NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION This opinion shall not "constitute precedent or be binding upon any court."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. R. 1:36-3. SUPERIOR COURT OF NEW JERSEY APPELLATE DIVISION DOCKET NO. A-1335-19 STATE OF NEW JERSEY, Plaintiff-Respondent, v. JERMAINE VAUGHN, Defendant-Appellant. _______________________ Argued June 21, 2021 – Decided July 14, 2021 Before Judges Fisher and Fasciale. On appeal from the Superior Court of New Jersey, Law Division, Mercer County, Indictment No. 96-12-1402. Jermaine Vaughn, appellant, argued the cause pro se. Jeffrey C. McElwee, Assistant Prosecutor, argued the cause for respondent (Angelo J. Onofri, Mercer County Prosecutor, attorney; Jeffrey C. McElwee, of counsel and on the brief). PER CURIAM Defendant appeals from an October 24, 2019 order denying his third petition for post-conviction relief (PCR) without an evidentiary hearing. Defendant maintains that the judge's failure to hold a pretrial conference violated his due process rights and that his plea counsel rendered ineffective assistance by not apprising him of the consequences of rejecting a plea. Judge Timothy P. Lyndon entered the order and rendered a fifteen-page written opinion. On appeal, defendant argues: POINT I THE PCR [JUDGE] ERRED IN FAILING TO FIND THAT THE TRIAL [JUDGE] FAILED TO COMPLY WITH RULE 3:9-1(f) AND RULE 3:9-3(g) WITHOUT AN EVIDENTIARY HEARING VIOLATED DEFENDANT'S RIGHT TO DUE PROCESS. POINT II THE PCR [JUDGE] ERRONEOUSLY APPLIED PROCEDURAL BARS TO DEFENDANT'S THIRD PETITION FOR [PCR]. POINT III PRETRIAL COUNSEL WAS INEFFECTIVE FOR NOT ADVISING DEFENDANT OF THE POTENTIAL CONSEQUENCES OF A GUILTY VERDICT, INFORM THE COURT OF THE NONEXISTENCE OF A PRETRIAL 2 A-1335-19 MEMORANDUM FORM AND MISINFORMED DEFENDANT TO NOT TAKE A PLEA. We affirm substantially for the reasons expressed by Judge Lyndon. We add the following remarks. When a PCR judge does not hold an evidentiary hearing—like here—this court's standard of review is de novo as to both the factual inferences drawn by the PCR judge from the record and the judge's legal conclusions. State v. Blake, 444 N.J. Super. 285, 294 (App. Div. 2016). I. We first reject defendant's contention that the judge erroneously determined that his petition was time barred. Rule 3:22-12(a)(1)(A) precludes PCR petitions filed more than five years after entry of a judgment of conviction unless the delay was "due to defendant's excusable neglect and . . . there is a reasonable probability that if the defendant's factual assertions were found to be true[,] enforcement of the time bar would result in a fundamental injustice." Our Supreme Court has stated that "[t]he time bar should be relaxed only 'under exceptional circumstances' because '[a]s time passes, justice becomes more elusive and the necessity for preserving finality and certainty of judgments increases.'" State v. Goodwin, 173 N.J. 583, 594 (2002) (second alteration in original) (quoting State v. Afanador, 151 N.J. 41, 3 A-1335-19 52 (1997)). Moreover, we have held that "when a first PCR petition" …

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