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In re Commitment of Minehan

Decided: July 10, 1974.

IN THE MATTER OF THE COMMITMENT OF WILLIAM MINEHAN


Davidson, J.s.c., Temporarily Assigned.

Davidson

[130 NJSuper Page 299] An application for transcript costs was heard and granted orally on July 10, 1974, at which time the New Jersey Department of Institutions and Agencies was ordered to pay the cost of the transcript. A stay of the order was granted to permit the State to file an appeal. This was done. Counsel for the applicant presses for a written opinion to supplement this oral determination. The court obliges.

Movant was committed to Marlboro Psychiatric Hospital under N.J.S.A. 30:4-44. At the time it was determined he was indigent and his legal settlement was New Jersey.

Thereafter he sought his release and a hearing was held pursuant to N.J.S.A. 30:4-48. This hearing resulted in a denial of his release and an affirmation of his indigency. He has filed a notice of appeal of this denial and seeks an order for the transcript thereof at public expense.

Under R. 2:5-3 and R. 2:6-12 a person seeking appellate review must file a transcript to perfect his appeal. Movant was adjudged indigent at the time of his commitment and continues in that condition. He is therefore unable to pay the costs of the necessary transcript and relies on R. 2:5-3(d) in claiming that he is entitled to have the transcript prepared at public expense.

Two issues are before the court: whether R. 2:5-3(d) extends to the preparation of a transcript of proceedings relating to the involuntary civil commitment of an indigent at public expense and, if so, what meaning should be given to the term "public expense" in the circumstances of this case.

I

The State contends that in the absence of a constitutional mandate or a statutory grant of power, indigent civil litigants are not entitled to a transcript at public expense. The court finds that a constitutional mandate does exist in the instant case, and that the transcript must be supplied at public expense.

The Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution guarantees that no State shall deprive any person of life, liberty or property without due process of law, or deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws. Our courts have already recognized the application of these concepts to the area of civil commitment. In re Carter, 64 N.J. 382 (1974).

The United States Supreme Court, in In re Gault, 387 U.S. 1, 87 S. Ct. 1428, 18 L. Ed. 2d 527 (1967), held that

the basic rights which apply to proceedings should not be determined by the label assigned to them. The court affirmed the principle that what is at stake for the individual is what is determinative of the constitutional safeguards to be applied.

Involuntary civil commitment proceedings, although traditionally civil in nature, may similarly deprive persons of their freedom. Commitment in this case was to a state ...


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