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State v. Arenas

Decided: December 19, 1991.

STATE OF NEW JERSEY, PLAINTIFF
v.
DIONISIO RAMON ARENAS, DEFENDANT



On certification to the Superior Court, Appellate Division.

For affirmance -- Chief Justice Wilentz, and Justices Clifford, Handler, Pollock, O'Hern, Garibaldi and Stein. For reversal -- None. The opinion of the Court was delivered by Garibaldi, J.

Garibaldi

Like the appeals in In re Cannady, 126 N.J. 486, 600 A.2d 459 (1991), and In re Kauffman, 126 N.J. 499, 600 A.2d 465 (1991), which we also decided today, this case presents the question of whether the Public Defender Act, N.J.S.A. 2A:158A-1 to -25, requires the Office of the Public Defender (OPD) to pay for ancillary services for indigent defendants whom it does not represent. Specifically, in this case we consider whether the OPD must pay the costs of trial transcripts for an indigent defendant represented by private counsel. We conclude that the OPD is responsible for such costs.

I

Defendant, Dionisio Ramon Arenas, was convicted of various counts of sexual assault. A private attorney retained by the

OPD represented Arenas at trial. The OPD subsequently filed Arenas's notice of appeal. However, the OPD ordered transcripts for only two of Arenas's thirteen trial dates, and received only one of them. It never paid for that transcript.

Private counsel paid for by defendant's friends was substituted as Arenas's counsel. When that counsel realized that Arenas did not have any of his trial transcripts, he obtained the transcript that the OPD had received by paying the OPD $82. Arenas's friends advanced the cost of the transcripts for the other trial dates -- $5,200 -- but told the attorney that they expected to be reimbursed with public funds.

The OPD and Morris County counsel each suggested that the attorney bring a motion to compel the other to pay for the transcripts. Thereafter defendant's counsel filed a motion, joining both the Public Defender and Morris County, for payment of the transcript costs. All parties admitted that Arenas was indigent and entitled to free transcripts for his appeal. The dispute thus focused on one question: who should pay for the transcripts?

The trial court ordered the OPD to pay for the transcripts. The Appellate Division, in a per curiam opinion, affirmed the trial court's order. We granted certification, 126 N.J. 387, 599 A.2d 163 (1991).

II

In In re Cannady, 126 N.J. 486, 600 A.2d 459 (1991), also decided today, we held, based on the language and legislative history of the Public Defender Act, that the OPD is responsible for paying the costs of necessary ancillary services for indigent defendants, even when those defendants are represented by outside counsel. In so holding, we recognized the intent of the Legislature to provide for the representation of all indigent defendants through a unitary, centralized system -- the Office of the Public Defender. Id. at 490, 600 A.2d at 460-461. In order to maintain the centralized nature of New Jersey's

system, we held that the OPD, and not the counties, should pay for services necessary to the defense of all indigents. ...


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