Sunday, March 25, 2018
ESTATE OF FRANK P. LAGANO VS. BERGEN COUNTY PROSECUTOR'S OFFICE, ET AL. A-1861-16T4
ESTATE OF FRANK P. LAGANO VS. BERGEN COUNTY PROSECUTOR'S
OFFICE, ET AL.
A court issued wiretap orders pursuant to the New Jersey Wiretapping and Electronic Surveillance Control Act, N.J.S.A. 2A:156A-1 to -37, which were later suppressed. The estate of an aggrieved person moved to unseal the intercepted conversations and evidence derived for use in a state civil forfeiture action and a federal civil rights action. The Appellate Division holds disclosure for use in civil litigation is permissible "upon a showing of good cause" under N.J.S.A. 2A:156A-17(c), and disapproves the contrary ruling in In re Disciplinary Proceedings Against Spinelli, 212 N.J. Super. 526 (Law Div. 1986). Section 17(c) has no federal counterpart under Title III, which does not prevent such disclosure of the fruits of a state wiretap order. Suppression does not preclude disclosure in these circumstances.
The trial court may order disclosure only if the need for disclosure outweighs the harms disclosure is likely to cause, subject to review for abuse of discretion. If a disclosure would reveal a person was a confidential informant for a particular agency, in a particular investigation, during a particular period, or in a particular way, the court must consider whether it is publicly known that the person cooperated with that agency, in that investigation, during that period, or in that way.