Petitioners' applications pursuant to N.J.S.A. 30:4-80.8 et seq. for expungement of records of commitment to a facility providing mental health services was granted.
Petitioner's orders submitted to implement such grant provided in relevant part as follows:
IT IS FURTHER ORDERED that should any inquiry, official or unofficial, be made at any time in the future of the Camden County Psychiatric Hospital or of the County Adjuster for the County of Camden as to whether or not petitioner was ever admitted to the Camden County Psychiatric Hospital, the commitment shall be deemed not to have occurred, pursuant to N.J.S.A. 30:4-80.8.
The court rejected the order as to form as exceeding the statutory authority granted by N.J.S.A. 30:4-80.9 and invited argument or briefing of the question.
Petitioners responded, contending that the relevant statute authorizes a physical destruction of commitment records or a permanent seal of such records, and that unless controls are imposed on the dissemination and use of records, the expungement remedy affords no relief at all. Reliance is principally based on In re Fortenbach , 119 N.J. Super. 124 (Cty. Ct. 1972), involving expungement of a criminal record. The statute there applicable provides:
The statute here is not materially different, providing:
Fortenbach, supra., held:
In view of the foregoing, the record of petitioner's arrest * * * is expunged, within the contemplation of N.J.S.A. 2A:164-28 * * * and the information concerning that record shall not hereafter be disseminated or made available to any other governmental or private agency or person.
This court is not in disagreement with that holding and the language.
The real problem lies in petitioners' efforts to have the court (a) order the destruction of records of the county adjuster (who maintains the files administratively for the clerk of the court) and (b) direct the hospital concerning its records. The statute clearly and specifically refers only to the court records (not hospital records) and makes no reference to destruction of any records.
To this, petitioner responds that San-Lan Builders, Inc. v. Bexendale , 28 N.J. 148 (1958) is ...