In re E.S.

This interlocutory appeal presented the New Jersey Appellate Division with an unsettled question concerning the fair and appropriate sequence of proceedings in the prosecution of a juvenile offender who the State wishes to waive to adult court. The question arose in a context where the juvenile moved to suppress evidence that the State would rely upon at the waiver hearing and also possibly seek to admit at an eventual trial. Should the suppression hearing be conducted first by a judge in the Family Part before the waiver hearing? Or should the waiver hearing take precedence, and, if the juvenile is waived, the suppression hearing then be conducted by a judge in the Criminal Part? The Court held that “the Family Part has the discretion to determine the optimal sequence of proceedings, depending upon the circumstances presented in a particular case. In exercising that discretion, the trial court should apply a general preference to have the suppression hearing conducted first in the Family Part. But other considerations might outweigh that preference, such as whether an adult alleged co-perpetrator or an already-waived juvenile co-perpetrator has filed a cognate suppression motion in the Criminal Part. Thus, the sequencing decision is best handled in the trial court in a case-by-case discretionary manner with that preference in mind.”

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