A panel of judges from the New Jersey Superior Court Appellate Division ruled on April 24 that Garden State officials had violated the due process rights of a man represented by the law school’s Appellate Litigation Clinic.
The court agreed that the state had failed to notify an Elizabeth, N.J. man of a hearing scheduled on his motion to recover money police had seized when he was arrested for possession of drugs with the intent to sell. They also agreed that the state had not met its burden to show the required link between the money and the contraband they seized.
The Star-Ledger of Newark, N.J. reported on the ruling.
Alumna Rachel King, ’13, had argued on the man’s behalf that he never received notice of the hearing.
King, who became involved with the case through the clinic with classmate Nick Verna, ’13, argued in March that officials knew the hearing notification had not been received because the Post Office returned it as “undeliverable.” She also argued that the state failed to show that the seized money was directly tied to the drug possession for which the man was convicted.
While they were students, King and Verna helped file a brief on the man’s behalf, which resulted in a decision by the Appellate Division to hear argument.
The appellate panel ordered that the matter go back to the Superior Court, where the man seeks to recover some $2,300 officials seized at the time of his arrest that he claims he had earned through lawful employment.
Professor Richard Frankel, who directs the clinic, said the case required King and Verna to be very enterprising, because the problem they identified was not obvious.
“They uncovered the problem through their own diligence, digging into the record of the case,” Frankel said.
Verna, who is now an associate with a firm in Delaware, said he was gratified by the ruling.
“It’s great the court commented on both issues we raised, and it reflects the hard work and guidance Professor Frankel and Professor Amy Montemarano provided,” Verna said.
King, who is now a clerk for Judge Kevin Brobson of the Commonwealth Court of Pennsylvania, said she is proud of the team's work.
“The case highlights the value of the clinic, not only to the students who participate in it, but also to the clients we serve,” King said.