September 5, 2008
Following is a summary of actions taken at the September 5, 2008 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.
MCLE Review Committee
The Board approved the Report of the NJSBA MCLE Review Committee in response to the Draft Report of the Supreme Court's Ad Hoc Committee on Continuing Legal Education. The response will be sent to the Supreme Court for consideration. The main points put forth by the NJSBA include:
MCLE Credits: Two hours of ethics credit should be required rather than four; half of the required credits (12 per cycle) should be permitted for carry-over, not one-quarter; credit should be permitted for instruction not strictly legal in nature, but pertaining to an attorney's specialty; credit should be extended for mock trial/moot court preparation.
Teaching: Enhanced teaching credit should be awarded on a 3:1 basis, rather than 2:1.
Reciprocity: Reciprocity for courses taken in other states should be available to New Jersey attorneys.
Inns of Court: Participation in approved Inn of Court programs should be eligible for CLE credit.
Pro Bono Activity: Courses given by Court-approved pro bono providers should be eligible for MCLE credit without the need for providers or attendees to pay fees; service on a District Ethics Committee or Fee Arbitration Committee should be eligible for credit; CLE credit should be awarded for coaching a mock trial or moot court team, or judging a competition.
Who Must Attend: Three categories should be established with respect to MCLE status: active (attorneys should fulfill MCLE requirements), inactive (attorneys should be excused from MCLE requirements), and senior (attorneys who have maintained an active license for 40 years or more, should be required to complete 50 percent of the MCLE requirements for active attorneys). Inactive attorneys who reinstate their license should be responsible for MCLE for the reporting period in which the reinstatement occurs; attorneys should be regarded as either active or inactive, with no part-time status; hardship should be defined and waivers should only be given in extraordinary circumstances and for reasons that generally relate to either physical or mental incapacitation; attorney-instructors and adjunct professors should receive MCLE credit for teaching any approved post-secondary school course.
Skills and Methods: A "101 Series Program" should replace Skills and Methods for newly admitted attorneys; the sessions should focus on teaching the most basic elements of a given substantive area and should be offered at a significantly reduced cost. Newly admitted attorneys should have 75 percent of their MCLE credit hours in the 101 programs during their first biennial reporting period. Extended CLE courses, presented over several days, should be permitted to satisfy multiple substantive areas.
Regulation of Approved Service Providers: There should be strict controls and ongoing accountability required of entities that seek and are granted status as an approved service provider (ASP).
Regulation of Individual Course Providers: Requirements for individual course providers should be liberally construed to provide for the maximum amount of quality legal education possible, with appropriate safeguards; should permit smaller niche programming and diversity of programming.
Faculty and Implementation: Educational programs offered between the time MCLE is announced and then implemented should be "grandfathered"; input from the Board on Attorney Certification should be solicited; MCLE programming should provide for faculty replacement where the advertised and approved faculty is equal or nearly equal to the replacement faculty.
Fees and Costs: Scholarship guidelines should be established and liberally construed, and ASP and individual providers should be required to offer programming to people who demonstrate both interest and financial need for programming that may provide particular benefit to public good and welfare.
Reporting: A self-reporting and self-monitoring model should be established.
Forms: Commencing in 2012, the Court should include a self-reporting form in the same mailing as the Client Security Fund.
Compliance: In recognition of the NJSBA recommendation on self-reporting and self-monitoring, compliance reports will not be necessary.
Staffing and Oversight: Self-reporting should greatly diminish the administrative burdens and costs, and make a combined staff of 6 to 8 people for New Jersey's MCLE and Specialization Program feasible.
The Association's motion to participate in oral argument in Hand v. Philadelphia Insurance Company was granted; and in Makroulakis v. Estate of Garcia, it was denied. Both cases are pending in the Appellate Division and focus on whether the "Scutari Amendment," which prohibits the inclusion of step-down clauses for uninsured and under-insured motorist coverage in commercial policies, should have retroactive effect.
The Board approved NJSBA participation in a fact-finding process being undertaken by a Special master in In re Riverview Professional Services. The case concerns potential unauthorized practice of law issues in PIP arbitrations. The Board also approved petitioning the Supreme Court to participate in the case as an amicus curiae party to support the Bar's stance that lawyers not be disenfranchised from the process. It was recommended that the assistance of the Automobile Reparations Committee be sought to prepare the NJSBA's submissions.
Military Law and Veterans' Affairs Committee
The Military Law and Veterans' Affairs Committee is in the process of submitting an application to the New Jersey State Bar Foundation to secure funding for the production of a DVD that will inform troops upon their return of the legal rights available to them.
The General Council will convene for its Annual Meeting following the Oct. 17 Board meeting. Two candidates have submitted applications to fill the Nominating Committee vacancy, Craig Aronow and Brian Neary.
The Board approved $3500 for the Diversity Committee to hold its annual Reception in Honor of Minority Judges in conjunction with a program in celebration of diversity in the judiciary, and to request additional funding from the New Jersey State Bar Foundation should additional funding be needed.
The Board approved a bylaw amendment to be presented to the full membership for a vote that would permit the NJSBA President-Elect to be a voting member of the Judicial and Prosecutorial Appointments Committee.
Young Lawyers Division
The Board approved a YLD Events plan for 2008 including social event co-sponsorships with county bar associations and a reduced pricing schedule for YLD members at the 101 Series programs and other social events.