June 17, 2011
The following is a summary of actions taken at the June 17, 2011 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.
Budget: The New Jersey State Bar Association’s roughly $11 million budget for the coming fiscal year received approval at the recent meeting. The Board of Trustees unanimously voted to adopt the budget, which combines the administration and operations of the State Bar Association with New Jersey Institute for Continuing Legal Education (ICLE). The budget anticipates minor increases in expenses related to the Association’s administration and technology upgrades for its data systems. Increased attendance at events such as the Annual Meeting and Convention and Solo and Small-Firm Conference, as well as robust attendance at ICLE seminars are expected to bring in additional revenue. The budget plan was introduced at a March board meeting and was the subject of a public hearing at the Annual Meeting and Convention in May.
Annual Meeting and Convention: Final registration figures from the Annual Meeting prove it was the biggest meeting in recent history. All told, 2,084 judges, lawyers, law clerks (338) and students attended the convention.
Committee/Section chairs: The trustees approved several members to serve additional terms as committee or section chairs. They are:
Standing Committee Chairs:
Amicus – Robert B. Hille, Chair
Diversity – Joan M. Burke - Co-Chair
Law Office Management – Sara M. Diaz - Co-Chair
Special Committees Chairs:
Jeffrey W. Lorell- Co-Chair, Antitrust Law Committee
Gerald H. Baker- Chair, Automobile Reparations Committee
Jeffrey J. Greenbaum- Co-Chair, Class Actions Committee
Bruce D. Greenberg- Co-Chair, Class Actions Committee
Ronald I. LeVine- Chair, Consumer Protection Law Committee
Alexandra V. Gallo- Chair, Equity Jurisprudence Committee
Steven L. Menaker- Chair, Ethics Diversionary Program Committee
John B. Wolf- Chair, Higher Education Committee
Robert A. Baxter- Chair, Insurance Defense Committee
Frederick J. Dennehy- Chair, Malpractice Insurance Committee
John C. Connell- Chair, Media Law Committee
Michael A. Ferrara Jr. – Chair, Medical Malpractice Committee
John G. Geppert, Jr.- Chair, School Law Committee
I. Mark Cohen- Chair, Special Civil Part Committee
Amicus: On two matters, the trustees voted to participate in cases pending before the New Jersey Supreme Court.
In a matter involving property tax appeal issues, Prime Accounting Dept. v. Township of Carney’s Point, the Association will seek to continue participation, which is now on petition before the Court. In court papers, the State Bar Association said the case would have a lasting impact and that it is necessary to “address the public’s interest in preserving the ability of an individual or entity responsible for paying property taxes to file a tax appeal and have it properly heard by the tax court, even where it may be difficult to ascertain the record owner of the property.”
In He v. Miller, which involves the issue of remittitur -- or the decision of a judge to lower the amount of damages in a civil trial – the Association will seek to participate in a motion for reconsideration that is pending. The Association’s involvement will be limited to its prior position in the case, arguing that remittitur was not justified in the He case, and that judges should not rely on personal experiences in rendering damages decisions, the trustees determined.
Testimony on Legal Services/fee proposal: State Bar Association President Susan A. Feeney appeared before the Assembly Judiciary Committee to express the Association’s continued support for funding for Legal Services of New Jersey consistent with longstanding NJSBA policy. Feeney also expressed the recently adopted position of the NJSBA that funding for legal services should not be limited to Legal Services of New Jersey, but should also be shared with the many other legal services providers throughout the state. Melville De Miller, president of Legal Services of New Jersey, testified to express the dire circumstances facing the agency.
Judge Glenn Grant, acting administrative director of the courts, discussed the possibility of a fee hike to provide $8 million to LSNJ and $20 million to the AOC, largely for technology upgrades, over at least the next five years. After significant discussion at the meeting, the trustees agreed the Court’s desire to upgrade technology could have significant benefits to lawyers throughout the state, but determined it was critical to discuss the issue of potential fee hikes with county bar groups and other interested constituencies in anticipation of a formal proposal on the matter.
Legislation: The trustees also unanimously voted to oppose S-2762/A-4084, which would allow a town to pay commercial and industrial property for tax years 2010 and 2011 over the subsequent three local budget years. The board supported S-2778/A-4043 to increase the filing threshold for the New Jersey estate tax from $675,000 to $1 million, with proposed amendment to clarify the amount of tax to be paid.
Spendthrift trust legislation: Senate Judiciary Committee chair Nicholas P. Scutari has agreed to sponsor the counterpart of the Association’s spendthrift trust legislation, which passed the General Assembly last month. It could receive a hearing this summer.
RULLCA legislation: The Business Law Section’s revisions to the Uniform Limited Liability Company Act have been introduced by Senate Budget and Appropriations Committee Chair Paul Sarlo as Senate Bill 2944. The NJSBA was instrumental in providing advocacy for New Jersey’s original LLC Act, and Ira Marcus of the Business Law Section has been working hard with staff to help modernize New Jersey’s statute.
Transfer of Probation Functions: The Assembly Law and Public Safety Committee released legislation Assembly Concurrent Resolution 55, which proposes a constitutional amendment authorizing a statute transferring probation functions from the Judiciary to the state Parole Board. The Judiciary is strongly opposed to this legislation, and has indicated that it will affect child support enforcement. The legislation has been referred to interested State Bar Association sections and committees.
Member benefits: USI Affinity was approved as the exclusive insurance administrator for insurance plans offered to Association members. The trustees also supported moving ahead with a Capitol One-sponsored credit card program for members. The trustees additionally approved a royalty agreement with the New Jersey State Bar Foundation to pay a licensing fee for three years for the use of the New Jersey Institute for Continuing Legal Education’s name and logo, as a part of the transition to combine the organizations. After three years, the Association will own the name and logo.
General Council: Following the General Council’s adoption of a resolution urging the State Bar to continue discussions with the Governor’s office to allow county bar associations to play a role in the vetting of judicial and prosecutorial candidates, the trustees agreed to notify county bar officials and Association sections and committees, via a letter, of continued efforts to advocate for the role of county bar groups in the process.
Last year, Gov. Chris Christie revised the so-called Hughes Compact with the State Bar. The compact continued the 40-year confidential and nonpartisan role the Association has played in reviewing candidates to serve the public, but said county bars could not obtain confidential questionnaires or perform due diligence. Since then, the State Bar trustees voted to incorporate new policies for vetting that include consultations from county bars on candidates. State Bar officials said the issue has been, and will continue to be, on the agenda each time it speaks to the Governor’s office regarding the vetting process.
Designation of under-represented groups: Under the bylaws, the trustees are required to make the designations each year for those groups eligible to fill the eight at-large seats. The trustees voted to continue the existing groups, allowing an at-large seat to be designated for members who are African-American, Asian-American, Hispanic, gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender, over age 70, or women. The trustees reserved the right to apportion the seats or revisit the assignment of those seats, once additional demographic data is received, and input is sought from the association’s Women in the Profession, Minorities in the Profession, and GLBT sections and the Diversity and Senior Lawyers committees.
Civility resolution: The trustees supported a resolution that will go to the American Bar Association’s House of Delegates this summer reaffirming the principle of civility as a foundation to the rule of law.
Swearing-in ceremony: On June 3, State Bar President Feeney addressed more than 100 new attorneys who took part in an admission ceremony at the War Memorial in Trenton. Chief Justice Stuart Rabner, Melville De Miller, of Legal Services of New Jersey, and Federal District Court of New Jersey Judge Joseph Irenas spoke. All of the Supreme Court justices and many members of the U.S. Federal District Court attended.
Pro Bono Conference: The NJSBA had over 130 attendees at the fourth annual Pro Bono Conference, which featured former NJSBA President and Third Circuit Court of Appeals Chief Judge John Gibbons as the keynote speaker. Another highlight of the event was the premiere of the NJSBA video on pro bono, which was produced with funds from Legal Services Foundation of Essex County. The video can be seen at njsba.com and njcourts.com. It was designed to inform attorneys of their obligation to perform pro bono legal services and inspire them to get involved.
Clapp awards: On June 20, ICLE will hold its annual Excellence in CLE Awards dinner. Richard H. Greenberg will receive the Alfred C. Clapp Award, and distinguished service awards will go to Judge Ronald E. Bookbinder, Judge Renee C. Ricciardelli, Bonnie C. Frost, Thaddeus J. Hubert III, and State Bar Trustee James J. Ferrelli, who will be honored for his work and stewardship as chair of the ICLE Transition Committee. The event will be held at the New Jersey Law Center.