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

Capitol Report

April 22, 2013

 

This is a status report provided by the New Jersey State Bar Association on recently passed and pending legislation, regulations, gubernatorial nominations and/or appointments of interest to lawyers, as well as the involvement of the NJSBA as amicus in appellate court matters. To obtain a complete copy of the Capitol Report and/or retrieve a former Capitol Report, please visit our website at www.njsba.com

 

NJSBA RECENT ACTION IN TRENTON

 

Animal Law

A-2379 (Johnson) Establishes crimes of dog fighting and leader of a dog-fighting network, amends the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO) to add leader of a dog-fighting network. On March 14, 2013, the bill was released from the Assembly Judiciary Committee with amendments and is awaiting Assembly vote. 

 

Nancy Halpern, chair of the NJSBA Animal Law Committee, testified on the state bar’s behalf in connection with this legislation. The NJSBA Board of Trustees, Legislative Committee and Animal Law Committee all voted to support this legislation with amendments, believing it will strengthen animal protection laws, provide additional means by which prosecutors may pursue perpetrators and assist attorneys who represent clients and animal organizations with the victims of animal cruelty.

 

The NJSBA suggests amending Section I, c, however, to broaden the definition of “bait” to include all animals, not exclusively dogs. Therefore, reference to the word “dog(s)” should be replaced with “animal(s).”

 

The NJSBA believes animal fighting or baiting is a serious criminal enterprise, rife with violence and cruelty. The passage of A-2379 will be critical in providing the means with which to improve the welfare of both animals and humans affected by animal fighting and aid in severely punishing the perpetrators of this criminal enterprise. Animal fighting and baiting is closely connected to other crimes, including illegal drugs and weapons, gambling, aggravated assaults and gang violence. This bill allows prosecutors to use the RICO Act to aid in pursuing additional charges to animal fighting, and thus better protect the victims of these criminal acts.

 

A-3303 (Singleton) Prohibits animal cruelty violators from owning domestic companion animals and from working at animal-related enterprises; designated as Moose's Law. On April 15, 2013, the bill was received in the Senate and referred to the Senate Economic Growth Committee.

 

The NJSBA Board of Trustee’s, Legislative Committee and Animal Law Committee all voted to oppose this legislation, believing the bill defines animal cruelty violation as "any crime or disorderly persons offense under chapter 22 of Title 4 of the Revised Statutes, or any civil violation under R.S. 4:22-26, or in any other state or jurisdiction, conduct which, if committed in New Jersey, would constitute a crime or disorderly persons offense under chapter 22 of Title 4 of the Revised Statutes, or a civil violation under R.S. 4:22-26." The wide-ranging sweep of the proposed law defines an animal-related enterprise as virtually any employment or volunteer endeavor that involves working with an animal in any manner. A-3303 would add to this restriction a court-mandated forfeiture of owning any domestic companion animal for the life of the defendant.

 

The definition of animal cruelty would be largely determined by a subjective opinion of the individual officer, who in many cases is not a sworn law-enforcement officer. This legislation would impose a mandatory sentence if a person had been convicted of an animal cruelty offense in any other jurisdiction. This bill would strip the courts of any discretion in imposing a sentence for criminal conviction of an animal cruelty offense regardless of the seriousness of the violation, which, in essence, could be a disorderly persons offense. The history of this bill is a result of a single incident based on allegations involving negligence of an alleged dog trainer that may have resulted in the death of a dog. Thus, the NJSBA feels the bill does not include any solid factual basis demonstrating a need for this type of law.

 

Family Law

A-732 (Eustace) Makes it a crime of the third degree to practice psychology, chiropractic or state-certified psychoanalysis without the appropriate license or certification. On April 15, 2013, the bill was received in the Senate and referred to the Senate Judiciary Committee.

 

The NJSBA Board of Trustees, Legislative Committee, Family Law Section, Health Law Section and Women in the Profession Section voted to support this legislation with amendments, believing the bill would protect vulnerable patients seeking treatment for very personal and emotional problems from unlicensed professionals who have the potential to inflict significant harm on such patients. However, the NJSBA has requested this legislation be amended to exclude attorneys, clergy, and court mediation professionals from coverage under the bill. Otherwise, persons who are authorized by law to engage in activities that might constitute the practice of “marriage and family therapy” while practicing law would be prohibited from doing so. Further, the definition of what constitute the act of “practicing” marriage, family therapy, psychology or chiropractic medicine without state certification must be more properly defined in the legislation. The NJSBA is concerned that a lawyer giving advice having to do with divorce or custody to a client may be accused of practicing family therapy, even though clients are often simply looking for someone to listen to them and their family problems.

 

 

PENDING LEGISLATION

 

Business Law

A-1271 Coughlin) Allows corporation business tax credit and gross income tax credit for certain wages paid to qualified interns in tax years 2013 and 2014. On April 4, 2013, Governor Chris Christie’s condition veto was received in the Assembly with the governor’s recommendations and is now awaiting Assembly vote for concurrence. 

 

Criminal Law

S-2663 (Madden) Prohibits possession of ammunition capable of penetrating body armor. On April 15, 2013, the bill was introduced and referred to the Senate Law and Public Safety Committee.

 

S-2664 (Oroho) Upgrades vehicular homicide to a first-degree crime under certain circumstances; designated as Rosie's law. On April 15, 2013, the bill was introduced and referred to the Senate Law and Public Safety Committee.

 

Civil Trial Bar

S-2675 (Oroho) Allows a commercial farmer to recover reasonable costs and attorney fees of defending against unreasonable complaints under the Right to Farm Act. On April 15, 2013, the bill was introduced and referred to the Senate Economic Growth Committee.

 

Higher Education

A-3960 (Prieto) Allows establishment of a county-wide purchasing system for certain school district services; offers employment protections for certain food or custodial services employees; and regulates subcontracting by districts and public higher education institutions. On April 4, 2013, the bill was introduced and referred to the Assembly Education Committee.

 

S-2291 (Rice) Eliminates the requirement that full-time students at a county college in New Jersey maintain health insurance coverage. On April 15, 2013, the bill was received in the Senate and is awaiting Senate vote to concur with Assembly amendments. 

 

Judicial Administration

S-2691 (Weinberg) Transfers probation employees from the Judiciary to the State Parole Board. On April 15, 2013, the bill was introduced and referred to the Senate Law and Public Safety Committee.

 

Municipal Court Practice

A-3289 (Fuentes) Creates the New Jersey Social Innovation Act; establishes a social innovation pilot program and study commission within the Economic Development Authority. On April 15, 2013, the bill was received in the Senate and referred to the Senate Economic Growth Committee.

 

S-69 (Codey) Increases the fine and imposes license suspension for talking or texting on a hand-held device while driving. On April 15, 2013, the bill was received in the Senate and is awaiting the Senate vote to concur with Assembly amendments.