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NJSBA Endorses Uniform Court Day Resolution
NEW BRUNSWICK, NJ—In a collective effort to resolve problematic issues pertaining to the best practices movement, the NJSBA board of trustees considered and adopted General Council recommendations at its Dec. 9 board meeting that would establish a uniform court day and improve lawyers’ quality of life. The board’s action was communicated to the court in a Dec. 17 letter from NJSBA President Edwin J. McCreedy to AOC Director Philip Carchman.
McCreedy urged the consideration and adoption of the resolutions by the court “as being essential to the improvement of the quality of life of attorneys, and necessary to improve the interests of justice in New Jersey.” The NJSBA previously raised the issue of a uniform court day with the Supreme Court at one of its semi-annual meetings.
On behalf of the Bergen County Bar Association (BCBA), Seymour Chase of Chase and Chase in Hackensack and BCBA President John Molinelli proposed the resolutions at the General Council Annual Meeting on Oct. 15. Pursuant to Article VI, Section 3, of the NJSBA bylaws, the board of trustees must consider recommendations of the General Council within 90 days of the date of the General Council Meeting.
The first resolution endorses a uniform court day beginning at 9 a.m. and ending at 4 p.m., with a lunch recess from 12:30 p.m. to 1:30 p.m. It posits state policy, as enunciated by best practices, that calls for “uniform and common practices throughout the vicinages, divisions and parts of the Superior Court of the State of New Jersey.”
On the floor of October’s General Council annual meeting, members voiced their concerns about routinely getting notices to appear in court by 8:30 a.m. for cases that typically start no earlier than 9:30 a.m. The court day frequently ends at 6 p.m. General Council members asked for uniformity from division to division, court to court, judge to judge and county to county.
How the courts are perceived affects clients and witnesses and it is very hard to explain the variations from state to state, so explaining from court to court makes matters worse, said a council member. A uniform court day offers some predictability.
The resolution states that with professional and personal commitments including child care arrangements, family obligations and having the right to enjoy a reasonable standard of quality of life and professionalism, the inappropriate extension of court hours negatively affects professionalism, quality of life and the ability of lawyers to operate a practice in a normal manner. It affirms that a uniform court day would “provide both the bench and bar with an improved quality of life and so as to improve the quality of justice to litigants.”
The next recommendation adopted by the NJSBA board of trustees consisted of four resolutions dealing with the continued enforcement of rules promulgated as a result of best practices that the General Council described as having a negative impact on the quality of life of practicing attorneys.
Although best practices were based upon an evaluation of the civil court system between 1997 and 2000 when there was a serious backlog of cases throughout New Jersey, the resolution states that the civil case backlog has been lessened as a consequence of tort reform and the resulting reduction in civil filings by as much as 30 percent.
Resolution A calls for the appointment of a special committee, including NJSBA representatives, various county bars, specialty bars and judges assigned to the civil and chancery divisions for the purpose of evaluating the principal goals of best practices. The resolution also states that the committee should take “into account the current backlog and the number of civil filings as of calendar year 2004 and prior thereto as is reasonably necessary to make further recommendations.”
Resolution B asks for the elimination of civil trials during the month of August, if practicable and reasonable, conditioned upon the mutual consent of counsel for all respective parties.
Resolution C would require that the court relax the standard for extension of discovery and trial dates for all cases that are less than twenty-one months old.
Resolution D provides a comprehensive justification for the prior three resolutions by calling for the NJSBA to notify the court that “Resolutions A, B and C would not only be in the best interests of justice, but would also have a positive impact on the quality of life of all practicing attorneys which can only result in improved professionalism and a high standard of service to their clients.”
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.
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