1/31/12. The NJ State bar has approved amicus participation in State v Cahill. In Cahill the App Div affirmed a speedy trial dismissal of a DWI after a 16 month period between downgrade and listing. The State requested cert essentially for two reasons, (1) that the def never asserted his right to a speedy trial and showed no actual prejudice and (2) that dismissal goes against, in the State’s words, the Court’s long held “philosophy” to eradicate DWI from our roads. The Bar is particularly concerned with the implications to judicial impartiality from the later States’ point. While we agree that there is a public policy, of course, against DWI, we do not agree that this is part of a Court held “philosophy” that can mitigate a defendant’s constitutional right to a speedy trial. Further, there are issues with whether the NJ Constitution requires a defendant to bring himself to trial, whether actual prejudice is necessary in the context of a traffic case, whether AOC dir 1-84 (60 days) can only be used against a defendant but not for a defendant and whether the facts in this case will be much rarer since AOC 4-11 which now requires all traffic to stay with the indictable.
Immediate Past Chair, NJSBA Mun Ct Practice Section
1/20/12. There have been several cases recently where Municipal Court judges have been at issue for crossing the line between judge and prosecutor, but the case of a Linden Twp. Judge was no mere weaving over the yellow line. He jumped the line and landed in a ditch on the other side. In a matter last year, the Linden Twp Judge denied a continuance to get a lawyer, allowed the arresting officer to act on behalf of the State, dotted the State’s case with his own questions, then convicted and sent two defendants to jail. The case was later reversed by the Law Division who called said the judge called to mind the days of back woods frontier hanging judges who despensed “justice” in dictatorial style. Judical ethics charges were later instituted. (The judge has cited in his defense, calendar concerns for why he moved a case without his prosecutor.) There were 5 or 6 news articles on the case, but still Linden Twp political support remained firm in its support of its judge…until Tuesday when the town finally removed the judge in favor of another political appointee. The judicial ethics proceedings are pending.
1/23/12. The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in US v Jones today that a warrantless installation and use of a GPS device to track a suspect’s vehicle the Fourth Amendment.
“It is important to be clear about what occurred in this case: The government physically occupied private property for the purpose of obtaining information,” … “We have no doubt that such a physical intrusion would have been considered a ‘search’ within the meaning of the Fourth Amendment when it was adopted.”
The Fourth Amendment “persons, houses, papers and effects.” meant that the vehicle in this case was an “effect.”
“Whatever new methods of investigation may be devised, our task, at a minimum, is to decide whether the action in question would have constituted a ‘search’ within the original meaning of the Fourth Amendment,”
“Where, as here, the government obtains information by physically intruding on a constitutionally protected area, such a search has undoubtedly occurred. Trespass alone does not qualify, but there must be conjoined with that what was present here: an attempt to find something or to obtain information.”