December 14, 2012
NJSBA Trustees Report
The following is a summary of actions taken at the Dec. 14, 2012, meeting of the New Jersey State Bar Association Board of Trustees at the New Jersey Law Center in New Brunswick. This summary does not constitute official minutes.
Audit: The New Jersey State Bar Association has a strong financial base and is a thriving home to the state’s largest lawyers group and the leading continuing legal education organization, a new auditor’s report shows. In the last fiscal year, the association earned a net income of nearly $1.6 million, resulting in $4.8 million cash on hand, according to the Withum, Smith + Brown audit of fiscal year 2012, which ended in June. The auditor found no issues of concern and issued an unqualified opinion, the cleanest decision it could report.
Pro bono: The trustees agreed to ask the Supreme Court to consider a change to RPC 6.1 to allow attorneys to satisfy their mandatory pro bono obligations by volunteering for a legal-related disaster relief assistance program, under the auspices of a non-profit organization. RPC 6.1 makes clear that attorneys have a professional responsibility to offer public interest legal service and allows attorneys to discharge that obligation by providing pro bono service. The association will ask the Court to acknowledge the overwhelming need for such services in the wake of a disaster like the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks or the more recent natural disaster, Hurricane Sandy, regardless of whether the survivors are of limited means.
On a related note, the trustees said it was important to voice concerns to the Supreme Court’s Working Group to Discuss Possible Pro Bono Service Requirement for Bar Applicants about the proposed requirement that candidates must complete 50 hours of pro bono service prior to seeking admission to practice law in New Jersey.
Government affairs: The trustees:
- Opposed A-455, a bill that would establish a per se standard for driving under the influence of drugs if there is any evidence of a controlled dangerous substance in a person’s bodily fluids. The trustees opposed the legislation as overly broad. The board also opposed A-1015, which would increase penalties for drunk driving when minors are present and injured, since it is covered in other laws.
- Opposed A-944/S-1461, which would establish and enhance some insurance fraud prevention matters, since the issue is already addressed under existing law.
- Opposed A-2405, which removes the statute of limitations in some civil actions for sexual abuse and expands the categories of defendants liable in such actions as overly broad.
- Supported A-2179, which requires assisted living facilities to set aside at least 10 percent of their beds for people eligible for Medicaid and to accept at least five percent of Medicaid direct admissions.
Membership: The trustees approved the 2012 Diversity Membership Initiative to offer a 50-percent discount on the first year of association membership, free membership in substantive law sections, and a voucher for a free live, three-credit continuing legal education (CLE) course to members of the state’s minority bar associations. The offer will be launched at the association’s Diversity Summit in February and end in May.
Legal education: The trustees approved the licensing of the association’s CLE publications to the Bloomberg Law online legal database.
Common law retaining liens: The trustees voted to reiterate the association’s position endorsing the use, where appropriate, of a common law retaining lien so that lawyers can hold client files to secure payment of outstanding legal fees. The issue will be discussed at an upcoming Supreme Court Advisory Committee on Professional Ethics meeting, and stems from a disciplinary matter where a lawyer faced admonition for using the lien. The Supreme Court dismissed the admonition, but asked for further consideration of the use of retaining liens given the restrictions on holding client funds in the Rules of Professional Conduct.