June 18, 2010
The following is a summary of actions taken at the June 18, 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.
Budget: The New Jersey State Bar Association’s governing body adopted the $5.1 million budget for the coming fiscal year, which includes belt-tightening, while still investing in technology infrastructure improvements.
The spending plan anticipates expenses related to administration, computer and website upgrades, member benefit programs, including Fastcase legal research, and lobbying efforts.
Regional bar meetings: Continuing the tradition of regional bar meetings, the officers and trustees of the Association met with representatives of specialty and county bar associations. The meetings were held in Vineland, Morristown and Lawrenceville. Issues surrounding the selection and vetting of candidates for the bench and prosecutor’s offices were of particular concern.
Mid-Year Meeting: Planning for programs and events is well underway for the NJSBA Mid-Year Meeting in Scottsdale. The first promotional flyer will be distributed in short order and will feature details of programs, including seminars on racial profiling and immigration reform. The event will be held Nov. 2 through 7.
Amicus activity: In a wave of activity on the amicus curiae front, the trustees voted in favor of joining several cases before the state’s highest court.
· In State v. Green, the New Jersey Supreme Court requested involvement from the state’s largest lawyers group to help resolve whether poor criminal defendants are entitled to assigned counsel when petitioning the high court, and whether it is up to the Public Defender’s Office to provide that help.
· Casting a vote in favor of the sanctity of the jury trial, the state bar will seek to join He v. Miller. The bar is expected to argue that the right to a jury trial is essential, and that a jury’s verdict shouldn’t be disturbed unless there are extraordinary circumstances.
· A question of the repercussions of refusing to take a breath test during a DUI stop is at the center of State v. Ciancaglini.
· In a controversy of continental importance, the bar will seek to participate in Yousef v. General Dynamics. The case involves a New Jersey man who was in a motor vehicle accident in South Africa, where he was working at the time for Picatinny Arsenal. The other driver worked for a company that operates in New Jersey. The question is whether to hold the trial in South Africa or New Jersey. The State Bar will ask the Court to allow the case to be held here, since substantial New Jersey interests are in play.
· The State Bar Association will argue the entire controversy doctrine was misapplied in Taddei v. State Farm. The case involves a dispute between a driver, his insurance company, and an uninsured motorist claim.
CLE update: The state bar association is now an accredited CLE service provider in New Jersey and Pennsylvania.
Bona fide office: Recognizing technology has fundamentally changed the way lawyers conduct business and stay in touch with their clients, the board voted to propose changes to the state Judiciary’s bona fide office rule.
In a letter to the Judiciary, the state bar suggested changes to the rules to make the practice of law more open to virtual offices, while ensuring the needs of clients and regulatory officials stay at the forefront.
Paralegals: The State Bar Association will seek direction from the Supreme Court’s Advisory Committee on Professional Ethics, on behalf of its paralegal members, about the type of correspondence paralegals can sign, and whether they should be permitted to sign a wider variety of correspondence.
Guantanamo Bay: The board also opposed a provision in the National Defense Authorization Act directing the U.S. Inspector General to investigate lawyers who represent Guantanamo Bay detainees.
Legislation: The board resolved to oppose, with high priority, two pieces of legislation: S-1983 requiring law firms to potentially repay school districts if expenditures on legal fees were considered a non-allowable cost and led to a reduction in state aid to the district, and A-651, which would require police to obtain a blood or breath sample from the driver of a motor vehicle that was involved in an accident resulting in death or serious bodily injury.
A host of retired New Jersey Supreme Court justices and bar associations – including NJSBA -- will hold a free symposium to examine judicial independence in New Jersey. This month, “New Jersey at a Crossroads – A Crisis in Judicial Independence,” was held at the New Jersey Law Center in New Brunswick.
Steen took part in the June 1 swearing-in event at the Trenton War Memorial. About 100 newly-admitted lawyers took the oath. Chief Justice Rabner, MelvilleDee Miller, and U.S. District Court Judge Dickinson Debevoise also spoke during the ceremony.