On appeal from Superior Court of New Jersey, Chancery Division, Family Part, Morris County, Docket No. FV-14-1073-09.
NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION
Before Judges Kestin and Graves.
Defendant, Angel Garcia, appeals from a final restraining order issued under the authority of the Prevention of Domestic Violence Act, N.J.S.A. 2C:25-17 to -35. He argues that the trial court erred in finding jurisdiction under the Act and in finding that he had committed acts of domestic violence. On review, defendant also argues, for the first time, that he was denied his constitutional right to effective assistance of trial counsel.
A trial court's findings "are binding on appeal when supported by adequate, substantial credible evidence" in the record. Cesare v. Cesare, 154 N.J. 394, 412 (1998). See also State v. Elders, 192 N.J. 224, 245 (2007). "A trial court's interpretation of the law[,]" however, "and the legal consequences that flow from established facts are not entitled to any special deference." Manalapan Realty, L.P. v. Township Comm. of Manalapan, 140 N.J. 366, 378 (1995).
Judge Minkowitz stated his findings and conclusions in an oral opinion rendered at the conclusion of the bench trial in the matter. He found that the parties' "dating relationship" had been "dissolved" some two years earlier, but that they continued to be involved with each other "having dinner together, two to three times per week, and talking to each other on the telephone frequently, almost on a daily basis." He held, based on Tribuzio v. Roder, 356 N.J. Super. 590 (App. Div. 2003), that these facts provided a sufficient basis, jurisdictionally, to apply the Act. Our review discloses that the findings were well supported by the record. Following independent evaluation, we discern that the legal conclusion reached was correct. Accordingly, we affirm substantially for the reasons given in Judge Minkowitz's oral opinion.
As for the final argument advanced by defendant, we do not address the factual assertions at its basis. The asserted shortcomings of trial counsel do not, separately or in combination, amount to an independent ground for appeal in this matter. It suffices to say that the constitutional right to effective assistance of counsel pertains in criminal cases. See State v. Arthur, 184 N.J. 307, 341 (2005). It has no application in civil proceedings, see State v. Nasir, 355 N.J. Super. 96, 109 (App. Div. 2002), certif. denied, 175 N.J. 549 (2003), which complaints for protection under the Act manifestly are, see Cesare v. Cesare, 302 N.J. Super. 57, 67 (App. Div. 1997), rev'd on other grounds, 154 N.J. 394 (1998). The issue raised is, accordingly, without sufficient merit to warrant further consideration.
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