December 2, 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 learn more, visit njsba.com.
RECENT NJSBA ACTION IN TRENTON
A-2945 (Vainieri Huttle) / S-789 (Weinberg) (NJSBA Supports) Establishes a new standard for a court to grant grandparent or sibling visitation rights under certain circumstances. On Nov. 25, the Assembly Judiciary Committee released the bill with amendments. It awaits the Assembly vote.
The NJSBA’s Board of Trustees, Legislative Committee and Family Law Section initially voted to oppose this bill because, although this legislation was intended to address recent New Jersey Supreme Court rulings that have curbed the rights of grandparents to visit with their grandchildren, the bill as drafted, was vague and overbroad. As a result, it may be susceptible to a constitutional challenge. However, the NJSBA commends the bill’s sponsor to be consistent with the holding in the U. S. Supreme Court case of Troxel v. Granville.
A-4525 (Giblin/Lampitt) (NJSBA Supports) Clarifies certain factors concerning modification and termination of alimony; eliminates the term "permanent alimony" from the statutes. On Nov. 25, the bill was introduced and referred to the Assembly Judiciary Committee. The same day, the Assembly Judiciary Committee considered the legislation in conjunction with A-3909 (Mainor/Kean), which would eliminate permanent alimony and establish alimony guidelines in New Jersey. NJSBA Family Law Section Chair Brian Schwartz and NJSBA Family Law Section Chair-Elect Jeralyn Lawrence testified in support of this legislation while raising concerns with the bill. Also joining the NJSBA’s concerns included: former NJSBA Family Law Section Chair John Trombadore, representing the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers- New Jersey; Essex County Bar Association President Thomas Quinn and former NJSBA Family Law Section Chair Edward O’Donnell representing the Essex County Bar Association; NJSBA Trustee Evelyn Padin, representing the Hispanic Bar Association of New Jersey; former NJSBA Family Law Section Chair John E. Finnerty, representing the Matrimonial Lawyers Alliance; John Eory, representing the Mercer County Bar Association; New Jersey Association for Justice President Frank Rodriguez; Amy Wechsler, representing the Somerset County Bar Association; Christine Bator representing the New Jersey Women Lawyers Association; Mark Ferraz, counsel to the New Jersey Coalition for Battered Women; Michele Hirsch, representing the New Jersey Displaced Homemakers Network, and Deb Huber from the National Organization of Women, New Jersey chapter. Not present, but part of the coalition are the Association of Black Women Lawyers of New Jersey, and the bar associations of Bergen, Burlington, Middlesex, Morris and Passaic counties.
The NJSBA strongly supports this legislation, which would eliminate permanent alimony awards and establish standards for the term of limited duration alimony. Pursuant to N.J.S.A. 2A:34-23, the New Jersey courts may award alimony based upon statutory criteria, including the duration of the marriage, the parties’ respective income and other factors. Modification of alimony is governed by case law, including Lepis v. Lepis, 83 N.J. 139 (1980), which specifies that support agreements and award may be modified if circumstances change such that the continued enforcement of the original award is neither fair nor equitable.
The NJSBA (and coalition members) have raised concerns with Assembly Bill 3909 (Mainor) to revise alimony laws, including an elimination of permanent alimony and establishment of guidelines for amount and duration of alimony awards. This proposal would drastically change support obligations for New Jersey families without any empirical evidence to support the premise of the legislation, which includes the concept that every marriage of a particular duration should be treated identically for purposes of alimony. The imposition of formulas for alimony would contradict prior legislative mandates that required judges to assess evidence and rule according to the specifics of each case. Instead, judges would be given a formula and compelled to enforce it.
Instead, the NJSBA supports this legislation that would cure weaknesses in the current law pertaining to alimony. The proposed amendments in this legislation address four areas of support laws that merit revision:
1. Revision of the terminology for the duration of alimony awards, to refer throughout the statute to “indefinite duration” instead of “permanent” since even so-called “permanent alimony awards are modifiable pursuant to Lepis and subsequent case law.
2. Codification of general grounds for modification of alimony by establishment of statutory factors including retirement.
3. Codification of grounds for modification of alimony and /or child support based upon involuntary loss of employment that would entitle the payor to a review of support 90 days after loss of employment.
4. Suspension or termination of alimony based upon cohabitation of the recipient with another person, based upon statutory factors that are consistent with current case law. If cohabitation is found, even without remarriage of the recipient, support must be either suspended or terminated.
A-1717 (Green) Establishes the crime of assault by animal. On Nov. 25, the bill was released from the Assembly Judiciary Committee with amendments and is awaits the Assembly vote.
A-2694 (Gusciora) Clarifies failure to provide minimum care to an animal constitutes animal cruelty. On Nov. 25, the bill was released from the Assembly Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee with a substitute and is awaiting the Assembly vote.
A-2362/S-1441 (Johnson/Weinberg) Requires cemetery companies to file an annual financial report. On Nov. 18, the bill was released from the Assembly Regulated Professions Committee and is awaiting Assembly vote.
A-3477 (Greenwald) Revises the definition of "responsible charge" as it pertains to licensed professional engineers and land surveyors. On Nov. 18, the bill was released from the Assembly Regulated Professions Committee with amendments and is awaiting Assembly vote.
A-354 (Gusciora) Requires all lamps and lighting devices on motor vehicles to be kept in working order. On Nov. 7, the bill was released from the Senate Transportation Committee with amendments. On Nov. 18, the bill was substituted for S-3028 and later passed in the Senate (38-0). The bill was then received back in the Assembly, where it is awaiting Assembly vote to concur with the Senate amendments.
S-2790 (Weinberg) Provides that crime victims do not have to pay fees to obtain government records and that requests for records are not public information. On Nov. 14, the bill was released from the Senate State Government, Wagering Tourism and Historic Preservation Committee with amendments and was referred to the Senate Budget and Appropriations Committee.
Elder and Disability Law
A-4399 (Sumter) Expands the role of a temporary guardian to include arranging placement of an alleged incapacitated person in an appropriate, less restrictive environment. On Nov. 18, the bill was introduced and referred to the Assembly Judiciary Committee.
A-2410 (Singleton) Establishes the New Jersey Council on Responsible Fatherhood and a Responsible Fatherhood Fund. On Nov. 18, the bill was released from the Assembly Appropriations Committee and is awaiting Assembly vote.
A-4382 (Gusciora) Provides for a private cause of action for bad faith in settlement of certain insurance claims. On Nov. 18, the bill was introduced and referred to the Assembly Financial Institutions Committee.