HomeUSAN.J. Appellate Court Reverses Vindictive Judge’s Opinion on Subjective Standard Permit Case

N.J. Appellate Court Reverses Vindictive Judge’s Opinion on Subjective Standard Permit Case

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We’re allegedly living in a 50-state shall-issue country when it comes to the issuance of firearms-related paperwork. In the landmark NYSRPA v. Bruen decision, any may-issue standards were found to be unconstitutional. Part of what makes a may-issue jurisdiction such has to do with whether or not they employ any subjective standards. One recent curious case involved an applicant for a permit to carry in the Garden State, and their story is one that should raise eyebrows.

The case is known as In Re: Application of K.D. for a Permit to Carry a Handgun Pursuant to N.J.S.A. 2C:58-4. That’s a mouthful for sure. K.D. is an anonymous plaintiff, as these matters are sensitive, and their privacy is important. Considering that the judge from the Superior Court of New Jersey, Law Division, Morris County, attempted to go scorched-Earth on K.D. by doing some very underhanded stuff, K.D. was granted some anonymity here.

K.D. had applied for a permit to carry in the State of New Jersey. The time period when K.D. applied was a transition phase that many applicants had to suffer through. Before the legislature introduced and enacted their Bruen-response law, judges were still the final authority on the issuing of permits to carry. Currently, that’s not the case, with chiefs of police holding that responsibility.

When K.D. applied, they had no problems with the application process and the police chief in their jurisdiction approved the application. K.D. ended up running into an issue when the application moved onto the court for approval or denial.

From the opinion, we have several statements of fact to go by.

Suffice it to say that in September 2022, K.D.’s application for a handgun carry permit was approved by the local police chief notwithstanding “flags” noted. Shortly thereafter, the chief forwarded K.D.’s application to the court.

Citing “several items of possible concern,” in February 2023, the court noticed the parties of its intention to deny K.D.’s application. The court also ordered a Carlstrom hearing. Originally scheduled for March 1, 2023, the hearing was adjourned to March 9. 

The importance of what occurred can not be overstated. The mentioned “Carlstrom hearing,” is resultant from a case that involved a client of the Nappen law firm, the same firm that litigated K.D., and is required in permit to carry cases involving the courts.

The Carlstrom opinion stated that “[I]f a court has any questions regarding the applicant or his or her permit to carry application, it must hold a hearing to address those questions.” It further ordered that “The court should not simply deny the application.”

At that point in the process, K.D. decided to withdraw their application. The new application process at that time was going to be in effect shortly after that period. Due to the law change, judges would no longer be involved in the process.

Rather than allow K.D. to just withdraw their application, the judge had to make sure whatever opinion they had of them would be solidified and made known on the record. The following order was given by the permit judge:

ORDERED, that while the Court finds that [K.D.] would be ineligible for a New Jersey Permit to Carry a Handgun, pursuant to N.J.S.A. 2C:58-3(c), [K.D.]’s request to withdraw his application is granted.

In the appellate court opinion, more statements of facts were brought up about what led up to the present day.

The accompanying statement of reasons elaborated on K.D.’s multiple police “encounters.” In summary, the court found “[K.D.] does not have the character of temperament or appropriate judgment necessary to be entrusted to carry a firearm.” Citing N.J.S.A. 2C:58-3(c)(5), the court concluded “issuance of a permit to [K.D.], ‘would not be in the interest of the public health, safety or welfare.'” The court acknowledged it “may not have the authority to deny” the application, but found “[K.D.] does not meet the requirements for issuance of a permit to carry a handgun.” 

The law that the judge invoked, N.J.S.A. 2C:58-3(c)(5), is a subjective standard. This standard is one that’s ripe for repeal, as it is not a narrow and objective disqualifier, as NYSRPA v. Bruen requires.

For whatever reason, the judge in Morris County could not just let K.D. withdraw quietly, but instead issued a 17-page document that did nothing other than defame the applicant’s reputation. The case was completely moot, and that action was not necessary.

K.D., with their representation, the Nappen law firm, appealed to the Superior Court of New Jersey. “Since the appeal was withdrawn and no hearing held, the trial court issued its decision entirely upon hearsay,” Louis Nappen, Esq., K.D.’s attorney stated. ”Which is no way to treat a Constitutional right or even basic Due Process rights.”

Lead attorney from the Nappen firm, Evan Nappen, Esq., made an acute observation about the withdrawal process. “Even though K.D. withdrew his appeal, and the judge had no authority to do anything further,” Nappen explained, “the Morris County Superior Court Judge wrote a 17-page opinion attempting to cause irreparable harm to our client by permanently creating a pejorative record that the judge had no authority to make.”

On May 17, 2024, the opinion in this matter was delivered. The judges found that the Superior Court Judge had erred in giving an opinion with a statement.

“The Appellate Court reversed and remanded the matter for the County Court to issue an order stating that K.D. withdrew his handgun carry permit application without a statement of reasons.” – Evan Nappen, Esq.

The Nappen law firm has a solid track record of victories in New Jersey dismantling unconstitutional laws. The Appellate Court’s citation of Carlstrom did not get lost in the mix. “I was pleased to see that our Carlstrom case, which I argued and won before the New Jersey Supreme Court, is being cited by the courts as requiring hearings when courts are considering denying firearm permit applications,” said Louis Nappen. 

This is a giant win for many reasons. Firstly, it’s a solid due process victory. Secondarily, this case shows the complete contempt that even members of the judicial branch have for the Second Amendment in the Garden State. There was no reasonable explanation for the judge to opine on what he or she thought of K.D. and their alleged actions…other than illustrating them out of spite.

The opinion is not “published,” meaning that it “shall not ‘constitute precedent or be binding upon any court.’ Although it is posted on the internet, this opinion is binding only on the parties in the case and its use in other cases is limited.” The matter of K.D. is not firmly attached to binding case law, however it’s still a very relevant and citable opinion, as the disclaimer mentions its prospective limited use.

Congratulations to the Nappen law firm for another big win! Congratulations to K.D. as well. This monumental opinion should be putting judges on notice that they need to act as faithful custodians of the law, rather than act as activists. While the three branches of government have continued to conspire against law-abiding gun owners in the Garden State, K.D. has helped to dismantle a small piece of the RICO-ripe establishment that’s continuing to be exposed.

If you’d like more information about Evan F. Nappen Attorney at Law, PC and his firm, visit him on the web at EvanNappen.com. Be sure to check out his books at his site. Also, tune into Nappen’s highly entertaining and informative podcast “Gun Lawyer.” If you do subscribe, I’m sure an episode about this very case will be rolling out in the near future.

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