June 25, 2008
IN THE MATTER OF THE CIVIL COMMITMENT OF J.N. SVP-220-01
On appeal from the Superior Court of New Jersey, Law Division, Essex County, SVP 220-01.
NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION
Argued: June 2, 2008
Before Judges A.A. Rodríguez and C.L. Miniman.
J.N. appeals from an order for continued commitment under the New Jersey Sexually Violent Predator Act (SVPA), N.J.S.A. 30:4-27.24 to -27.38. He contends that the State failed to prepare a discharge plan in accordance with a court order and that the judge erred in not enforcing that order, citing In re Commitment of J.J.F., 365 N.J. Super. 486 (App. Div.), certif. denied, 179 N.J. 373 (2004). He asserts that the State did not provide testimony from his treatment team and, thus, the State did not meet its burden of proof. J.N. argues that his expert was focused on the here and now, unlike Pogos Voskanian, M.D., who looked at where J.N. was twenty years ago. Finally, J.N. contends that the hearing was fundamentally unfair because the judge displayed animosity to his lawyer.
The State disputes any violation of the court order respecting a discharge plan and notes that J.N. bore the burden of presenting such plan because the treatment team does not believe that J.N. is ready for discharge. It argues that testimony from Dr. Voskanian alone, even though he was not a member of the treatment team, was sufficient under In re Civil Commitment of A.E.F., 377 N.J. Super. 473, 493 (App. Div.), certif. denied, 185 N.J. 393 (2005). Finally, the State asserts that it is not fair to attack the judge now when the issue was not raised below. We affirm in all respects.
J.N. is a serial rapist with a long-standing pattern of sexual and criminal offenses. He was arrested and charged with raping a fifteen-year-old girl on December 20, 1966, at a time when he was nineteen years old. The charge, however, was nobilled. Nine months later, on August 21, 1967, he robbed and raped an adult female. He pled not guilty but failed to appear for trial and on June 20, 1968, his file was marked "inactive" by order of the assignment judge. On March 16, 1971, J.N. was arrested and charged with larceny and was given a five-year suspended sentence at Yardville on March 24, 1972. The untried inactive rape and robbery charges were dismissed and J.N. was placed on probation for two years.
On July 8, 1974, he stepped through an open door into an apartment occupied by a sixteen-year-old girl and her family. He demanded money and ultimately threatened to rape the teenager. After digitally penetrating her, she pleaded with him to leave and told him that she would get more money. When she did so, he fled from the house. He pled not guilty to the charges. While they were pending, he escaped from Holmsburgh Prison and committed several more offenses.
First, on October 9, 1975, he stuck a pair of scissors at L.B. and forced her into a residence on Spruce Street in Philadelphia, raped her and forced her to perform fellatio. He was arrested that day and charged with rape and involuntary deviant sexual intercourse, among other offenses. He was found guilty by a jury on February 9, 1976, and was sentenced to a term of one to two years for the rape conviction and five years probation for the other offenses. He served less than a year.
In November 1976 J.N. was arrested in New Jersey for breaking and entering, but the charges were dismissed. He was also charged with escape and pled guilty on February 14, 1977.
He also entered a plea of guilty to assault with intent to a rape on some 1973 charges. He was sentenced to Yardville for an indeterminate term with a maximum of nine years for assault with intent to rape and to an indeterminate term with a maximum of five years for his conviction of escape. The sentences ran concurrently and he was paroled on April 26, 1978.
On November 8, 1978, J.N. was arrested and charged with sexual assault and carnal abuse. His parole was revoked but he was again paroled on January 17, 1979. The sexual offense charges were no-billed on January 22, 1979.
On June 26, 1979, J.N. was arrested and charged with rape while armed and rape. His parole was again revoked, but the charges were dismissed on July 28, 1981. He was also charged with burglary and larceny on November 23, 1981, but the disposition of the charges is unknown.
The predicate offenses involve three separate rapes, on February 5, April 11 and April 12, 1982. Each of the rapes involved use of a weapon and demands for money. The first victim was raped vaginally seven times over a four-hour period. She was also compelled to perform fellatio four times and J.N. performed cunnilingus twice. The second victim was forced to perform fellatio and then vaginally raped once. J.N. then performed cunnilingus. The third victim was raped in the presence of her two small children. J.N. also forced her to perform fellatio and digitally penetrated her rectum. J.N. pled guilty to three counts of aggravated sexual assault on three separate indictments and on September 30, 1983, J.N. was sentenced to ADTC for three concurrent twenty-year prison terms. He was paroled on November 19, 1994.
Seven months after J.N. was paroled, he assaulted a woman sitting in the rear passenger seat of her vehicle waiting for her husband at the train station. Her infant daughter was with her. J.N. jumped into the car, slammed the door and demanded money. He placed the woman in a headlock and shouted that he wanted more money. At that point the woman's husband walked out of the train station and saw his wife struggling with J.N. in the rear seat. J.N. saw the husband running to the car and he exited the vehicle and began to run. He was apprehended shortly thereafter and on August 3, 1995, he pled guilty to robbery in the second-degree. On October 6, 1995, he was sentenced to a ten-year prison term with three and one-half years of parole ineligibility.
With an expected release date of December 27, 2001, the State filed a petition for involuntary civil commitment. J.N. was temporarily committed on October 12, 2001, and on July 17, 2003, the judge entered a judgment of commitment. J.N.'s commitment was reviewed and continued on February 10, 2004, December 2, 2005, July 25, 2006, and September 26, 2007. J.N. has appealed from the last continuation of his commitment.
Three witnesses testified at the September 12, 2007, review hearing, one for the State on direct, Dr. Voskanian; one for the defense on direct, Daniel Greenfield, M.D.; and one for the State on rebuttal, Nicole Paolillo, Psy. D. Dr. Voskanian reviewed treatment records for the period from July 3, 2006, through shortly before the date of the hearing. Dr. Voskanian testified that J.N. had admitted to committing the two crimes which had been no-billed, including the rape of the fifteen-year-old girl. J.N. told Dr. Voskanian that he enjoyed putting fear into females that he raped and that the primary purpose of knocking on doors was not to rob, but to rape. In prior interviews J.N. had claimed that the primary motive was robbery. J.N. was sixty years old at the time of the interview.
J.N. abused alcohol and reported that he had a verbally abusive childhood. His mother would tell him that she wished she had flushed him down the toilet when he was born and said that he would never amount to anything. He explained that he raped women because he felt unloved and, when he was violent, he would visualize himself as a newborn being flushed down the toilet. He stated that, because he felt like shit, it felt okay to rape a woman. He related his assaultive and sexually abusive behavior to frequent intoxication.
Dr. Voskanian expressed concern about J.N.'s lack of any normal sexual pattern. The doctor opined that the pattern was not just induced by alcohol. Although it may disinhibit J.N., Dr. Voskanian felt there were very deep dynamics with regard to J.N.'s mother and grandmother and the pattern that he has established in the way he views and approaches women. He opined that J.N. was still in need of treatment and still at very high risk. He explained that J.N. can present himself very well in a group, he can verbalize very nicely and comes across as quite intelligent. However, he suffers from a mental abnormality that predisposes him to commit acts of sexual violence and carries a diagnosis of paraphilia NOS, sexual sadism, alcohol and marijuana dependence and personality disorder NOS with antisocial traits. Dr. Voskanian opined that these are lifelong conditions for J.N. The personality disorder NOS, sexual sadism and paraphilia significantly increase the risk of reoffense.
On cross-examination Dr. Voskanian acknowledged that J.N. was in Phase-3 of treatment since about 2004. He also acknowledged that J.N. had completed many modules, including relapse prevention 3, which was the highest level, and that J.N. had recently done a maintenance contract. However, Dr. Voskanian testified that J.N. "wanted to hurt, he wanted to make [the victims] feel dirty. That was the purpose of assaulting victims sexually. To hurt, to cause pain, to make them feel dirty and he was driven by that." Dr. Voskanian admitted that J.N. is involved with Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) and has successfully completed the substance-abuse programs at the facility and does very well at them. He agreed with defense counsel that statistically rapists, when they reach the age of sixty, tend to rape less and that J.N.'s age is a mitigating factor. However, he stated that J.N. is in very good health. He acknowledged that J.N. verbalizes very well, but despite that, he gets arrested, punished, goes for treatment, is released and he rapes again, even though he verbalizes very well in between.
Although there was a discharge planning assessment form in his file, Dr. Voskanian testified that discharge planning can be as long as ten years prior to release. The doctor also did not know whether the Treatment Progress Review Committee (TPRC) was considering advancing J.N. to Phase-4 treatment, where they begin furloughs and discharge planning.
On redirect Dr. Voskanian testified that the reason he does not believe that J.N.'s age mitigates his risk significantly is because he exercises daily, he relates that he is feeling very good and he masturbates to very strange fantasies. As a result, Dr. Voskanian did not see any age mitigation. He concluded on redirect that, even if J.N. remained abstinent from alcohol and drugs, he would still be highly likely to commit acts of sexual violence because he has not addressed his rape dynamics.
Dr. Greenfield testified on behalf of J.N. He stated that he interviewed him on June 26, 2007, and spent about four-and-a-half to five hours with him. One hour of that time was devoted to testing and the balance to an interview.*fn1 Dr. Greenfield testified that it was his understanding that alcohol abuse was very much a part of J.N.'s sexual offending. He explained that when J.N. committed the various offenses he was drunk to some extent. Dr. Greenfield noted that the information provided by J.N. was consistent with the information contained in a variety of records including the June 30, 2005, TPRC report.
Dr. Greenfield explained that he ruled out the diagnosis of sexual sadism because his interview of J.N. did not create an impression of this diagnosis and J.N. had been institutionalized for many years, his last rape was twelve years ago and, as a result, it was questionable in Dr. Greenfield's mind whether J.N. still had that sexual-offense dynamic. He opined that J.N. had received some benefit from sex-offender-specific treatment and the sexual sadism ceased to be a dynamic. He did acknowledge that the diagnosis of sexual sadism was appropriate through 1982 at the least, or maybe even as late as 1995. Dr. Greenfield based this conclusion on the fact that the DSM IV criteria require persistence of the sexual sadism for six months and no such acts have occurred for years.
Dr. Greenfield opined that the 1995 offense was not sexual in nature, but was intended merely as a robbery. He testified that J.N. scored a twenty-six on the Hare Psychology Checklist, which the doctor explained was slightly below the standard deviation for psychopathy. However, that score did not support a conclusion that J.N. was a psychopath, rather Dr. Greenfield views him as having an antisocial personality disorder. He opined that antisocial behavior diminishes with age and stated that he agreed with the clinical formulation from the 2005 TPRC report.
Dr. Greenfield did acknowledge that J.N.'s polygraph demonstrated that he was not entirely candid about the sexual assaults. However, he testified that the alleged deception was really an absence of recollection on the part of J.N. with respect to the specifics of the third assault in 1982. Dr. Greenfield believes that J.N. has been truthful and forthcoming about his victims and that he discussed himself honestly in the interview with him, as well as during his various treatments at the Sexual Treatment Unit (STU).
Dr. Greenfield opined that J.N. has a good understanding of his deviant cycle, which is significantly tied to the disinhibition of alcohol. He concluded that it was not likely that J.N. would reoffend so long as he did not disinhibit himself by drinking. Dr. Greenfield opined that J.N. would do well and would not be highly likely to recidivate if he remained involved in AA after release from custody.
Dr. Greenfield observed that J.N. had completed most of the modules, if not all, and that J.N. felt they were helping him to understand his triggers. He opined that J.N. understood the need to remain clean and sober and that he had developed a degree of victim empathy and felt remorse for what he had done in the past. The doctor believed that J.N. had come to grips with his attitude towards women and his basic desire to treat them very badly, and that he was remorseful about it.
Dr. Greenfield observed that J.N. has had no institutional infractions and that he has been an active participant in groups and in treatment. Dr. Greenfield further opined that between the ages of fifty-five and sixty, men begin to slow down and it was a significant timeframe for reduced recidivism.
Dr. Greenfield also considered the Discharge Planning Report. He related that there were several administrations of the MnSOST and the Static-99 over a period of two years. The Static-99 test results remained stable but the MnSOST scores were twelve once and the second one was five. The lower scores were within the range of Dr. Greenfield's description of not highly likely to reoffend. Dr. Greenfield's diagnoses were paraphilia NOS in institutional remission, poly-substance abuse in institutional remission, and dysthymia, which is a low level of depressive symptomatology.
Dr. Greenfield opined that, if J.N. were not released, he should be advanced to Phase-4 of treatment, which would make him eligible for furloughs, a "tried and true approach with psychiatric patients." This would give J.N. an opportunity to become accustomed to being on the outside. He opined that J.N. was ready for that stage. Dr. Greenfield observed that discontinuing a person's inpatient status suddenly to outpatient is very stressful for individuals and generally not a good idea. This would ease the transition to release. Dr. Greenfield concluded that he did not find J.N. to be highly likely to recidivate sexually in the reasonably foreseeable future if he was discharged to a less restrictive setting.
The doctor agreed that a Static-99 score of seven was a high risk to reoffend. He acknowledged on cross-examination that the data respecting age at first offense is a much more important indicator of risk of recidivism than age at release and that J.N. first offended at the age of nineteen. When presented with J.N.'s treatment team report recommending that J.N. remain in Phase-3, Dr. Greenfield testified that his views did not change because he did not understand the reason that the treatment team felt J.N. had not progressed except for their observation that J.N. did not understand his arousal pattern and had difficulty empathizing with others. However, Dr. Greenfield acknowledged that anger played a large role in J.N.'s sexual offending and that he had dropped out of anger management 2 in order to take electronics training.
Dr. Paolillo testified in rebuttal. A report of the TPRC arrived the evening before the rebuttal testimony, which was on September 21, 2007. She testified that J.N. was in Phase-3 of treatment out of a four-phase program. She explained that Phase-4 is an advanced phase of treatment considered the honor phase. "Residents that are advanced to that phase are usually participating in a mentoring fashion." She testified that J.N. was not ready for that phase. J.N.'s treatment providers were concerned that he has yet to discuss his offenses in group therapy. Instead, he has focused on family issues. The treatment team also was concerned that J.N. does not connect with other people in the group and that he is isolative. He also needs to work on his emotion recognition. J.N.'s tendency to isolate himself was part of his sexual offense cycle.
Dr. Paolillo testified that the treatment providers explained that J.N. often discussed two personas that he believes he embodies, one of them Joseph and the other Nelson. Nelson is a bad person similar to his father who was a rapist, whereas Joseph is an individual characterized by higher moral fortitude, an individual he aspires to be more like. The treatment team wants J.N. to explore any sadistic elements of his arousal. The team has not observed J.N. demonstrating an ability to empathize with others, which is a concern.
Dr. Paolillo observed that J.N. needs to revise his sexual-history questionnaire so that it is consistent with the number of victims identified during a polygraph. The treatment team wants J.N. to take anger management and retake victim empathy. She noted that during the TPRC interview of J.N. at times his responses did not exactly answer what was being asked and she surmised that he was uncomfortable answering specific questions, just as he avoided discussions of his offenses in group therapy. In answering questions about the 1982 offense, J.N. told the panel that the victim appeared fearful and that her fear then aroused him to continue to abuse her for four hours. Dr. Paolillo opined that this was indicative of a sadistic element of his arousal. J.N. told the TPRC panel that he had eight unreported victims.
Dr. Paolillo further testified that J.N. had a score of six on the Static-99, which is in the high risk category. She also considered the PCLR, which is the Hare Psychopathy Checklist, which measures the extent to which an individual matches the prototypical psychopath. The diagnostic threshold is a score of thirty and J.N. received a score of twenty-eight. A lower score, such as twenty-six, indicates that an individual is exhibiting less psychopathic traits than someone who gets a score of twenty-eight or higher. The standard deviation is three, so if someone got a score of twenty-six, that could be indicative of a low of twenty-three or a high of twenty-nine.
Dr. Paolillo related that the TPRC panel agreed with J.N.'s treatment providers that he should remain in Phase-3 treatment. The doctor testified that the panel wanted to see J.N. begin to develop a more trusting relationship with his treatment providers, to start discussing his offenses, and to reinforce and broaden the scope of his understanding of relapse prevention and his sexual offense cycle. The panel would also like to see him continue to work on his poor emotion recognition.
Dr. Paolillo testified that J.N. lied on his polygraph in response to the question "did you withhold any additional victims in the sexual history form?" She further testified that J.N.'s treatment team indicated that J.N. has not detailed any of the elements of his predicate and other sexual offenses for years. On questioning from the court, Dr. Paolillo testified that there was no significance to a two-point difference in the scoring of the Hare by two different people. A difference only becomes significant when it is three points or more because that is the standard deviation.
The judge placed her decision on the record on September 26, 2007. She found that J.N. had established a pattern of refusing to be interviewed by the State's psychiatrists. Between January 26, 2003, and the date of the hearing, he refused interviews with Dr. McAlister and Dr. Kern on six occasions. He refused to interview with Dr. Voskanian until the day of the trial. On the other hand, he interviewed with a defense expert, Dr. Greenfield, for four hours on June 26, 2007, four days after he refused to interview with Dr. Voskanian.
The judge rejected Dr. Greenfield's opinion that J.N. raped because of alcohol consumption. The court was not persuaded by Dr. Greenfield's opinion "that a long prison sentence with good adaptation to incarceration is a factor to consider as mitigating the risk of future sexually violent acts by a person suffering from paraphilia, polysubstance abuse, sexual sadism, and antisocial personality disorder, at the time of the beginning of the sentence." The judge also rejected giving any weight to the statistical data of diminished sexuality after age sixty because it had no individual predictive value.
As to J.N.'s discharge plan, the judge observed that it was not a concrete plan and there was no indication that any of the therapists at the STU were endorsing any release at that time. Furthermore, the contents of the plan did not demonstrate that it would diminish the risk that J.N. would pose if he were released. Lastly, she rejected Dr. Greenfield's opinion that J.N. was ready for Phase-4 because that opinion was clearly at odds with the recommendation of the treatment team and the TPRC.
The judge found that J.N.'s failure to discuss his sexual offense history and his seemingly sadistic sexual arousal has limited his progress. She found that J.N. had not completed his autobiography and that he needs to "explore the details of his offenses, eliminate the discrepancies, explore sadistic elements of his sexual arousal and then integrate that information into his relapse prevention and arousal reconditioning work." As a consequence, the judge concluded that J.N. had not met all of the requirements of Phase-3 and was not ready to proceed to Phase-4. Without discussion of J.N.'s sexual offending and the sexual sadistic elements of his offenses, the judge concluded that he could not make a proper relapse-prevention strategy for himself. The judge determined that the treatment notes amply supported the TPRC recommendation that J.N. continue in Phase-3 of treatment. She concluded that J.N. has only just begun to deal with his sex offending issues.
The judge also noted that it was only on the morning of trial when J.N. was interviewed by Dr. Voskanian that he admitted for the first time that the primary purpose for gaining entry to women's homes was to rape them and not to rob them. She additionally noted that J.N. in that interview said that he was always intoxicated during these rapes and that he reported indicators of sexual sadism because he stated that, when he made the victims feel pain, he became aroused. The judge found that Dr. Voskanian's basis for his diagnosis of sexual sadism was extremely persuasive. The judge also considered J.N.'s admission in this last-minute interview that his purpose was to cause his victims to be hurt and to feel dirty and that he enjoyed the fear he engendered in his victims by threats of cutting them while he was raping them. The court discounted age as a mitigating factor because defendant was in good health and masturbates regularly. She adopted Dr. Voskanian's opinion that the risk of reoffense is based on J.N.'s sexual deviance and personality disorder and not alcohol, which is merely a disinhibitor. The judge found that J.N. was highly likely to reoffend.
The judge concluded:
For the reasons stated hereinabove, the [c]court is not persuaded by the testimony and report by Dr. Greenfield. The evidence presented by the State is clear and convincing, and the [c]court is clearly convinced that this respondent continues to be a sexually violent predator. He suffers from abnormal mental conditions including paraphilia and sexual sadism, and antisocial personal disorder or personality disorder N.O.S.[,] which influence his emotional, volitional and cognitive functioning, so as to predispose him to commit sexually violent acts.
He has been a substance dependent person which further enables the respondent to act on his deviance.
The respondent has demonstrated in the past by his repetitive sex offending and by his offending against a female demonstrating rape dynamics after discharge from A.D.T.C. that he has serious . . . discontrol over his sex offending behavior. This respondent is highly likely to recidivate and commit sexually violent acts in the foreseeable future to the danger of the community if not confined for further care.
The judge concluded that J.N. had not discussed his sex offending issues sufficiently and that phase three was completely appropriate for his treatment. She found that there was not evidence to the contrary and ordered a one-year review.
In seeking an initial or continued civil commitment under the New Jersey Sexually Violent Predator Act (SVPA), N.J.S.A. 30:4-27.24 to -27.38, the State must prove "by clear and convincing evidence that the person needs continued involuntary commitment as a sexually violent predator." N.J.S.A. 30:4-27.32(a). Our Supreme Court has explained this statutory standard as follows:
To be committed under the SVPA an individual must be proven to be a threat to the health and safety of others because of the likelihood of his or her engaging in sexually violent acts. . . . [T]he State must prove that threat by demonstrating that the individual has serious difficulty in controlling sexually harmful behavior such that it is highly likely that he or she will not control his or her sexually violent behavior and will reoffend.
Those findings . . . require an assessment of the reasonably foreseeable future. No more specific finding concerning precisely when an individual will recidivate need be made by the trial court. Commitment is based on the individual's danger to self and others because of his or her present serious difficulty with control over dangerous sexual behavior.
[In re Commitment of W.Z., 173 N.J. 109, 132-33 (2002); see also In re Commitment of G.G.N., 372 N.J. Super. 42, 46-47 (App. Div. 2004).]
The court must consider the individual's "past sexually violent behavior, a current mental condition, and a demonstrated inability to adequately control one's sexually harmful conduct." State v. Bellamy, 178 N.J. 127, 136 (2003); see also W.Z., supra, 173 N.J. at 132. The State must also prove that the individual "suffers from a mental abnormality or personality disorder." G.G.N., supra, 372 N.J. Super. at 46-47. "[O]nce the legal standard for commitment no longer exists, the [individual] is subject to release." In re Commitment of E.D., 353 N.J. Super. 450, 455 (App. Div. 2002), rev'd on other grounds, 185 N.J. 536 (2005); see also N.J.S.A. 30:4-27.32, -27.35; W.Z., supra, 173 N.J. at 133.
The scope of appellate review is extremely narrow. "We give utmost deference to the commitment finding and reverse only for a clear abuse of discretion." In re A.E.F., supra, 377 N.J. Super. at 493 (citing In re Commitment of V.A., 357 N.J. Super. 55, 63 (App. Div.), certif. denied, 177 N.J. 490 (2003)) (holding that SVPA civil commitment decisions are subject to an abuse of discretion standard on appeal).
First, with respect to the alleged failure by the State to prepare a discharge plan, J.J.F., supra, 365 N.J. Super. at 486, provides no comfort to J.N. We stated there that a conditional discharge may only be considered when the committed individual "'is no longer found to be a sexually violent predator.'" Id. at 498 (quoting E.D., supra, 353 N.J. Super. at 456). Here, the treatment team does not believe that J.N. is ready for discharge and the judge concluded that he remained highly likely to reoffend. Preparation of a discharge plan was not required.
Second, J.N. argues that the continued commitment must be reversed because the State did not provide testimony from his treatment team and, thus, the State did not meet its burden of proof. The State argues that testimony from Dr. Voskanian alone, even though he was not a member of the treatment team, was sufficient under A.E.F., supra, 377 N.J. Super. at 493.
In A.E.F. the testifying experts were not members of A.E.F.'s treatment team. Id. at 481-83. A.E.F. argued that their opinions were based almost exclusively on inadmissible hearsay, contrary to In re Commitment of E.S.T., 371 N.J. Super. 562 (App. Div. 2004). A.E.F., supra, 377 N.J. Super. at 484. However, we distinguished E.S.T. on the ground that the experts in E.S.T. relied on other forensic evaluations whereas the experts in A.E.F. relied on treatment records. Id. at 485.
Like the forensic experts in A.E.F., here Dr. Voskanian and Dr. Paolillo relied on treatment records and not just other forensic expert reports. Testimony from the treatment team was not mandatory.
Third, J.N. argues that his expert was focused on the here and now, unlike Dr. Voskanian, who looked at where J.N. was twenty years ago. We disagree. Although Dr. Voskanian did testify to J.N.'s sexual offense history, he also related that history to the present in terms of J.N.'s incomplete treatment at the time of the hearing and his current high risk to reoffend.
Finally, J.N. contends that the hearing was fundamentally unfair because the judge displayed animosity to his lawyer. The State asserts that it is not fair to attack the judge now when the issue was not raised below.
It is a well-settled principle that our appellate courts will decline to consider questions or issues not properly presented to the trial court when an opportunity for such presentation is available "unless the questions so raised on appeal go to the jurisdiction of the trial court or concern matters of great public interest." [Nieder v. Royal Indem. Ins. Co., 62 N.J. 229, 234 (1973) (citation omitted).]
Therefore, we will not consider this issue on this appeal.
We are satisfied from our review of the record as a whole that substantial credible evidence supports the judge's findings and conclusions. We find no mistaken exercise of discretion in the continued commitment of J.N.