The Supreme Court Will Review a Big Constitutional Law Case, Three Criminal Appeals, and an Insurance Coverage Case

This morning, the Supreme Court announced that it will review five more cases.  Three of those are criminal cases, one is an insurance coverage case, and one is a constitutional law matter that is likely to be one of the blockbusters of the current Supreme Court term.

The constitutional case is American Civil Liberties Union of New Jersey v. Hendricks, 445 N.J. Super. 452 (App. Div. 2016), which was discussed here.  The Appellate Division relied on Resnick v. East Brunswick Bd. of Educ., 77 N.J. 88 (1978), to void grants made by the Department of Higher Education to a yeshiva and a Christian seminary.  The continued strength, or even viability, of Resnick will be a centerpiece of this appeal.  The question presented, as phrased by the Supreme Court Clerk’s Office, is “Did the award of public grants to these two sectarian institutions of higher education violated the Free Exercise Clause of the New Jersey Constitution?”

Continental Ins. Co. v. Honeywell Int’l, Inc. is the insurance coverage case.  According to the Appellate Division’s per curiam opinion, this matter has been litigated for over thirteen years.  The question presented, in the Clerk’s Office’s phrasing, is “In this action regarding the allocation of insurance coverage for personal injury asbestos claims, does New Jersey law apply and must defendant assume its own risk for the period after 1987 when coverage for such claims was no longer available?”

One of the three new criminal appeals, State v. Terrell, is before the Court by virtue of Judge Higbee’s dissent in the Appellate Division.  The majority of that court affirmed defendant’s convictions on four murder charges in a lengthy per curiam opinion.  Judge Higbee would have reversed and granted a new trial based on several errors that she identified, relating primarily to expert witness evidence.  The question presented there is “Did numerous alleged errors, including purported errors concerning the exclusion of testimony by a defense expert regarding the scientific research on voice identification, deprive defendant of a fair trial?”

State v. Mosley brings up a conviction for violation of probation.  The question presented in that case is “Did the trial court err in accepting hearsay testimony as proof that defendant committed a new offense in violation of probation?”  In a per curiam opinion, the Appellate Division affirmed the conviction, rejecting defendant’s hearsay and other arguments.

In the final case, State v. Terry, the Appellate Division reversed a Law Division decision that had denied a motion to suppress evidence that was obtained during an illegal search of defendant’s motor vehicle.  The question presented there is “Under the circumstances presented, did the officer’s search of the vehicle for credentials exceed the bounds of a permissible motor vehicle search?”