July 16, 2010
The following is a summary of actions taken at the July 16, 2010 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.
Expansion Proposal: The New Jersey State Bar Association’s governing body could soon grow to include more members from under-represented groups and its sections and committees.
At its meeting last week, the Board of Trustees approved a measure to add seven seats to the body, bringing it to 51 members. If it gains approval from the Bylaws and Resolutions Committee, it would then go to the full membership for a vote.
The proposal aims to foster diversity on the Board and give a larger voice to members of its sections and committees in governance and policy decisions by adding five at-large seats and two more representatives of State Bar sections and committees.
“The increased representation of section and committee leaders on the Board of trustees is an acknowledgement of the vital role that these groups play in the growth and success of the association. I am especially pleased that the Board recognizes the importance of increasing opportunities for diverse and underrepresented segments of the bar by recommending an increase in the number of at-large seats, which is consistent with my goals for increasing diversity in the organization,” said Association President Richard H. Steen following meeting.
The proposal to increase the size of the Board of Trustees stems from a report analyzing the make-up of the governing body, the demand for open seats, and several previous reports on the issue, dating back to 2008. It did not get a two-thirds majority vote from the Board, and will require the support of the majority of the Bylaws Committee before it can be submitted to the full membership for consideration as amendments to the association’s bylaws.
Nominating Committee: The Board of Trustees voted to expand the Nominating Committee, which is charged with selecting candidates to serve as officers and trustees of the association, as well as other leadership positions. It also adopted new procedures for the same committee to monitor confidentiality, conflicts of interest and professionalism.
The State Bar’s governing body voted at its July 16 meeting to expand the committee from seven to 15 members.
“The Nominating Committee plays a key role in shaping the future of the organization, and has always done an outstanding job in selecting future leaders. The work of the committee supports the mission of the association and assures our success as a voice to foster the fair administration of the law and the role of lawyers in society,” said Steen.
The proposed changes are the result of intensive study of the issue by multiple committees convened over the past several years. They were approved by a two-thirds vote of the Board and will be put before the membership this fall for approval as amendments to the organization’s bylaws.
NEW POLICIES AND PROCEDURES: Addressing the way the Nominating Committee evaluates candidates, the Board also approved a roster of policies and procedures to govern the committee.
The changes were made to ensure leaders were selected based on their merits, rather than who they know, officials said.
A centerpiece of the recommendations is that all members of the committee will now have to certify they have not committed to vote for a particular candidate. Further, a member of the committee will not be allowed to participate in due diligence or deliberations involving candidates with who they have a family relationship, affiliation or a close business relationship. Committee members will also have to sign a confidentiality agreement.
Likewise, candidates for all positions will be required to certify they have not solicited a commitment from a member of the committee to vote in their favor.
GENERAL COUNCIL: In a related development, the Board also voted to allow members of the General Council to cast electronic ballots for the candidates running for positions on the Nominating Committee. Officials also said they would press the General Council’s Executive Committee to consider changing the timing and location of the meeting to coincide with the State Bar association’s Annual Meeting held in Atlantic City each may. Currently, the General Council meets in New Brunswick in October.
The Board of Trustees also voted to:
- Create a Special Committee on Renewable Energy and Cleantech Development, which will focus on a developing practice area.
- Support legislation to establish “New Jersey Fair Debt Collection Practices Act,” while advocating the definition of “debt collector” should not include a professional trying to collect a debt in their own name for services rendered.
Judicial Independence: President Richard H. Steen delivered welcoming remarks on June 22, to over 100 people who attended a symposium on Judicial Independence. The event featured Chief Justice Portiz, Justice Gary Stein, Raymond Brown, Cynthia Jacob, Karol Corbin Walker, and law professors Mark Alexander, Frank Askin and Robert Williams. Also participated on an episode of Due Process, aired on July 18, on the issue.
ABA Annual Meeting: The American Bar Association’s Annual Meeting will be held in August in San Francisco. The House of Delegates will consider policies including criminal justice, mitigating harm from disaster and civil legal aid. The New Jersey State Bar Association’s Board of Trustees voted to support the resolution supporting same-sex marriage.
- Bench Bar: On Sept. 30, the NJSBA Women in the Profession Section and Judicial Administration Committee are producing the NJSBA’s first-ever bench bar conference to discuss issues involving women in the courts. The program will also feature the First Annual Maria L. Garibaldi Lecture to be delivered by the retired Justice. Commitments have already been received from Justice Marie Garibaldi, Justice Virginia Long, and former Chief Justice Poritz.
- Mid-Year Meeting: The meeting will be held in Scottsdale, Ariz. Attendees can earn up to 10 CLE credits. Several programs have already been scheduled, including those on racial profiling, immigration reform, employment law developments and family law issues. Other programs are in development.