On May 24, 2018, the New Jersey Supreme court decided the case of State v. Isaac A. Young. The principal issue was whether N.J.S.A. 9:6-8.10b prohibition against the disclosure of child abuse records applied to the defendant even though he is not affiliated with the Division of Child Protection and Permanency.
The Court issued a per curiam opinion and held in relevant part as follows: An Appellate Division panel vacated defendant’s conviction of permitting or encouraging the release of a confidential child abuse record in violation of N.J.S.A. 9:6-8.10b. The Court considers the panel’s conclusion that defendant’s conduct is beyond the statute’s reach.
During the 2012 mayoral election in the City of Salem, defendant Isaac A. Young was the executive director of the city’s housing authority. Defendant’s friend and political ally, the incumbent-mayor Robert Davis, was defeated by then-councilman Charles Washington, who was eventually elected mayor. Defendant came into possession of documents sent by the Division of Youth and Family Services, now designated the Division of Child Protection and Permanency (Division), to the City’s police chief. The documents advised the chief that the Division had substantiated allegations of child abuse against Washington. The allegations were later deemed to be unsubstantiated. Defendant showed the documents to others in his office and gave copies to a police officer, Sergeant Leon Daniels, so that Daniels could distribute the documents to others for political purposes.
Washington found out about the letter’s distribution and called the police chief to his home and showed him the documents that had been mailed out. The chief “recognized the handwriting on the envelopes” as being Daniels’s, and reported the incident to the Salem County Prosecutor’s Office (SCPO). The SCPO initiated an investigation into the release of the confidential documents. Eventually the SCPO determined that Terri Gross, a civilian clerk with the police department, had obtained the documents from the department and given them to Mayor Davis, and that defendant “had nothing to do with” Gross’s release of the documents to Davis.
A “per curiam” opinion is one in which the author is not named. It is traditionally used when the conclusion is based on such an obvious application of the law to the facts that the author has no basis to apply his or her own analysis. Here, a per curiam opinion was issued because the author of the lower appellate court’s opinion did such a thorough and accurate job that the Supreme Court had very little to add to the lower court’s analysis.