Decided: July 27, 1988.
STEPHEN W. KARATZ, PLAINTIFF-RESPONDENT,
SALLY S. SCHEIDEMANTEL, SUPERINTENDENT, ADULT DIAGNOSTIC AND TREATMENT CENTER, DEFENDANT-APPELLANT
On appeal from the Superior Court of New Jersey, Law Division, Middlesex County.
King, Gaulkin and Gruccio. The opinion of the court was delivered by King, P.J.A.D.
[226 NJSuper Page 469] The respondent, Stephen Karatz, is presently in custody in the Adult Treatment and Diagnostic Center (ADTC) in Avenel. He was sentenced to ADTC on January 18, 1985 after pleading guilty to the charge of second-degree sexual assault in violation
[226 NJSuper Page 470]
of N.J.S.A. 2C:14-2(b). Judge Weiss sentenced defendant to a five-year term under N.J.S.A. 2C:14-6 which provides
If a person is convicted of a second or subsequent offense under sections 2C:14-2 . . . the sentence imposed under those sections . . . shall . . . include a fixed minimum sentence of not less than 5 years during which the defendant shall not be eligible for parole.
The judgment of conviction and order of commitment simply said: "Avenel Diagnostic Center for five (5) years -- not eligible for parole for five (5) years."
When sentencing defendant the judge said:
Defendant qualifies as a subsequent offender. Pursuant to State v. Chapman, 189 N.J. Super. 379 (App.Div.1985), the Court went along with the plea agreement and sentenced the defendant to the Adult Diagnostic and Treatment Center at Avenel for five years. The time of five years must be served since he is not eligible for parole prior to the five year term being served. The Court felt that the plea agreement of five years was proper since the same result would have occurred if the Court sentenced him to the maximum under a second-degree crime giving him a maximum parole disqualifier pursuant to the Code.
Defendant was allowed 222 days jail credit for time spent in detention awaiting disposition. See R. 3:21-8.*fn1 The 222 days were deducted from Karatz's sentence, advancing his release date from January 18, 1990 to June 10, 1989.
The classification officer at ADTC then calculated Karatz's anticipated statutory commutation credits of 386 days in accordance with N.J.S.A. 30:4-140.*fn2 In addition Karatz had accumulated
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144 days work credit as of December 1987 under N.J.S.A. 30:4-92.*fn3
Karatz then filed this petition for a writ of habeas corpus in the Law Division claiming that his earned commutation and work credits entitled him to be released on December 1, 1987. Superintendent Scheidemantel sought a dismissal on the grounds that the Law Division lacked jurisdiction and the credits did not apply to a mandatory minimum sentence. A Law Division judge (not Judge Weiss) held that he had jurisdiction and agreed with Karatz's argument that he was entitled to the credits. The Superintendent sought a stay of Karatz's release. The stay was granted by the Supreme Court.
We first conclude that the Law Division judge had no jurisdiction to entertain the matter and should have transferred it to the Appellate Division. See R. 2:2-3(a)(2); R. 1:13-4(a); Johnson v. N.J. State Parole Bd., 131 N.J. Super. 513 (App.Div.1974),
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certif. den. 67 N.J. 94 (1975). We thus entertain the petition as a direct administrative appeal.
We agree with the Superintendent that the relevant statutes must be read in pari materia and that such a construction bars deduction of commutation and work credits from Karatz's mandatory minimum sentence. See N.J.S.A. 2C:14-6; N.J.S.A. 30:4-123.51(a). The latter statute clearly states in pertinent part:
Each adult inmate sentenced to a term of incarceration in a county penal institution, or to a specific term of years at the State Prison or the correctional institution for women shall become primarily eligible for parole after having served any judicial or statutory mandatory minimum term, or one third of the sentence imposed where no mandatory minimum term has been imposed less commutation time for good behavior pursuant to N.J.S. 2A:164-24 or R.S. 30:4-140 and credits for diligent application to work and other institutional assignments pursuant to P.L. 1972, c. 115 (C. 30:8-28.1 et seq.) or to R.S. 30:4-92. Consistent with the provisions of the New Jersey Code of Criminal Justice (N.J.S. 2C:11-3, 2C:14-6, 2C:43-6, 2C:43-7), commutation and work credits shall not in any way reduce any judicial or statutory mandatory minimum term and such credits accrued shall only be awarded subsequent to the expiration of the term. [ N.J.S.A. 30:4-123.51(a); emphasis supplied].
Our conclusion is reinforced by the provision in the Parole Act of 1979, N.J.S.A. 30:4-123.1 to 123.44, of which N.J.S.A. 30:4-123.51(a) is a part, which states that: "no provisions of the New Jersey Code of Criminal Justice shall be superseded hereby." N.J.S.A. 30:4-123.69. See State v. Chapman, 95 N.J. 582, 592 n. 3 (1984). As the Chapman Court noted, "the Parole Act recognizes [the] limitation [under N.J.S.A. 2C:14-6]."