NJSBA Trustees Report
The following is a summary of actions taken at the June 13, 2014, 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.
Amicus: The state’s largest lawyers group will seek amicus status in a pair of cases pending in the state courts.
In Conley v. Guerrero, a matter involving real estate closings, the association will argue that notice under a real estate contract provided by confirmed email or fax should satisfy any requirements, and that a notice by certified mail, telegram or personal service should not be strictly required.
The trustees also agreed to be a friend-of-the-court in State v. Adkins, which involves what consent is required for hospital blood tests taken of a person arrested for driving while intoxicated. The association will advocate that the relevant case law did not establish a new rule of law and ask that clarification be made that courts must look at the totality of the circumstances to determine whether sufficient exigency existed to justify a warrantless search. The brief will also argue that there should be pipeline retroactivity.
New committees: The trustees agreed to establish special committees on aviation law and admiralty and maritime law. The association previously had committees devoted to the issues, but they were discontinued nearly 20 years ago; however members have said the issues are once again timely and will enhance the association.
In addition, the trustees converted the Intellectual Property Section to a special committee. Trustee Jeffrey Neu will serve as its chair.
Budget: The New Jersey State Bar Association’s governing body approved a $12 million budget for the upcoming fiscal year that invests in the future while ensuring the needs of its members remain a top priority. The 2014-2015 budget marks the ninth year without a dues increase for members. The budget covers expenses and revenue for the association and its educational arm, the New Jersey Institute for Continuing Legal Education. It includes infrastructure upgrades, enhancing benefits to members and producing conventions and educational seminars that keep association members up-to-date on developments in the law, while maintaining an eye on expenses.
At-large designations: To ensure leadership opportunities for lawyers from all backgrounds, the trustees addressed which groups are under-represented and should be eligible for at-large seats on the board. The trustees made their annual determination on this issue and continued the existing designations for the upcoming year. One each of the eight at-large trustee seats should be held by: a woman; a lawyer over 70; an African-American; a Hispanic; a lawyer of Asian heritage; and a lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender lawyer. Two additional at-large seats will be undesignated and open to lawyers of any of the under-represented groups. Under the bylaws, the designations provide guidance to the Nominating Committee.
Mental health service providers: The trustees supported the Supreme Court’s Rules of Evidence Committee recommendation to grant evidentiary privilege to mental healthcare providers.
Expedited civil track pilot: The trustees supported the Supreme Court Advisory Committee’s goal of expediting civil trial practice, but proposed some modifications for the Court to consider to ensure that litigants’ rights will remain protected while reducing waits for litigants and ensuring the program does not further strain the workloads of judges. The association urged: No reduction in peremptory challenges to ensure jury election remains robust; the courts should allow an opt-out in any personal injury case where one party does not want to participate; discovery should be allowed to be reopened and/or allow a litigant should be allowed to opt-out of the program if the case is not heard after two trial listings.
Business litigation report: The trustees endorsed the recommendations of the Supreme Court’s Working Group on Business Litigation Report, which suggest the courts create specialized treatment, including differentiated case management and a track for business and commercial cases.
Professional responsibility rules: The trustees endorsed recommendations to change the rules that govern attorney behavior proposed by the Supreme Court’s Committee on Ethics and Bar Admission. The association: Raised concerns about a proposed amendment to RPC 1.6(c) that would require attorneys to make reasonable efforts to prevent the inadvertent or unauthorized disclosure of information related to the representation of a client since the existing ethics rules and opinions already establish such a duty; supported RPC 1.6 (b) (7), which would allow an attorney changing firms to reveal some confidential information to resolve conflicts because it would clarify a lawyer’s obligations when transitioning from one firm to another; recommended that any revision to RPC 1.18 dealing with prospective clients should also include electronic communication; urged caution about a proposed amendment to RPC 4.4 regarding electronically stored information, including embedded and metadata, because it could be interpreted in a way that results in a new standard for attorney behavior; supported a rule to permit a lawyer who practices in one jurisdiction be allowed to practice in New Jersey while waiting to take the bar exam, if he or she is under the supervision of a New Jersey lawyer; continued its opposition to admission by motion.
Madden exemption for guardianships: The association will request the Court grant a Madden exemption from court-ordered pro bono assignments for attorneys who serve over 25 hours as an attorney or guardian ad litem pursuant to a court order.