N.J. Oct. 28, 2009)
  4. 832 Corp., Inc., et al v. Gloucester Twp., 404 Supp. 2d 614 (U.S. D.N.J., 2006)
  5. Sinclair v. Maple Shade Twp., 950 Supp. 208 (D.C.N.J. 1995)

B. State Court Decisions:

    New Jersey Supreme Court:

  1. Winberry Realty Partners v. Borough of Rutherford, et al, 247 N.J. 165 (2021)
  2. Kean Federation of Teachers, James Castiglione and Valera Hascup v. Ada Morell, Board of Trustees of Kean University and Kean University, a body corporate and politic, 233 J. 566 (2018) (Amicus Brief on behalf of New Jersey State League of Municipalities and New Jersey Institute of Local Government Attorneys)
  3. In The Matter of The New Jersey State Firemen’s Association Obligation to Provide Relief Application Under The Open Public Records Act (Jeff Carter), 230 N.J. 258 (2017)
  4. City of Atlantic City v. Zacharias Trupos, et al, 201 J. 447 (Amicus Brief on behalf of New Jersey Institute of Local Government Attorneys)
  5. Madden v. Delran Township, 126 J. 591 (1992)

    Appellate Division:

  1. Branin v. Collingswood Borough Custodian, 2015 WL 11348182 (App. Div. 2016)
  2. In The Matter of The New Jersey State Firemen’s Association Obligation to Provide Relief Application Under The Open Public Records Act (Jeff Carter), 443 J. Super. 238 (App. Div. 2015)
  3. John Paff v. New Jersey State Firemen’s Association, 431 J. Super. 278 (App. Div. 2013)
  4. Berardi v. Pemberton Township, 2013 N.J. Super. Unpub. LEXIS 1869 (App. Div. 2013)
  5. Cinnaminson Township v. Bertino & Fantasy Gifts, et al, 405 J. Super. 521 (App. Div. 2008)
  6. Newberry v. Township of Pemberton, 319 J. Super. 671 (App. Div. 1999)
  7. D. v. Bozarth, 313 N.J. Super. 561, 568 (App. Div. 1998), cert. denied 156 N.J. 425 (1998)
  8. Estate of Richard I. Wood, III Township of Florence, et al., 302 N.J. Super. 371 (App. Div. 1997)
  9. Brinkley v. Western World, et al., 292 J. Super. 134 (App. Div. 1996) (brief submitted on behalf of New Jersey State League of Municipalities as amicus curiae)
  10. Keuerleber v. Township of Pemberton, 260 J. Super. 544 (App. Div. 1992)

    Trial Court:

  1. Obchinetz v. Township of Maple Shade, et al, 2015 N.J. Super. Unpub. LEXIS 1524
  2. Fay v. Township of Medford, et al, 423 J. Super. 81 (Law Div. 2011)
  3. Centex Homes, LLC v. Township Committee of the Township of Mansfield, 372 J. Super. 186 (Law Div. 2004)
  4. State v. Owczarski, 236 J. Super. 52 (Law Div. 1989)
  5. Cinnaminson Motel Owner’s Association v. Township of Cinnaminson, 231 J. Super. 163 (Law Div. 1987)
Photo of John C. Gillespie

Education

  • Villanova University School of Law (J.D., 1980)
  • Trinity College, Connecticut (B.A., 1977)

Admissions

  • New Jersey
  • U.S. Supreme Court
  • U.S. Court of Appeals, Third Circuit
  • U.S. District Court, District of New Jersey
  • U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York
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