The Legal Division of the Cape May County Prosecutor’s Office is comprised, under Prosecutor Jeffrey H. Sutherland, of First Assistant Prosecutor Robert W. Johnson, who oversees a Litigation Section and an Investigation / Special Litigation Section. Chief Assistant Prosecutor Meg Hoerner leads the Litigation Section with two Trial Teams composed of ten Assistant Prosecutors and a Grand Jury Unit with two Assistant Prosecutors assigned on a full-time basis and additional Assistant Prosecutors as required. These attorneys are responsible for the prosecution of indictable matters originating in the Prosecutor’s Office and received from the sixteen municipalities in Cape May County; and providing legal advice to eleven municipal police departments, the New Jersey State Police as well as the Delaware River and Bay Authority.Assistant Prosecutors have two primary functions. To prosecute criminal complaints filed through the Prosecutor’s Office including screening complaints, grand jury presentations, and prosecuting indictments through guilty plea or trial. Also to provide legal advice, counsel and support to the Cape May County law enforcement community during the course of investigations in the form of obtaining court orders, wiretaps, search warrants and the like. In addition, the Assistant Prosecutors provide legal training for academy recruits, in-service officers and corrections officers at the County Police Academy.
Three Assistant Prosecutors are assigned to the Investigations/Special Litigation Unit and report directly to the First Assistant Prosecutor. Assignments in this Unit are to the Gangs, Guns and Narcotics Task Force; Juvenile Prosecutions; as well as Appellate and Civil Forfeiture functions.
The Cape May County Prosecutor’s Office utilizes two methods of managing the prosecution of cases; vertical prosecution and horizontal prosecution systems. Vertical prosecution, cases that are assigned to a specific Assistant Prosecutor from Grand Jury preparation to trial, is utilized in high profile and/or specialized cases such as cold cases, child abuse, sexual assault, financial crimes, and narcotics. The First Assistant Prosecutor reviews the initial case and assigns it based upon his review. In horizontal prosecution cases, the majority of cases received by the office, the First Assistant Prosecutor initially reviews them, assigns to one of two trial teams and forwarded to the Grand Jury Unit for review, preparation and one of three dispositions; presentation to the Grand Jury, downgrade to Municipal Court or administrative dismissal. If a case is true billed (indicted), the First Assistant Prosecutor then assigns the cases to an attorney whose responsibility is to handle the case through disposition. This includes arraignment/status conference, pretrial conference, motions, and trial. The Appellate Section generally handles post-conviction and appellate matters.
The Cape May County Prosecutor’s Office has experienced an increase in criminal cases it reviewed during 2011 and 2012. In a report of September 2012, the New Jersey Division of Criminal Justice’s “Analysis of Prosecutor Data” noted that Cape May County Prosecutor’s Office reviewed 13% more cases in 2011 than it had reviewed in 2010. That rise in criminal cases marked that largest increase in the State of New Jersey amongst all 21 counties. Further, in 2013, the Cape May County Prosecutor’s Office reviewed 239 more cases than it had reviewed in 2012.