Insurance, Attorneys’ Fees in a Common Law Right of Access to Public Documents Case, and Expungement Under the Cannabis Act Will be Before the Supreme Court

The Supreme Court announced that it has granted review in three new cases. Two of them, both civil matters, were grants of certification. The third appeal, a criminal case, is before the Court on leave to appeal.

The leave to appeal case actually arose out of four matters that were calendared back to back in the Appellate Division. Two of the cases, State v. Gomes and State v. Sheira, are before the Supreme Court. The question presented in those matters, as phrased by the Supreme Court Clerk’s office, is “Is a defendant with a prior conditional discharge for a disorderly persons offense of marijuana possession eligible for the Pretrial Intervention program if the prior offense was expunged under the Cannabis Regulatory, Enforcement, Assistance and Marketplace Modernization Act?” Ruling in cases from multiple counties, a three-judge panel of the Appellate Division, in an opinion approved for publication but not yet officially, held that defendants in this circumstance are not eligible for pretrial intervention. The Law Division decisions in the various cases had split, so the Appellate Division affirmed one of those rulings and reversed three others.

In Statewide Insurance Fund v. Star Insurance Company, the question presented is “Was plaintiff entitled to summary judgment on the ground that, as a joint insurance fund, it was not an ‘insurer’ under N.J.S.A. 40A:10-48 with respect to the ‘other-insurance’ clause in defendant’s contract with the City of Long Branch?” An unpublished per curiam opinion of a three-judge Appellate Division panel held that the Fund was not an insurer for purposes of this case.

Finally, Gannett Satellite Information Network, LLC v. Township of Neptune presents this question: “In this lawsuit seeking police department internal affairs records, was plaintiff entitled to attorneys’ fees and does the catalyst theory apply to a common law right of access claim?” An opinion of the Appellate Division that is reported at 467 N.J. Super. 385 (App. Div. 2021), ruled that plaintiff was not entitled to attorneys’ fees and that the catalyst doctrine did not apply in the circumstances of this case.