Superior Court Judge Mary Jacobson ruled Monday from the bench in her Trenton courtroom after a more than five-hour proceeding.
Her ruling clears the way for the task force that the governor appointed in January to investigate the state’s expiring business tax incentive program to release its report.
Timing of the release is unclear, but task force chairman Ron Chen said it could come later Monday.
It’s also not certain whether Norcross and the other firms that sued the Democratic governor along with him would appeal the decision.
Jacobson found that the public should find out what the task force has discovered. Its June 11 hearing was delayed because of the lawsuit.
“The public interest is that this task force be allowed to go forth before there’s a vote in the Legislature,” she said. “I think the public has the right to know what the task force has found.”
Norcross and the firms also failed to convince her that they could prevail on the merits of their case — namely that the task force was invalid and should be disbanded. She said that was one of the tests the law required her to consider when considering whether to block the task force from issuing its report.
“I can’t grant a temporary injunction when I have concern that plaintiffs can prevail,” she said.
She also rejected Norcross’ attorneys’ claims that the task force was commissioned as an “accusatory” body and instead found it was there as a fact-finding panel.
Norcross and the firms argued that a May 2 hearing that raised questions about how Norcross and the firms got tax credits resulted in negative media articles and hurt their reputations.
“I understand there’s been lot of negative publicity,” she said. “The task force is not the media.”
Norcross is executive chairman of Conner Strong & Buckelew and chairman of the board of Cooper University Health system, both of which are party to the suit. Also suing the governor are The Michaels Organization, NFI and Parker McCay. The firms were mentioned by name during a May 2 task force hearing.
A state comptroller report from earlier this year criticized the state’s tax credit programs run by the Economic Development Authority for its failure to determine whether all firms granted awards met required benchmarks.
The programs have seen nearly $8 billion in credits awarded, though with just about $700 million paid out.
The comptroller’s report led Murphy to create a task force to investigate.
Murphy has put forward legislation capping awards to businesses, among other changes.
Lawmakers haven’t taken up those wholesale changes and say they instead want to improve the current system. They backed legislation that would extend the program by six months.