March 23, 2012
The following is a summary of actions taken at the March 23, 2012, 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 board gave preliminary approval to a proposed budget for the New Jersey State Bar Association’s coming fiscal year. The budget figures project $12.1 million in revenue, and $11.4 million in expenses. The proposed budget keeps a sharp eye on expenses, while still investing in infrastructure upgrades and producing conventions and seminars that keep its members up-to-date on the developments in the law. The association’s budget includes a proposed $6 million plan for the bar association’s educational division, the New Jersey Institute For Continuing Legal Education.
The budget will be published in the New Jersey Law Journal, and posted online in the coming weeks, and a public hearing will be held at the Annual Meeting and Convention in May. The board will take a final vote on the budget at its meeting in June.
Rules of Professional Conduct: The trustees approved a collection of proposed changes to the Rules of Professional Conduct that cover everything from the bona fide office rule, to the ability of an attorney to disclose a client confidence in order to prevent a suicide, to the complete ban on political contributions by anyone working in a firm with municipal court judges.
Here is a summary of the recommendations:
R.P.C. 1.6: The trustees endorsed the proposed amendment to allow an attorney to divulge a client confidence to prevent a suicide. Because suicide and attempted suicide are not criminal or illegal under New Jersey law, the current version of R.P.C. 1.6 appears to prohibit an attorney from revealing a client’s credible threat to commit suicide, even if disclosure to others were necessary to save the client’s life. The NJSBA is satisfied that the public interest is better served by this amendment, and further recommends the Supreme Court consider including in the rule language immunizing from liability attorneys who exercise this discretion in good faith.
R. 1:21-1(a): The board endorsed the proposed amendments to the bona fide office rule, with one caveat. The NJSBA believes firmly that the traditional “bricks and mortar” office should not be the only option for attorneys. It has become a needless burden for many solo, part-time, and small firm practitioners that neither serves their needs nor their clients’. The trustees favored the proposed rule which adds flexibility to the bona fide office rule yet still retains important requirements emphasizing the ability of clients, courts and adversaries to communicate with attorneys, the need for access to files, and a means to permit service of process. The trustees also recommended that the words “in New Jersey” be deleted from the fifth line of proposed R. 1:21-1(a)(i).
Judges post-retirement employment: The trustees endorsed the recommendation to codify the Supreme Court’s holding limiting the discussions regarding post-retirement employment between a trial judge and an attorney appearing before him in DeNike v. Cupo, including amendments to the Code of Judicial Conduct, Guidelines on the Practice of Law by Retired Judges, Rules of Professional Conduct and court rules.
Part-time municipal court judges - political contributions: The trustees endorsed the codification of the Supreme Court’s holding in In re Boggia that upholds the complete separation between judges and politics, including amendments to the Code of Judicial Conduct and Rules of Professional Conduct.
Multi-jurisdictional practice of law: The trustees endorsed the proposed amendment to RPC 5.5(b)(3)(iv) requiring an out-of-state attorney’s practice here be “occasional.” However, the trustees disagreed with the proposed amendment to that same subsection of the rule, requiring notice to the parties of the New Jersey attorney responsible for the conduct of the out-of-state attorney. The NJSBA agreed with the minority position of the committee that favors a rule amendment requiring “active participation” by New Jersey counsel.
Government affairs: Alimony and debt collection issues garnered the trustees’ attention for action on legislative matters.
The trustees endorsed a plan, AJR32, which would create a commission to review the current alimony laws, though the association will advocate that any commission should include experienced matrimonial lawyers and a state bar association representatives.
The trustees opposed a proposal, A-601 (Spencer), under consideration by the New Jersey Law Revision Commission that would revise the debt collection laws to allow for-profit companies to do debt settlement, which is currently not allowed in New Jersey.
Election: A plan to retain a third-party company to conduct an upcoming bylaws election electronically was approved. The trustees agreed to retain Votenet Solutions, Inc., which will not only be able to conduct a user-friendly electronic election, but will also provide opportunities for members who do not wish to vote electronically to cast their ballots.
E-books: The trustees approved a contract to enable New Jersey Institute For Continuing Legal Education to develop electronic books and treatises.
Foundation trustees: The Association trustees approved the reappointment of Steven M. Richman, Paulette Brown, Norberto A. Garcia, Anna P. Pereira, and Margaret Leggett Tarver to an additional one-year term on the board of the New Jersey State Bar Foundation. Richman is the second vice president of the bar foundation.