Four New Supreme Court Grants of Review: Criminal Law, OPRA, and Self-Critical Analysis Privilege

The Supreme Court announced this morning that it has granted review in four more cases.  Two of them address discovery issues, and two involve criminal matters.

In Brugaletta v. Garcia, the question presented, as phrased by the Supreme Court Clerk’s Office, is “Does the absolute privilege of documents developed as part of a hospital’s self-critical analysis, pursuant to the Patient Safety Act (the Act), N.J.S.A. 26:2H-12.23 to -12.25, apply to the documents at issue in this medical malpractice action?”  The Law Division ordered partial disclosure of material revealing self-critical analysis, but the Appellate Division reversed in an opinion reported at 448 N.J. Super. 404 (App. Div. 2016).  The Supreme Court granted leave to appeal and will consider the matter.

Brennan v. Bergen County Prosecutor’s Office involves a plaintiff who is a frequent litigant, including in a case relating to the Bridgegate scandal.  The question in the appeal that the Supreme Court will review is “Does the Open Public Records Act (OPRA), N.J.S.A. 47:1A-1 to -13, or the common law, compel the disclosure of documents containing the names and addresses of persons who successfully bid at an auction of public property?”  The Law Division required disclosure under OPRA.  The Appellate Division, in a per curiam opinion, reversed that ruling.

The two criminal appeals are State v. Jones and State v. YoungJones appears to have merited review because (perhaps among other reasons) the Court has another pending case involving the same issue, as the question presented indicates.  That question is stated as follows:  “Did the DNA exception to the statute of limitations apply (N.J.S.A. 2C:1-6(c)), such that the five-year limitations period did not bar defendants’ prosecution (see also State v. Gary Twiggs, A-51-16); and, did defendants’ conduct over ten years make the conspiracy a continuing offense, such that the statute of limitations was not a bar to prosecution?”  In an opinion reported at 445 N.J. Super. 555 (App. Div. 2016), the Appellate Division found that this conspiracy was a continuing offense, so that the statute of limitations did not bar the prosecution.

In Young, the question presented is “Did defendant commit the offense of encouraging the release of a confidential child abuse record (N.J.S.A. 9:6-8.10b), where he received the confidential records in an anonymous letter?”  The Appellate Division ruled that the evidence was insufficient to support a conviction for violating that statute.  448 N.J. Super. 206 (App. Div. 2017).