In re Commitment of J.B.

NJDC with the Civil Rights and Constitutional Litigation Clinic at Seton Hall Law School, the ACLU of New Jersey, and Gibbons P.C., filed an amicus brief at the New Jersey Appellate Division on behalf of J.B, arguing that the due process clause forbids the State of New Jersey from applying the Sexually Violent Predator Act to a respondent who was a child at the time of his underlying sex offense.

On November 13, 2013, the Appellate Division denied the motion for leave to appear as amici without prejudice, stating that the brief contained arguments from psychology and social science publications and scholarly materials, not part of the record reviewed by the trial judge or discussed by experts in the case. Amici filed a motion to reconsider the denial of a commonly accepted Brandeis brief. On December 5, 2013 the court granted amici’s motion, but required the filing of a revised brief, excluding parts of the brief that contained reference to psychology and social science publications or scholarly materials not part of the trial record. Amici filed a revised brief on December 12, 2013.

This case concerns the State’s petition for civil commitment under the New Jersey Sexually Violent Predator Act (SVPA) of a past juvenile sex offender upon the completion of his prison term. Alarmingly, in the instant case, the only offense that such commitment could be predicated under is the sex offense that occurred when J.B.  was 15 years old. At the time of the commitment hearing, J.B. was 24 years old. The trial judge dismissed the petition and refused to commit J.B. stating that J.B.’s juvenile conduct was an insufficient basis upon which to find that he is highly likely to recidivate sexually as an adult, particularly in light of his sincere remorse; his rapid maturation and increased impulse control in adulthood; and the absence of any evidence of deviant arousal as an adult. The State appealed to the New Jersey Appellate Division. In their brief, amici relied heavily on Roper v. Simmons, Graham v. Florida, and Miller v. Alabama to assert that children are constitutionally different than adults, and that because the adolescent brain is still developing, offenses committed by juveniles are not evidence of irretrievably depraved character. Additionally, amici cited research demonstrating that juvenile sex offenders are different from adult sex offenders and far less likely to re-offend sexually. In the alternative, amici argued that even if the court believes that SVPA proceedings are theoretically permissible for juveniles, it should hold that the State has not met and cannot meet its burden of proving by clear and convincing evidence that J.B., a former juvenile offender, who has never offended as an adult, is “highly likely” to do so in the future.

Amici hoped that the Appellate Division would uphold the trial court’s holding. If the case is overturned and J.B. appeals to the New Jersey Supreme Court, amici will file an updated brief inclusive of the omitted portions—with the understanding that Brandeis briefs, including psychology and social science publications and scholarly material, are regularly accepted at the New Jersey Supreme Court.

: Superior Court of New Jersey Appellate Division
  October 9, 2013
Re-filed Amended Brief
: December 12, 2013
Amicus Brief Discusses: Adolescent Development; Commitment; Juvenile Sex Offenses; Recidivism

Oral Argument: January 13, 2014
: Pending