This appeal involves the trial court's denial of defendant's request to have the same counsel represent him in Title Nine abuse and neglect proceedings and a criminal matter arising from the same allegations of sexual abuse of a child. In N.J. Div. of Youth & Family Servs. v. N.S., 412 N.J. Super. 593 (App. Div. 2010), we held that simultaneous representation is permissible where the trial court is able to implement measures sufficient to protect the confidentiality of DCPP records disclosed during the Title Nine proceedings. We directed courts to undertake a case-by-case analysis when deciding requests for simultaneous representation.
The panel held that the trial court failed to undertake the analysis required by N.S. and summarily denied defendant's request for simultaneous representation. In addition, the panel clarified that N.S. applies to both Title Nine dispositional hearings and Title Nine fact finding hearings. Finally, the panel held that the denial of defendant's choice of counsel was a structural error requiring reversal of the abuse and neglect finding reached after a hearing at which defendant was represented by counsel that was not his choice.