Appellate Division Standard of Review of a Trial Court’s Decision

State vs. Webb Appellate Division February 12, 2016

Submitted by New Jersey Criminal Defense Attorney, Jeffrey Hark.

IN this blog we review, again, the Appellate Division’s scope and Standard of Review of a trial court’s decision.  These are bedrock fundamental concepts that need to be taken into consideration when you are actually at trial listening to the evidence coming out, the decisions the trial court is making, and the ‘findings of fact’, ‘conclusions of law’, and determinations of ‘credibility of the witnesses’.  Failure on behalf of the trial court to make state these requirements on the record will leave the door open for appeal.   The court stated:

“We begin by noting our standard of review. It is well understood that when considering a trial court’s ruling on a motion to suppress evidence, “[w]e conduct [our] review with substantial deference to the trial court’s factual findings, which we ‘must uphold . . . so long as those findings are supported by sufficient credible evidence in the record.'” State v. Hinton, 216 N.J. 211, 228 (2013) (quoting State v. Handy, 206 N.J. 39, 44 (2011)). “When . . . we consider a ruling that applies legal principles to the factual findings of the trial court, we defer to those findings but review de novo the application of those principles to the factual findings.” Ibid. (citing State v. Harris, 181 N.J. 391, 416 (2004), cert. denied, 545 U.S. 1145, 125 S. Ct. 2973, 162 L. Ed. 2d 898 (2005)). However, despite our deferential standard, “if the trial court’s findings are so clearly mistaken ‘that the interests of justice demand intervention and correction,’ then the appellate court should review ‘the record as if it were deciding the matter at inception and make its own findings and conclusions.'” State v. Mann, 203 N.J. 328, 337 (2010) (quoting State v. Johnson, 42 N.J. 146, 162 (1964)). ”

For additional scope of review posts, see:

Appellate Court’s Scope of Review of the Compensation Court’s Decision | Mesgleski vs. Spes Company

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