January 18, 2013
NJSBA TRUSTEES REPORT
The following is a summary of actions taken at the Jan. 18, 2013, 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.
Judicial vacancies: With nearly 55 vacancies on the state court bench, and even more looming, the efforts in Trenton to fill those positions have reached an impasse. The New Jersey courts are in crisis. President Kevin P. McCann advised the board of the efforts the association has made, through an ongoing dialogue with the parties involved in the nominations process, to bring a resolution to the crisis. The trustees are poised to take further action if the impasse continues.
Mandatory pro bono prior to bar admission: The New Jersey Administrative Office of the Courts is considering instituting a rule, similar to the groundbreaking rule announced in New York earlier this year, that would require law students to perform 50 hours of pro bono legal services as a condition of admission to the bar. A Supreme Court committee has been formed to examine the idea, comprised of lawyers, law school deans, and others. Trustee Domenick Carmagnola is the state bar association’s representative on the committee. The general consensus is that the rule will be recommended for adoption. Some concerns have been raised about the proposal, particularly by the Young Lawyers Division, including how it fits into existing law school curricula, what it means to have people with little experience giving legal advice, the impact on lower-income students, and other issues. The New Jersey State Bar Association will consider a resolution opposing proposal at its February meeting, so it can be included in the committee’s final report.
Support of Judge Hany Mawla: The trustees voted to issue a statement in support of the fairness, independence and character of state Superior Court Judge Hany Malwa, who was the subject of an anti-Muslim attack.
Amicus: The trustees agreed to seek friend-of-the-court status in O’Boyle v. Longport, which has the potential of impacting the attorney-client privilege and how it interacts with Open Public Records Act requests filed with government agencies.
Elections: A manual to govern election procedure was adopted by the trustees. The manual codifies the procedures to be used in the event there is a future contested election for a position on the association’s Board of Trustees or Executive Committee. The manual formally incorporates procedures such as distributing an electronic copy of the association’s membership list to the candidates, an appeal process and other issues.
Continuing Legal Education: The New Jersey Institute for Continuing Legal Education will run a pilot program to sell “season tickets” offering association members, as well as non-members, a discount for purchasing a bundle that will admit them to five or 10 programs over the course of the year.
Name change: The board approved a name change for the Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender Rights Section, at the request of the section. It now will be known as the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Rights Section, which is consistent with national standards and practices.
Government relations: The trustees took positions on several measures pending in Trenton, including:
Support A3413/S2157, which would establish a temporary program to allow the state Housing and Mortgage Finance Agency to buy foreclosed homes to use as affordable housing.
Oppose as overly broad A2398/S1533, a measure that would allow health care providers to alert the Motor Vehicles Commission about clients with health conditions, such as epilepsy.
Support A3404 to provide gross income tax credit for certain expenses paid for support of a senior family member.
Municipal court appeals: At the request of the Municipal Court Practice Section, the association will advocate that the standard for review of municipal court appeals - independent de novo reviews of municipal court convictions - should not be changed. The Supreme Court’s Criminal Practice Committee is currently considering the issue.
ABA resolution on juries and jury trials: The trustees agreed that the association should co-sponsor a resolution that will be voted upon at the American Bar Association’s Mid-Year Meeting in Dallas in February. The resolution amends the model code of Principles for Juries and Jury Trials, specifically reminding judges and lawyers of their duty to protect and enhance jury trial rights. It also recommends that jurors be cautioned against communicating in any way about a trial, including through electronic means; and to accommodate non-English speakers in jury pools.