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State in Interest of J.M.

Decided: August 8, 1968.

THE STATE OF NEW JERSEY IN THE INTEREST OF J.M.


Kentz, J.J. & D.r.c.

Kentz

This is a proceeding in the nature of post-conviction relief. The sole question now before the court is whether the determination of the United States Supreme Court in In Re Gault, 387 U.S. 1, 87 S. Ct. 1428, 18 L. Ed. 2 d 527 (1967), applies both prospectively and retroactively. There is no reported decision in New Jersey on this subject.

The pertinent facts which give rise to this proceeding are as follows. The juvenile was apprehended on the morning of October 27, 1966 by the manager of a supermarket for allegedly shoplifting a carton of cigarettes selling at that time for $3.25. The juvenile was then 17 years old. He was placed in the Union County Juvenile Detention Center on the same date and held on the basis of a parole warrant. A hearing was scheduled for November 3, 1966 and notice was sent to the juvenile's mother notifying her of this fact. Included in this notice was the following statement: "You have the right to retain and be represented by counsel."

The hearing was held on the scheduled date. The complaint was read to the juvenile and he admitted the offense charged. He was not represented by counsel nor did he or his mother request the court to assign an attorney to represent him. Under the practice then existing, based on the law applicable at that time, the juvenile was not advised that the court would assign an attorney to represent him if he so desired and could not afford to retain his own attorney.

While the dollar amount involved in the offense was small, the juvenile had a record of court appearances and adjudications dating back several years. He had already been incarcerated

for a period of time in the New Jersey State Home for Boys at Jamesburg and in the New Jersey Reformatory for Males at Annandale. In view of this record, the court was of the opinion that the best interests of the juvenile and society would be served by further incarceration and thus committed him to an indefinite term at the New Jersey Reformatory for Males at Bordentown.

On November 22, 1967 the juvenile filed, pro se, a "Petition for Writ of Habeas Corpus," citing In Re Gault, supra, as the basis for the application. Because of the nature of the relief sought, the matter was treated as being in the nature of post-conviction relief under R.R. 3:10 A, a new proceeding which has supplanted the older remedy of habeas corpus in criminal matters as a means of collaterally attacking a judgment of conviction. R.R. 3:10 A -3. The matter was referred to this court by the assignment judge pursuant to R.R. 3:10 A -7, and an attorney was assigned to represent the petitioner pursuant to R.R. 3:10 A -6(a).

An amended petition for post-conviction relief was filed on May 21, 1968, in which the petitioner alleges a number of grounds for relief cognizable under R.R. 3:10 A -2(a). However, at oral argument the main force of his contentions was directed against the absence of counsel at the hearing on the complaint. Because of this, and because I feel that the discussion of this point will be dispositive of the petition, this opinion will be limited to that issue.

Petitioner does not allege any irregularities under the law applicable at the time of the hearing; rather he asserts that Gault declared that procedure as being contrary to due process and that Gault should be retroactively applied to cover his hearing on November 3, 1966. As stated before, this presents a novel question in New Jersey. The issue has arisen in other jurisdictions and the results have varied. Retroactive application has been denied in Cradle v. Peyton, 208 Va. 243, 156 S.E. 2 d 874 (Sup. Ct. App. 1967), but granted in Application of Billie, 103 Ariz. 16, 436 p. 2 d 130 (Sup. Ct. 1968); Steinhauer v. State, 206 So. 2 d 25 (Fla. D.

Ct. App. 1967); Marsden v. Commonwealth, 227 N.E. 2 d 1. (Mass. Sup. Jud. Ct., 1967); State ex rel. LaFollette v. Circuit Court of Brown County, 37 Wis. 2 d 329, 155 N.W. 2 d 141 (Sup. Ct. 1967). See also Dorzen and Rezneck, " In Re Gault and the Future of Juvenile Law," 1 Family L.Q. 1, 28-31 (1967).

In Gideon v. Wainwright, 372 U.S. 335, 83 S. Ct. 792, 9 L. Ed. 2 d 799 (1963), the Supreme Court held that adult criminal defendants had the right to have the court assign counsel to represent them where they could not afford to retain their own attorney, even in noncapital cases. The unqualified right to counsel prescribed by the Sixth Amendment to the United States Constitution was made applicable to state court proceedings through the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. This ...


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