The Lodzinski Murder Case and Three Other Appeals Reach the Supreme Court

The Supreme Court announced that it has granted review in four more cases. One of those matters, State v. Lodzinski, a murder case, has received substantial publicity during its lengthy life. In that case, the question presented, as phrased by the Supreme Court Clerk’s office, is “Was it reversable error to remove and replace a juror who conducted outside research and was there sufficient evidence in the record to support defendant’s murder conviction?” A three-judge Appellate Division panel, in an unpublished opinion, rejected defendant’s arguments and affirmed her conviction.

Winberry Realty Partnership v. Rutherford, a Civil Rights Act case, was already pending before the Court on a petition for certification by plaintiffs, as discussed here. [Disclosure: I represent the plaintiffs in the appeal]. The Court has now granted a defense cross-petition for certification. The question presented is “Under the circumstances presented, is the Borough’s tax collector entitled to qualified immunity?” In an unpublished opinion, a three-judge panel of the Appellate Division reversed a Law Division ruling that had granted qualified immunity to the Tax Collector.

State v. Torres presents this question: “Among other issues, did the sentencing court appropriately consider the fairness and real time consequences of defendant’s overall aggregate sentence?” A two-judge Appellate Division panel, in an unpublished order, held that the consecutive sentence was not “manifestly excessive or unduly punitive and [did] not constitute an abuse of discretion.”

The final appeal is Johnson & Johnson v. Director, Division of Taxation. The question presented there is “Following the 2011 amendment of N.J.S.A. 17:22-6.64, was plaintiff required to pay an insurance premium tax based upon all the risks it insured throughout the United States or based upon only those risks localized in New Jersey?” This is the only one of this group of cases that involves a published Appellate Division opinion, which was reported at 461 N.J. Super. 148 (App. Div. 2019). The Tax Court had found that it was proper to base the insurance premium tax on the total United States premium. The Appellate Division reversed and held that the proper measure was only the risks insured in New Jersey.