Overview: The Appellate Section of the Essex County Prosecutor’s Office is the largest county prosecutor’s appellate practice in the State, handling appeals from lower court decisions. The Section is staffed with nine attorneys, including the director, three clericals and several legal interns. While past practice was to include Appellate in a general rotation leading to a Trial slot, that is no longer the case. All of the attorneys assigned to the Section are career appellate lawyers. Consequently, the quality of the work produced by the Section has been consistently high. Every Supreme Court brief is read by at least two supervisors, and a moot court is conducted for arguments in the Supreme Court, the Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit, and every significant argument in the Appellate Division.
The Section routinely initiates its own appeals from adverse pre-trial and post-trial rulings, with the result that a number of cases, which were actually or effectively barred from trial, were successfully reinstated.
The Section also takes great pride in being an always-ready resource for ECPO’s trial prosecutors, especially those in the Adult Trial Section. Providing legal advice, second-chairing trials or motions, drafting jury instructions, handling some of the more difficult trial motions, providing legal updates, teaching CLE courses, and maintaining a comprehensive brief bank are just a few of the ways the Section is integral to the ECPO’s mission of seeking justice, serving justice, and doing justice, both on appeal and throughout the investigative and trial processes.
The Appellate Section oversees and coordinates the ECPO Internship Program. Each year, in the Spring, Summer, and Fall, students from colleges and law schools around the country are assigned to units throughout ECPO and provide valuable assistance to the attorneys and support staff they work alongside. Third-year law students also appear in court, and write briefs to both the trial courts and the Appellate Division.
• Represent and argue in court on behalf of the State in appeals and motions referred to the Essex County Prosecutor by the State Attorney General. This includes matters calendared for excessive sentencing oral arguments (ESOAs).
• Capital litigation – pre-trial and post-conviction.
• Institute our own appeals including emergent and interlocutory appeals.
• Respond to Petitions for habeas corpus relief in the Federal courts.
• Legal advisor to the trial assistants.
• Back-up to the Police Legal Advisor.
• Provide Assistant Prosecutors with information on new cases, new laws, etc.
• Co-ordinate the assignments of municipal appeals.
• Co-ordinate the assignments of PCR petitions.
• Represent the County in Federal Megan Law Cases.
• Represent the County on all gun permit appeals.
• Review all name change applications filed in this County.
• Obtain court orders for production of witnesses out of state, and for telephone records.
• Lecture at the Police Academies.
• Maintain and update brief bank.
• Interview, place and supervise college and law interns, including arranging for tours of the County Jail, the State Medical Examiner’s Office, and the Essex County Police Academy, as well as organize a lecture series during the summer.
• Trial attorney input – trial assistants are now informed of cases which they have prosecuted and are now on appeal. The assistants are given copies of defendants’ briefs when the appeals are referred to this Office for handling. They are then encouraged to speak with the appellate attorney who is assigned to the particular case.
• Peer review of briefs – appellate attorneys are now assigned to supervising appellate attorneys. One of the goals is to ensure that the attorneys are not taking inconsistent positions on the various issues we face. Another goal is to monitor the quality of the work we submit to the courts. This review has demonstrated that the Appellate Attorneys have always been filing briefs that have been outstanding and very well prepared.
• Maintenance of the brief bank.
• Obtained dismissals or denials in all our habeas cases for the last several years.