Saturday, October 15, 2016

Appellate court reverses revocation of handgun carry permit by Middlesex judge who gave no notice to the permit's holder.

In an October 7, 2016 written opinion, the Appellate Division of the New Jersey Superior Court reversed a Middlesex County judge's order that revoked an armored car driver's limited permit to carry a handgun because the permit holder was not given notice of the revocation proceeding and was thus deprived of "an opportunity to be heard."

According to the opinion, Rickey R. Duncanson of Carteret, who worked as a driver and guard for the Garda armored car service, applied in November 2014 to renew his "two-year limited permit to carry a handgun" that was set to expire on January 28, 2015.  The permit allowed Duncanson to carry a handgun during his work assignments and "while proceeding directly to and from work assignments and at no other time or place."  The Superior Court granted Duncanson's application which had been approved by the New Jersey State Police.

But, on January 21, 2015, a Middlesex County Superior Court judge conducted a proceeding without having notified Duncanson, the State Police or the Middlesex County Prosecutor.  During the proceeding, the judge said that he had learned that the permit "had been altered to appear to give Duncanson the unlimited ability to carry a handgun."  After the proceeding, the judge issued an order and mailed it to Duncanson.  The judge based his decision on "public health, safety and welfare" concerns. 

The Appellate Division made no ruling on whether Duncanson's permit should ultimately be renewed.  Rather, the court held only that the judge's "after the fact denial of his application" violated Duncanson's right to due process of law.  The case was remanded back to the same judge with instructions to hold an evidentiary hearing.

Appellate Division decisions never identify judges who are reversed but often identify and praise those whose rulings are affirmed.  I believe that all judges whose rulings are subjected to appeal should be publicly identified.  Accordingly, an Open Public Records Act (OPRA) request was made to the Middlesex County Prosecutor's Office for the order from which Duncanson's appeal was taken.  The response to the OPRA request disclosed that the revocation order was entered by Judge Joseph L. Rea.