Four New Grants of Certification by the Supreme Court

The Supreme Court announced that it has granted certification in four new cases. Three of those matters are criminal appeals, one of which involves a published Appellate Division opinion. The other appeal is a civil case where (like the other three criminal matters) the Appellate Division’s decision was unpublished.

The appeal from the published Appellate Division is State v. Canfield. The question presented there, as phrased by the Supreme Court Clerk’s office, is “Should the trial court have instructed the jury sua sponte on the lesser- included offense of passion/provocation manslaughter, and in a murder trial in which the trial court decides to instruct the jury on self-defense, should the court consider and make specific findings on the record regarding whether to instruct the jury on the lesser-included offense of passion/provocation manslaughter regardless of whether that instruction was requested by either party?” In a 137-page opinion that was reported at 470 N.J. Super. 234 (App. Div. 2022), the Appellate Division rejected all but one of defendant’s contentions (the exception was a limited remand for an Evidence Rule 104 hearing on a hearsay issue) and affirmed defendant’s convictions.

The civil appeal is Liberty Ins. Corp. v. Techdan, LLC, which presents this question: “In this insurance fraud litigation, does the Comparative Negligence Act apply and should the jury instructions have included the ultimate outcome charge?” The unpublished per curiam opinion of a three-judge Appellate Division panel held that the trial judge erred in failing to apply the Comparative Negligence Act and in failing to give an ultimate outcome charge. As a result, the panel vacated a large judgment for plaintiffs and remanded for a new trial.

In State v. Coviello, the question presented is: “Where a portion of a defendant’s sentence for driving while intoxicated requires the installation of an ignition interlock device, should a request for credit toward that portion of a sentence be heard by a court or the Motor Vehicle Commission?” A two-judge Appellate Division panel, in its unpublished per curiam opinion, affirmed the Law Division’s ruling that the Motor Vehicle Commission was the proper place for resolution of defendant’s request for credit.

Finally, the question for the Supreme Court in State v. Allen is: “Did the investigating detective’s trial testimony narrating a surveillance video deprive defendant of a fair trial?” The two-judge Appellate Division panel in this case affirmed the opinion of the Law Division that rejected this and other contentions of defendant and affirmed his convictions for first-degree attempted murder and two weapons charges.