The per curiam opinion continues: The next statute, N.J.S.A. 9:6-8.10b, imposes a penalty upon “any person who willfully permits or encourages the release of the contents of any record or report in contravention of this act.” (emphasis added). That statute makes a release “a misdemeanor . . . subjecting a violator to a fine of not more than $1,000.00, or to imprisonment for not more than 3 years, or both.” Ibid. (448 N.J. Super. at 220-21.)
Because the Legislature specifically limited culpability under the statute to authorized individuals or entities that receive confidential documents from the Division but then fail to maintain their confidentiality or anyone who encourages their improper release, there was no evidence adduced at defendant’s trial that he violated the plain language of N.J.S.A. 9:6-8.10b. It was undisputed that he did not receive any documents from the Division or from Gross, or encourage Gross to release the documents to him or anyone else. Defendant claimed he received the documents in an anonymous mailing sent to him and there was no evidence to the contrary. Therefore, applying the statute’s clear language, the trial court erred by not dismissing the charge that defendant violated N.J.S.A. 9:68.10a(b), and defendant’s conviction for that offense must be vacated. (448 N.J. Super. at 221-22.)
The Court granted the State’s petition for certification challenging that determination, 230 N.J. 355 (2017), but denied defendant’s cross-petition challenging the convictions affirmed by the panel, 230 N.J. 373 (2017). The judgment of the Appellate Division is affirmed substantially for the reasons expressed in Judge Rothstadt’s well-reasoned opinion.
While common for the Appellate Division to praise a trial judge by name when they conduct a “well-reasoned analysis”, it is not common for the New Jersey Supreme Court to do so with appellate division judges. In light of the praise he received, Judge Rothstadt has a strong basis to be elevated to the New Jersey Supreme Court once a vacancy arises.