New Jersey State Bar Association - The voluntary Bar Association of New Jersey, serving members since 1899.

September 24, 2010

The following is a summary of actions taken at the Sept. 24, 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.

JPAC manual

The board voted to approve several changes to the Judicial and Prosecutorial Appointments Committee manual.

These changes are required as a result of the new Compact between the NJSBA and Gov. Christie. The central change to that compact is it eliminates the formal role of the county bar association JPAC's in the review of candidates for judicial and prosecutorial positions.

The measures the board voted on are the result of extensive discussion and feedback from county bar associations. The idea is to keep the voice of the county bars in the process, while also respecting the limitations brought forth by the mandate for confidentiality at all levels of the process.

The proposed changes will be included in the JPAC manual and circulated before a final vote approving the new manual language is taken.

The proposals include:

  • The state bar association will accept names for consideration from the county bar associations, and will give priority to those names, for the county representative positions on the state bar's JPAC. If the names are ultimately unsatisfactory, the state bar will work in consultation with the county bar to obtain additional names. The state bar president will retain discretion to make the appointment.
  • County bars will maintain a committee of between seven to 11 members who will meet with the state bar JPAC's representative as a group. The meeting would be called by the state bar's JPAC, with the goal of including as many members of the county committee as possible at the meeting. Each member of the county committee would be required to complete a confidentiality agreement. Members of the local committee would be able to provide collective input to the state bar investigator, as well as the names of others who may know the candidate in question. The actual questionnaire and information from the questionnaire would not be shared with the county committee members, and at no time would the members of the county committee interview the candidate or conduct independent due diligence on a candidate.
  • The board voted to change the term limits for county representatives from two, three-year terms to two, two-year terms. The proposal is meant to foster inclusion and welcome a larger group of people to the vetting process. All existing seats with three-year terms would be grandfathered. This proposal requires a bylaws change and a vote of the membership. A date for that vote is unclear; in the meantime, JPAC will review the proposal.

Mid-Year Meeting

President Richard H. Steen reported on a variety of issues relating to the event to be held Nov. 2 through 7 in Scottsdale. Educational programming is nearly lined up.

The state bar association has worked to coordinate academics, lawyers, immigration officials and other experts in the field will hold a series of spotlight seminars at the event on the controversial Arizona legislation and immigration issues, in general.

A symposium will examine racial profiling, in light of New Jerseys experience and history on the issue with a panel of experts including John Farmer Jr., former New Jersey Attorney General and Rutgers University School of Law dean. Another session, "How Do We Solve Our Immigration Problems?" will look at how states and the federal government can address pressing immigration issues. In addition to those featured programs, another session will examine the effect of recent immigration legislation on victims of domestic violence.

It is not too late to sign-up. More information is available at www.njsba.com.

Bylaws election

Starting in October, the more than 17,000 members of the New Jersey State Bar Association will have a chance to vote on expanding its governing body and the committee charged with selecting future leaders of the organization.

The board-approved changes that members will decide are:

  • Adding five seats to the board of trustees - including two more representatives from the association's sections and committees and three additional at-large positions for under-represented groups.
  • Increasing the size of the nominating committee from seven to 15 members, including representatives from counties, sections, the Young Lawyers Division, and a representative of an under-represented segment of the bar association.
  • Changing eligibility for emeritus status to coincide with 45 years of membership.

Two new committees

Steen created two new ad hoc committees to examine current issues of importance.

Gov. Chris Christie has announced plans to study the operations of county prosecutor's offices, with an eye toward having the Office of the Attorney General administer the agencies. Steen created a special committee to study the issue. Trustees Robert Brass and Francis Koch will be on the committee, which will work with the Criminal Law Section.

A second committee will work with the New Jersey Association for Justice to seek common ground on various issues, including the direct solicitation of the public following moving violations and other infractions, and the proposal to reduce from six to two the statute of limitations for attorney malpractice actions. Trustees Anthony Murgatroyd and Arnold Fishman will be on the committee.

On a related note, the recently formed Cleantech and Renewable Energy Special Committee hosted nearly 100 people at its kick-off breakfast in September. The Committee will meet again on Nov. 16. To request appointment to a State Bar Committee, please email NJSBA Executive Director Angela C. Scheck at ascheck@njsba.com.

Membership

Executive Director Angela C. Scheck reported membership has grown to over 17,000 people, with growth in all areas of membership.  

Government Relations

The trustees voted to oppose S2235/A-3137, which establishes "Monica's Law" and creates domestic violence risk assessment pilot program. The trustees voted to oppose with high priority, largely because it removes discretion from the courts.

Amicus action

The board adopted the recommendations of the Amicus Committee to not take part in various cases. The cases were: Voss v. Tranquilino, regarding the No Fault Act provision that precludes a DUI offender's action to recover damages for losses resulting from a motor vehicle accident from the tavern that served the alcohol; Johnson v. Johnson, which involved a follow-up to the Fawzy case allowing arbitration for disputes relating to custody and parenting time, and Higgins v. Thurber, a legal malpractice case resulting from a defendant's representation of an estate, the board also declined participation.

Upcoming events

Meeting with New Jersey Supreme Court - The executive committee and staff will meeting on Sept. 28 to discussion various issues, including MCLE, the bona fide office rule and budget concerns.

Bench/Bar Conference -- The first New Jersey State Bar Association Women in the Courts Bench Bar Conference will be held on Sept. 30. It will also feature panels of all of the female State Bar presidents, as well as all of the women Supreme Court Justices.

Shredding -- The New Jersey State Bar Association will hold a shredding party for its members later this month. The event will be from 9 a.m. to 11 a.m. on Oct. 2 at the New Jersey Law Center in New Brunswick.

Professionalism Awards Luncheon -- The annual Professionalism Awards Luncheon will be held on Oct. 6 at the Hyatt Regency in New Brunswick. Frances Margolis of the Tompkins McGuire firm will receive the Daniel J. O'Hern Award for career commitment to the highest ideals of the profession. She has been practicing bankruptcy and commercial law for over 50 years in Essex County. Also, Professional Lawyer of the Year Awards will be presented to lawyers selected by county and specialty bars. Recipients will include Trustee Dominic Caruso, and former Trustees Michael Furey and Debra Nicholson. Joseph LaSala was the NJSBAs selection for an award. Justice Barry Albin and Chief Judge Garrett Brown will present the awards. Justice Wallace will be an honoree. The keynote speaker will be U.S. Attorney Paul Fishman, who was also an award recipient.

Town Hall - On Oct. 18 a Town Hall meeting with legislative leaders and representatives from the Governor's Office will be held in Trenton. The event is free and members can earn up to 3.9 CLE credits. More information is available at www.njsba.com.

General Council --This year's General Council meeting will be at Oct. 22, beginning at noon. In addition to the election of a member of the Nominating Committee and the consideration of any Resolutions, there will be a program devoted to examining the purpose and future of the General Council. Members of the General Council are encouraged to make recommendations, and entities such as county and specialty bars, sections and committees have been contacted and asked to develop positions that can be considered at the meeting. The goal is to develop recommendations that can be submitted to the Board at a future date.

The General Council election this year, to fill the vacancy on the Nominating Committee, has attracted two candidates - William Ferreira of Bergen County, and Diane Smith of Somerset County.