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

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Appellate Division Rules Against the NJSBA in $75 Fee Case

NEW BRUNSWICK, NJ—The New Jersey State Bar Association (NJSBA) Board of Trustees will discuss on Friday whether to pursue an appeal of today’s Appellate Division decision in the $75 fee case affirming the trial court’s decision that the New Jersey Medical Care Access and Responsibility and Patients First Care Act is constitutional. The NJSBA filed suit challenging the constitutionality of the statute and the Legislature’s authority to impose a $75 assessment on attorneys and other professionals to subsidize the medical malpractice insurance premiums of physicians who practice certain specialties.

“The NJSBA is disappointed with the decision of the appellate panel,” said NJSBA President Wayne J. Positan. “We would have liked for the court to provide a more precise definition of the limits of legislative power. We believe that we had powerful arguments for establishing such limits that the court chose not to adopt. However, we are pleased that the court in its opinion recognized ‘the critical role that lawyers play and the contributions they make to our system of justice.’

Whether or not to petition the Supreme Court for certification to hear the case is ultimately a matter to be determined by the Board of Trustees.”

Edwin J. McCreedy represented the NJSBA in this matter and said, “Of course I am disappointed with the decision and had hoped that the court would recognize that the legislation was devoid of a rational basis in so far as it imposed a tax on all members of a profession for the benefit of another profession.”

On April 5, 2006, the Appellate Division held oral argument on the NJSBA’s challenge to the statute that requires lawyers to contribute $75 to the Medical Malpractice Liability Insurance Premium Assistance Fund. The fund was created to assist health care providers in paying medical malpractice liability insurance premiums, provide payments to hospitals for charity care subsidies, reimburse obstetricians and gynecologists for student loans, and make payments to the Division of Health Services for the health care of low-income pregnant women.

The appellate panel consisted of Judges Dorothea Wefing, Barbara Byrd Wecker, and Jose Fuentes. The NJSBA was represented by Edwin J. McCreedy of McCreedy & Cox in Cranford. Assistant Attorney General Patrick D’Almeida represented the State.

The NJSBA contends that the act is constitutionally infirm because it violates equal protection guarantees, intrudes on the rule-making authority of the Supreme Court, improperly uses public money to benefit private parties, and constitutes special legislation.

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.