New Jersey State Bar Association - The voluntary Bar Association of New Jersey, serving members since 1899.

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Association Honors Attorneys with Amicus Awards

NEW BRUNSWICK, NJ—New Jersey State Bar Association President Wayne Positan presented Amicus Service Awards to 14 attorneys on Dec. 8, commending each recipient on their volunteer efforts in 2006, ranging from drafting briefs to participating in oral arguments.

“Due to the efforts of these individuals, the NJSBA has established a reputation with the Court for meaningful, thoughtful intervention in matters that have the potential of broadly affecting the practice of law,” Positan said during the presentation ceremony. “In most instances, the NJSBA’s participation is truly in the vein of a friend of the court, parsing through party-specific issues in matters, and guiding the Court on the broader ramifications of a particular ruling. We are grateful and fortunate to have such talented and committed volunteers among our membership. I am pleased and proud to be able to present them with awards today to recognize their fine efforts on behalf of the association.”

Honorees worked on a broad range of rulings. David Dugan drafted the NJSBA submission and presented oral argument in the Supreme Court’s review of the Advisory Committee on Professional Ethics Opinion Number 697. That opinion concluded there would be a direct conflict whenever a lawyer or another in the firm represents both a municipal agency and a private client concurrently in the municipality’s court or before any agency of the municipality. Dugan argued in the brief that the committee ignored RPC 8.1(k) in its analysis, which permits a lawyer employed by a public entity to determine whether representation of another client presents a conflict with the lawyer’s ability to diligently represent the public entity. He also argued that the committee used the “official family” doctrine, construing, for conflicts purposes, all municipal agencies with certain characteristics as being the municipality itself not merely an agency. This, he argued, was tantamount to keeping the appearance of impropriety standard alive, contrary to the Court’s decision to abolish that standard in 2004. The Court has yet to issue its decision in the case. Gerald Baker and Amirali Haidri worked together to draft the NJSBA’s brief in Davidson v. Slater, where the Court was asked to clarify whether the Automobile Insurance Cost Reduction Act (AICRA) requires a plaintiff to provide a comparative analysis of current injuries and previous injuries in order to meet the verbal threshold and defeat a motion for summary judgment. Baker and Haidri urged the Court in their brief to read the plain meaning of AICRA and hold that the statute establishes a single burden of proof for all plaintiffs to meet the verbal threshold: the production of a physician’s certification that the plaintiff sustained a permanent injury, and nothing more. The Court has yet to issue its decision in this case.

Bonnie Frost drafted the NJSBA’s letter brief in Gac v. Gac, where a divorced father alleged his due process and equal protection rights were violated by what he perceived as a court mandate that divorced parents pay for their children’s education, in particular, college education. Frost argued in the brief that the relevant precedent—Newburgh v. Arrigo—delineated 12 factors to be considered before determining whether a non-custodial parent should contribute to the their child’s college expenses. These factors were designed to assist the Court in weighing, on a case-by-case basis, whether a parent has the financial capability to contribute to education expenses. Thus, the father’s allegation that New Jersey law universally compels non-custodial parents to fund their children’s education was untrue. While the Court declined to opine on the constitutional issues raised by the father, it utilized the Newburgh factors to analyze the specific facts of this case and conclude that the father should not have to contribute to his child’s education expenses. Thus, in a roundabout way, the Court affirmed the reliance on Newburgh when considering a divorced parent’s responsibilities in connection with educational expenses.

In September, the Family Law Section brought the NJSBA Board of Trustees an emergent request to participate in the Supreme Court matter of In Re Peter Jacoby, in which the Court was reviewing a disciplinary matter where per se suspension was being recommended for an attorney convicted of domestic violence. Dale Console quickly drafted a letter brief to submit to the Court reaffirming the NJSBA’s commitment to ensuring victims of domestic violence are afforded the full protections of the law, but also explaining the unintended, but very real, financial consequences to victims of domestic violence who are married to attorneys facing suspension for a domestic violence conviction. The Court ultimately concluded that a censure was the appropriate discipline for Jacoby, not suspension, as had been recommended.

A team of attorneys worked on the NSJBA’s submission to the Court in Lewis v. Harris, which challenged the constitutionality of the ban of same-sex marriages in New Jersey. The association endeavored to participate in the case by providing the Court with a reasoned overview of the state of the law as it applied to individuals in same-sex relationships, and the unique difficulties faced by attorneys in advising their same-sex clients. Felice Londa, Thomas Snyder, Scott Leterra, Robert Knee, Andrew Demaio and Gail Oxfeld Kanef worked within a very short time frame to put together a brief for the Court covering family law, real property, probate and estate law, and employment law issues. Londa pulled the team together and editing each individual point heading so the final brief was a comprehensive, cohesive document. In the end, the Court found that it is unconstitutional to treat same-sex couples differently than different-sex couples, and gave the Legislature 180 days to find the best way to equalize their treatment in New Jersey.

Bob Hille, James McFaul and Megan Roberts worked together on the NJSBA’s brief in Liberty Mutual v. Land, where the Court considered what burden of proof should be applied to civil proceedings under the Insurance Fraud Protection Act. Hille also presented oral argument, on three-days’ notice, for the NJSBA in the matter, urging the Court to adopt a heightened standard of proof to protect the public against the inherent potential for abuse in fraud cases, and to preserve the public’s confidence in determinations under the act. The Court ultimately disagreed, holding that the proper standard of proof should be preponderance of the evidence.

The New Jersey State Bar Association, incorporated in 1899, is dedicated to the continuing education of lawyers and the public, to reforming and improving the legal system and to aiding in the administration of justice.