LANCE, J.C.C. John F. Gladstone and Douglas E. Gladstone, herein called the petitioners, are now confined in the New Jersey State Prison at Trenton in Mercer County. They have filed separate applications alleging among other things that their sentences imposed by the Morris County Court were illegal, and requesting the court to correct them. Counsel was subsequently assigned to represent them as indigents. Both cases have been argued together as common questions of law appear.
John F. Gladstone has designated his moving papers as an application for a writ of habeas corpus. This petitioner sought a writ of habeas corpus out of the Morris County Court some months ago. His application was dismissed on the ground that the Morris County Court had no jurisdiction to grant a writ of habeas corpus where the prisoner is confined in Mercer County. In re Gladstone, 9 N.J. Super. 508; 75 A.2d 641 (Cty. Ct. 1950).
A mere reading of labels would compel this court to dismiss the present application for want of jurisdiction. However, one of the matters raised by the petitioner involves the imposition of a sentence alleged to be illegal.
It is not unusual for those incarcerated in penal institutions to file applications which combine in a single petition at least the following three types of matters: complaints as to trial errors, matters determinable by habeas corpus, and requests for the correction of illegal sentence. Our courts have developed different procedures for the granting of relief in these situations. The differences are, however, more than procedural. For example, the passage of time will bar relief for trial errors; not so in habeas corpus proceedings and applications to correct illegal sentences.
Different remedies must frequently be sought in different forums. The Morris County Court cannot act in habeas corpus proceedings where the prisoner was originally sentenced from Morris County but now detained in Mercer County. Nor can the Mercer County Court correct an illegal sentence of the Morris County Court even though the prisoner is now confined in Mercer County.
As confusing as these differences must seem at times to the prisoner, sound reasons exist for the distinctions. However, it is incumbent upon a court in this class of case (where the prisoner himself frequently prepares his application without benefit of counsel) to grant relief if the court has jurisdiction and the allegations of the moving papers are properly supported by proof, even though the application may bear an improper designation.
John F. Gladstone was born in 1925. He was committed to the New Jersey Reformatory at Annandale on April 23, 1942, after the entry of a plea of guilty to a charge for carnal abuse. Subsequent to his parole from this institution, he
was charged with carrying concealed weapons and was committed for a second time by the Morris County Court to the New Jersey Reformatory at Annandale on December 20, 1946, after entry of a guilty plea. It is to be noted that the prisoner was sent to Annandale by a direct commitment, rather than being returned to this institution for a violation of parole. On February 21, 1947, he was transferred from Annandale to the reformatory at Rahway, and on October 28, 1948, he was transferred to the New Jersey State Prison at Trenton, where he is now detained.
Petitioner argues that no person can be twice committed to the reformatory at Annandale, and that since his second sentence there was illegal, the transfers to Rahway and the State Prison by the Commissioner of Institutions and ...