Halpern, Crane and Michels. The opinion of the court was delivered by Michels, J.A.D.
Plaintiffs appeal by leave of this court from an interlocutory order of the Law Division denying their motion for discovery of the minutes of the testimony heard by the Morris County Grand Jury pertinent to that body's presentment on Greystone Park Psychiatric Hospital (Greystone).
The Division of Mental Health Advocacy of the Department of the Public Advocate, representing several unnamed plaintiffs who are patients or who were patients at Greystone, instituted this class action on behalf of said plaintiffs and all indigent patients presently confined at Greystone over the age of 18 years and all such patients who shall become
so confined during the pendency of this action, to enjoin defendants from administering treatment and maintaining conditions in a manner allegedly in violation of the constitutional and statutory rights of said plaintiffs. The principal thrust of the charge is that defendants have deprived plaintiffs of a tolerable living environment, protection from physical harm and their right to basic standards of decency. Defendants are also charged with failing to accord plaintiffs proper treatment, as required by the Federal and State Constitutions and state statutes.
On November 14, 1974, prior to the filing of the complaint in this action, the Morris County Grand Jury commenced an investigation pertaining to the management and operation of Greystone. The initial focus was the investigation of charges that patients had been beaten and otherwise mistreated by institution employees. The allegations were made by a group of student psychologists who had resigned from their positions at the institution, and were publicly aired in a series of newspaper articles which appeared in the Newark Star Ledger. The student psychologists charged that patient abuse was widespread and that supervisory authorities had failed to investigate, punish the guilty parties and assert control necessary to prevent recurrence of such acts. In addition, important areas of investigation other than the specific allegations by these student psychologists were undertaken as a result of information obtained and presented to the grand jury by an undercover agent working in Greystone under authority of the Commissioner of Institutions and Agencies, the Attorney General and the Morris County Prosecutor. The investigation became focused upon the question whether the patients' basic right to treatment and sympathetic general care was being respected at Greystone.
The grand jury conducted its investigation for six months, examining approximately 300 exhibits, many of them printed material of great length and requiring expert testimony which was ultimately received. Witnesses at every level of employment at Greystone were examined, including maintenance
personnel, attendants, nurses, psychologists, clinical psychiatrists, union leaders and middle and high-level administrators. The Commissioner of Institutions and Agencies and many of her assistants testified. Present and former patients in the institution, qualified experts in the field of psychiatry and hospital administration, and others who could be helpful in the proper discharge of the grand jury investigation, also testified. In all, 83 witnesses appeared and testified. In addition, the grand jury had available for examination transcripts of the testimony presented at the hearings of the Joint Subcommittee on Mental Health of the Senate and General Assembly, which hearings resulted from the charges leveled by the student psychologists. The Joint Subcommittee subsequently issued a report recommending comprehensive changes in operating procedures employed at Greystone.
The grand jury investigation eventually culminated in the return of four indictments and a lengthy presentment which severely criticized the management of Greystone. Five individuals were indicted and were charged with criminal conduct, which included charges of possession of controlled dangerous substances with intent to distribute, sodomy of a former patient, attempted sodomy, Medicaid fraud and obtaining money by false pretenses. The presentment criticized many aspects of the hospital's management, including deficiency in administration, the lack of effective personnel policies, professional nonfeasance on the part of the staff psychiatrists, physical assault on patients by nursing personnel and the failure to respect the statutory mandate of adequate and humane care and treatment as prescribed by N.J.S.A. 30:4-24.1. After returning the indictments and the presentment, the grand jury was terminated on May 29, 1975.
Following the filing of the complaint in this action, the Deputy Director of the Division of Mental Health Advocacy moved on behalf of plaintiffs to compel discovery of (1)
the minutes of all testimony before the Morris County Grand Jury pertinent to that body's presentment on Greystone, (2) the names and addresses of all persons called as witnesses before the grand jury, and (3) all written documents, photographs and other physical exhibits submitted to the grand jury. Judge Ard ...