On appeal from the Superior Court of New Jersey, Law Division, Essex County.
Before Judges Petrella, Brochin and Cuff
The opinion of the court was delivered by
Plaintiffs*fn1 Brookside Apartments, Inc. and James and Christine Cerone appeal from a judgment of the Law Division dismissing their complaints*fn2 because of their attorneys' egregious misconduct.
The Cerones were tenants of a building owned by Brookside Apartments, Inc. The building was substantially damaged by a fire that plaintiffs allege was caused by defendants Christian Stango, James Davis, and Salvatore Turano who are said to have entered the building to commit a burglary.
The alleged perpetrators, who are now adults, were juveniles at the time of the fire. Their identities, although known to the police, were therefore not publicly disclosed.
Plaintiffs filed their initial complaints on March 17, 1988, and November 14, 1989. They named only John Does as defendants, presumably because they were unaware of the actual identities of the juveniles who had caused the fire and of their parents or guardians. Plaintiff Brookside Apartments, Inc. then applied to a Law Division Judge (other than the one who entered the order appealed from), on notice only to the Essex County Prosecutor, for an order "compelling the local authorities to release the names and addresses of all juveniles involved regarding the damage to property of the plaintiff situated at 31 Morris Place, Bloomfield, New Jersey."
The application was based on N.J.S.A. 2A:4A-60,*fn3 which, insofar as pertinent, reads as follows:
a. Social, medical, psychological, legal and other records of the court and probation department, and records of law enforcement agencies, pertaining to juveniles charged as a delinquent or found to be part of a juvenile-family crisis, shall be strictly safeguarded from public inspection. Such records shall be made available only to:
[The plaintiffs are not among the persons enumerated in the subparts of paragraph "a." Paragraph "b" is also inapplicable to this case.]
c. Information as to the identity of a juvenile, the offense charged, the adjudication and Disposition shall be disclosed to:
(1) The victim or a member of the victim's immediate family; . . . .
(4) A party in a subsequent legal proceeding involving the juvenile, but only upon approval by the court and for the sole purpose of impeaching the juvenile as a witness.
See also R. 5:19-2(b)(incorporating and reiterating N.J.S.A. ...