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State v. Stockling

Decided: October 17, 1977.

THE STATE OF NEW JERSEY, PLAINTIFF,
v.
MARVIN E. STOCKLING, DEFENDANT



Callahan, J.d.c., Temporarily Assigned.

Callahan

[153 NJSuper Page 363] An indigent defendant charged with first degree murder*fn1 moved that certain services required to adequately prepare his defense, a psychiatrist evaluation and a pathologist consultation, be provided at public expense. Since defendant is represented by private counsel paid for by his parents, his right to any such services was questioned. This court held on initial return date of the motion that defendant's eligibility as an indigent*fn2 adult is not affected by his parents' voluntary decision

to provide legal representation. State v. Morganstein , 147 N.J. Super. 234, 238-40 (App. Div. 1977). The court further held that the requested services were both necessary and reasonable, and directed defendant to procure same. He has since done so. The only issue remaining for decision is which public body must pay for these services: the county or the State through the Office of the Public Defender.

The court was faced with this issue in several reported cases; in none, however, was the court compelled to decide it. Typically, a court could "assume" the county to be the proper body to bear the expense. See, e.g., State v. Ryan , 133 N.J. Super. 1, 12 (Cty. Ct. 1975). See also, State v. Lippincott , 124 N.J. Super. 498, 501 (Munic. Ct. 1973), in which the court held that the county rather than the City of Trenton should pay for such services. Unquestionably, had this issue arisen prior to the enactment of the Public Defender Act, N.J.S.A. 2A:158A-1 et seq. , this obligation would have fallen upon the county. In State v. Rush , 46 N.J. 399, 414 (1966), the court held: "That the county must meet the cost of criminal prosecutions is clear. * * * Within that category must fall the expense of providing counsel for an indigent accused, without which a prosecution would halt and inevitably fail under Gideon v. Wainwright, supra , 372 U.S. 335, 83 S. Ct. 792, 9 L. Ed. 2d 799." The county contends here, however, that this rule was altered by the Public Defender Act, N.J.S.A. 2A:158A-1 et seq. , so that all services must now be provided to indigent defendants through the Public Defender's Office, regardless of whether the particular defendant is represented by the Public Defender or by counsel paid for by a third party.

The question is one of pure statutory interpretation -- whether the Legislature intended that the Office of the Public Defender should pay for all necessary and reasonable expenses

incurred in the defense of an indigent defendant not represented by that office. Two sections of the Public Defender act are pertinent to the issues raised herein. N.J.S.A. 2A:158A-5 (§ 5) provides in part:

It shall be the duty of the Public Defender to provide for the legal representation of any indigent defendant who is formally charged with the commission of an indictable offense.

All necessary services and facilities of representation (including investigation and other preparation) shall be provided in every case.

In addition, N.J.S.A. 2A:158A-14 (§ 14) defines eligibility as follows:

Eligibility for the services of the Office Of The Public Defender shall be determined on the basis of the need of the defendant. Need shall be measured according to the financial ability of the defendant to engage and compensate competent private counsel and to provide all other necessary expenses of representation.

I find the sections quoted reasonably free from ambiguity. Section 5 clearly directs the Public Defender to provide not only counsel, but also whatever supplementary services may be required. No condition is stated, and none can be reasonably implied, which would necessitate counsel being provided before the Public Defender can supply supplementary services. Nor does the eligibility provision, § 14, require the use of a Public Defender attorney before other services can be provided. Indeed, by basing eligibility "for the services of the Office of the Public Defender" solely upon "the need of the defendant," the wording of the statute appears to lead to the opposite conclusion. Certainly the Legislature could have easily included language directing that such supplementary services would be available through the ...


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