The Supreme Court Begins the New Term by Granting Review in Five Cases

The Supreme Court announced the first grants of review in the new Term. The Court took up five cases. Two of those are before the Court on leave to appeal, while the other three had petitions for certification granted. There are three civil appeals and two criminal matters among this crop of grants of review.

One of the leave to appeal cases, Facebook, Inc. v. State of New Jersey, is a grant of leave to cross-appeal, which the State sought. The Court had previously granted Facebook’s motion for leave to appeal, as discussed here. The question presented on the cross-appeal, as phrased by the Supreme Court Clerk’s office, is “Can the State obtain prospective electronic communications from a Facebook account via a communications data warrant (CDW), or is a wiretap order required, and if a CDW is sufficient, must it be limited to a ten-day time period?” That question is identical to the question presented on Facebook’s appeal, except for the final clause, which was not present in the question presented on the Facebook appeal.

The other leave to appeal case is State v. Smart, where the question presented is “Under the circumstances presented, was the warrantless search of the vehicle “based on probable cause arising from unforeseeable and spontaneous circumstances” under State v. Witt, 223 N.J. 409, 450 (2015)?” The Law Division rejected the State’s argument to uphold the search and, on the State’s motion for leave to appeal, the Appellate Division agreed that the search was improper, but for different reasons than those given by the Law Division. The Appellate Division’s opinion was approved for publication but does not yet have an official reporter citation. The State sought leave to appeal to the Supreme Court, which the Court granted.

Certification was granted in State v. Williams and State v. Kelly on this question: “Among other issues, did the officers have reasonable and articulable suspicion to stop the vehicle based on the owner’s license being suspended, did the officers improperly prolong the stop after discovering that the owner of the vehicle was not the driver, and was it prejudicial error for the body camera footage of Williams objecting to the search to be played for the jury?” In an unpublished per curiam opinion by a three-judge panel, the Appellate Division addressed both appeals. The court affirmed the convictions of both defendants and the sentence imposed on Williams, but (while not persuaded that the Law Division erred in its sentencing of Kelly) remanded the issue of Kelly’s sentence in light of State v. Pierce, 188 N.J. 155 (2006).

In In re Alleged Failure of Altice USA, Inc. to Comply With Certain Provisions of the New Jersey Cable Television Act, N.J.S.A. 48:5A-1 et seq., and the New Jersey Administrative Code, N.J.A.C. 14:18-1.1 et seq., the question presented is “Does the administrative code require Altice to offer its customers prorated billing when they terminate service prior to the end of the billing month, or is N.J.A.C. 14:18-3.8 preempted by the Federal Cable Communications Policy Act of 1984, 47 U.S.C. §§ 521 to -573?” Reversing the Board of Public Utilities, a two-judge Appellate Division panel, in an unpublished per curiam opinion, held that the federal statute had pre-emptive effect.

Finally, here is the question presented in Conforti v. County of Ocean, which has the distinction of docket number A-1-22: “Were the Ocean County defendants entitled to immunity under the Tort Claims Act, N.J.S.A. 59:6-4 to -6?” The case arose from Kenneth Conforti’s suicide while he was confined in the Ocean County Jail. His widow sued and won a jury award of $1,550,000 against Ocean County, its Freeholder Board, the County Department of Corrections, the Warden of the jail, and an officer. Defendants the verdict, and plaintiff cross-appealed the pretrial dismissal of her claim under the New Jersey Civil Rights Act, N.J.S.A. 10:6-1 to -2. In an unpublished per curiam opinion, a three-judge Appellate Division panel affirmed on both the appeal and the cross-appeal.