Fox Rothschild Case, and Two Criminal Appeals, Come to the Supreme Court

The Supreme Court announced that it has granted certification in three cases.  Two of them are criminal matters.  The third involves a claim against the Fox Rothschild law firm on claims pertaining to monies deposited in the law firm’s trust account.

The last of those cases is Meisels v. Fox Rothschild LLP.  The question presented there, as phrased by the Supreme Court Clerk’s office, is “Can plaintiff maintain a cause of action for conversion and breach of fiduciary duty pertaining to $2.4 million deposited in the defendant law firm’s attorney trust account, under the circumstances presented?”  In an unpublished opinion by two judges of the Appellate Division, that court reversed, in part, a summary judgment for the law firm, holding that plaintiff could proceed to trial on his claim for conversion.  The panel also ruled, however, that plaintiff had not established that any fiduciary relationship had been entered into, so that the summary judgment as to breach of plaintiff’s fiduciary claim was affirmed.  Both sides filed petitions for certification, and the Supreme Court granted both petitions.

In State v. Hemenway, the question presented is “Did the trial court err in denying defendant’s motion to suppress physical evidence seized from his apartment as well as statements defendant made to the police officers who arrested him where police officers entered defendant’s residence pursuant to a search warrant issued by the Family Part under the Prevention of Domestic Violence Act?”  The Appellate Division, in an opinion reported at 454 N.J. Super. 303 (App. Div. 2018), affirmed the decision of the Law Division that declined to suppress the evidence.

Finally, State v. Melendez, an appeal of a conviction on multiple drug and weapons offenses, presents this question: “Among other issues, was it error to admit into evidence, defendant’s uncounseled answer in a parallel civil forfeiture case?”  The Appellate Division’s opinion, reported at 454 N.J. Super. 445 (App. Div. 2018), found unfairness in the process by which the State induced defendant to file the answer, but ruled that the error was harmless.  The panel offered guidance for how to deal with the issue going forward.  The overall result was an affirmance of the conviction on all counts except for the charge of second degree unlawful possession of a weapon.  As to that count, the panel reversed and remanded due to plain error in the jury charge.