A Criminal Appeal as of Right and a “Void as Against Public Policy” Contract Issue for the Supreme Court

The Supreme Court announced that it has taken up two more cases. One of those is a criminal appeal, State v. Clark, which is before the Court as of right due to a dissent in the Appellate Division. The question presented, as phrased by the Supreme Court Clerk’s office, is ” Did the cumulative effect of errors deprive defendant of a fair trial?” After defendant was convicted of murder and unlawful possession of a weapon, he appealed to the Appellate Division. In an unpublished per curiam opinion, that court ruled, by a 2-1 vote, that cumulative trial errors had rendered the trial unfair. The dissenter disagreed, enabling defendant to go to the Supreme Court as of right.

The other new case is Horizon Blue Cross and Blue Shield of New Jersey v. Speech & Language Center, LLC. That case presents this question: “Is the clause in the settlement agreement, which provides that settlement payments are non-dischargeable in bankruptcy, void as against public policy in New Jersey?” A two-judge panel of the Appellate Division, in an unpublished opinion, declined to reach that issue. The panel stated that to do so would be to render an improper advisory opinion, since the provision at issue would have no significance unless and until a bankruptcy petition were filed.