State v. Oscar Ramirez, Docket No. 085943

Joshua P. Law appeared before the New Jersey Supreme Court on behalf of amicus curiae ACDL-NJ, arguing that defense counsel should be entitled to the victim’s home address as part of criminal discovery so counsel could verify whether the victim would consent to be interviewed or give a statement to the defense. Law argued that in an adversarial system, it is improper to permit prosecutors to be the sole gatekeepers between the victim and the defense. Criminal defense attorneys are tasked with upholding defendants’ constitutional rights to a complete defense and effective assistance of counsel; limiting their ability to properly investigate and interview victim-witnesses would impair their ability to do that. In the case in question, the trial court had permitted the victim’s contact information to be shared with defense counsel, not the defendant. The Appellate Division reversed that decision.

N.J. Supreme Court, in a unanimous decision, held that the Appellate Division erred in summarily barring defense counsel from this vital information, and remanded the case to the trial court to balance the competing interests of the victim’s privacy and the defendant’s constitutional rights. In remanding, the Court also provided additional factors to consider in weighing the competing interests between a defendant’s constitutional rights to a complete defense and a victim’s constitutional rights to privacy. It also adopted a non-exhaustive list of several “judicially-supervised pathways” that would permit defense counsel to interview victim-witnesses without undue interference from the prosecutor. CJ Griffin authored the brief.

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