Before Judged Skillman, Newman and Fall.
The opinion of the court was delivered by: Newman, J.A.D.
NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION
On appeal from the Superior Court of New Jersey, Law Division, Passaic County.
This appeal involves the interpretation of the last paragraph of N.J.S.A. 45:19-12, which provides:
The superintendent [of the New Jersey Division of State Police] and all members of the State Police shall hold as confidential all information obtained as a result of any investigation of any applicant [for a private detective] ... license issued under the provisions of this act, and the same shall not be divulged except by an order so to do by a court of record of this State.
We hold that the statute requires, by its express terms, a court order to divulge information obtained as a result of an investigation of an applicant for a private detective license. We find no basis in the language employed by the Legislature to carve out an exception for the disclosure of information to other law enforcement agencies for law enforcement purposes. We further conclude that there existed good cause for the release of the license application to the plaintiff, City of Passaic, in connection with the administrative hearing in which the applicant, appellant Frederick Marc Parisi, contested his termination from the Passaic Police Department. Furthermore, we hold that an Administrative Law Judge lacked the authority to order such disclosure because such judge did not sit in a "court of record of this State."
The relevant facts may be summarized as follows. On or about April 11, 1994, appellant submitted an employment application for the position of police officer with the City of Passaic (Passaic). Appellant was successful and was appointed to the position of police officer.
In early 1997, another police department contacted the Passaic Police Department, indicating that "there's something wrong with [Parisi's] military records." The Internal Affairs Unit of the police department conducted "a full blown investigation," uncovering information that appellant had lied in his 1994 job application about his residency, military service history, and medical history.
On April 9, 1997, Passaic terminated appellant's employment. Appellant appealed the termination to the Department of Personnel, which referred the matter to the Office of Administrative Law.
In March 1998, prior to the first hearing date before an Administrative Law Judge, appellant filed a twelve-page application for a private detective license with the New Jersey Division of State Police. Appellant's application was referred to Trooper (now Detective) James Bryant of the Private Detective Unit, Division of State Police. Trooper Bryant contacted the Passaic Police Department and spoke with its Internal Affairs Unit to confirm the information which appellant furnished in his private detective license application.
Trooper Bryant's inquiry prompted Detective Anthony Haluska of Passaic's Internal Affairs Unit to ask Trooper Bryant for information about Parisi's private detective license application. Trooper Bryant provided Detective Haluska with a photocopy of Parisi's application for a private detective license which contained written notes disclosing aspects of his investigation. Trooper Bryant did not give Detective Haluska a copy of his five-page summary report of his investigation of appellant's application.
The Division of State Police denied appellant's application for a private detective license. Appellant did not appeal this denial.
During the first day of hearing on August 10, 1998, before Administrative Law Judge Lucchi-McCloud (ALJ), Passaic's attorney gave appellant's attorney a copy of the private detective license application that Trooper Bryant had provided to Detective Haluska. Appellant's attorney noted that the front page of this application was marked, "Confidential File." The attorney stated that he would do further research and that, at a later date, he might move to hold the application inadmissible because of its confidentiality.
Thereafter, but prior to October 5, 1998, Passaic's attorney came to the preliminary conclusion that Passaic's copy of Parisi's private detective license application with Trooper Bryant's notes written upon it could not be admitted into evidence absent a court order. On October 5, 1998, the date of the second day of proceedings before the ALJ, Passaic's attorney requested that the ALJ issue the necessary court order. Appellant's ...