Law Enforcement and Administrative Functions (Part 3)

by | Jan 22, 2021 | Blog, Criminal Law, Monmouth County, New Jersey, Ocean County

The New Jersey Supreme Court continued in relevant part: The Court articulated two purposes advanced by its holding: it eliminated uncertainty for county prosecutors as to whether defense and indemnification would be provided, and it avoided the anomalous results that could occur based on the State’s potential for vicarious liability for the same actions. Importantly, that reasoning supported the Court’s decision to put the State in control of the defense in such settings. Attempts to implement that holding — and in particular its exclusion of administrative functions from indemnification — have given rise to a number of disputes over the years. Cases in which courts correctly have found that the State did not need to indemnify and defend county prosecutors have involved internal operations of a prosecutor’s office.

Applying those principles here, it appears that two categories of error plagued the Attorney General’s approach to the requests for defense and indemnification. First, the Attorney General, and the Appellate Division, did not give proper regard to the nature of the Directive, which imposes on the county prosecutor numerous, important discretionary decisions related to the removal and return of service weapons by law enforcement officers within their jurisdiction. The prosecutor’s office must offer training and supervision with respect to enforcement of the Directive. The Court views that training and supervision, as well as the many discretionary determinations the Directive assigns to the prosecutor, as part of the State-delegated responsibility to enforce the law that the Attorney General has entrusted to prosecutors, rather than as administrative duties that have been exempted from State defense and indemnification in the past.

This decision gives the impression that external political pressures may have influenced the decision of the Attorney General’s Office. The Monmouth County Prosecutor who is a party to this case was involved contentious appointment process.