Firm Appeals Felicioni vs. The Administrative Office of The Courts to the New Jersey Supreme Court

A few posts below, our appellate argument in Felicioni vs. The AOC is discussed.  On behalf of crime victims waiting years for their restitution payments, we had sued the New Jersey Administrative Office of the Courts (AOC),seeking to reform the payment policy.  The AOC policy is to collect the restitution from the criminal and pay all sums collected to just one victim until that victim was paid in full.  Under such a distribution, victims, like our client, sometime waited years for payments.  Sometimes the payments never come at all if the criminal loses his job, goes to jail for another crime or dies.  Even worse, the way the restitution laws work, any civil judgment a victim would get could not be collected.  Our client sought have the restitution paid out to victims on a pro rata basis, much like how creditors are paid back in a bankruptcy.  That way, everyone equally bears the risk of nonpayment and suffers the inconveniences of the delayed payments.  Our client, and others, wanted to get $127 per month for 10 years, starting right now, rather than wait 7 years to start collecting $745 per month for 2 years.  No one knows if they are even going to be alive in 7 years, much less if the criminal will.  And what happens when the bank owed $80,000 is collecting $100 per month in front of you – you have to wait 66 years for payments to start ?!!!

The appeals court did not see this as a problem.  In Felicioni vs. The AOC the court ruled that the current payment system was acceptable.  Disappointingly, the court did not address the Victim’s Rights Amendment to the New Jersey Constitution with any depth and made only passing references about the Crime Victim’s Bill of Rights.  The panel seemed troubled with the idea that the we sought to expand these rights beyond applying in the context of criminal procedure.   On the positive side, the panel completely endorsed our approach to the New Jersey Civil Rights Act, ironing out an issue that has plagued such cases from the beginning.  That point centered on whether both a denial of right and an interference with a right require coercion by the government.  The answer was a resounding “no”.  Coercion is required only when a right interfered with, not when it is denied completely (often when you are denied a right, you are no even told why, much less “coerced”).

We have appealed to the New Jersey Supreme Court, asking them to review the fairness of the payment scheme.  This is our second case now pending there – as noted below, our win in Zagami v. Cotrell has been appealed by our adversary to the Supreme Court.

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