December, 30 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 learn more visit njsba.com.
RECENT NJSBA ACTION IN TRENTON
Labor and Employment Law
S-613 (Sweeney) (NJSBA opposes) Concerns certain workers' compensation supplemental benefits. On Dec. 5, former Workers’ Compensation Section chair Arthur Kravitz testified in opposition to the bill before the Senate Budget and Appropriations Committee. The bill was released with amendments and is awaiting Senate vote.
The New Jersey State Bar Association’s Board of Trustees, Legislative Committee and Workers’ Compensation Section oppose this legislation in order to preserve the “reverse offset” provision in the state, vis-a-vis Social Security, which provides for a reduction of the workers' compensation benefit of a worker also receiving disability insurance. The association believed enacting this legislation has the potential of harming the economic integrity of New Jersey’s current cost-effective system by allowing for a double recovery of disability benefits and workers’ compensation benefits, which will in turn increase the cost of doing business in New Jersey. A potential alternative that would limit these adverse consequences would be to limit the application of the bill to survivor/death benefits.
Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Rights
A-2201 (Chivukula)/S-2155 (Weinberg) (NJSBA supports) Authorizes certified celebrants to solemnize marriages and civil unions. On Dec. 16, the bill was released from the Senate Judiciary Committee with amendments and is awaiting Senate vote.
The New Jersey State Bar Association’s Board of Trustees, Family Law Section and Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Rights Section voted to support this bill, believing it will aid in extending the pool of celebrants to include certified celebrants who have training to perform ceremonies.
A-4097 (Vainieri Huttle)/S-2786 (Vitale) (NJSBA supports) Revises the procedure for issuance of an amended birth certificate for a person who has undergone a change in sex. On Dec. 12t, Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Rights Section Chair-elect Robyn Gigl testified in support of the bill before the Senate Health, Human Services and Senior Citizens Committee. The bill was substituted for S-2786 and passed in the Senate. It awaits the Governor’s signature.
The New Jersey State Bar Association Board of Trustees, Legislative Committee, Family Law Section, Health Law Section and Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual & Transgender Rights Section all voted to support this legislation, believing a birth certificate is one of the most important documents a person possesses and is used to obtain all sorts of other documentation, including but not limited to, passports, driver’s licenses, marriage licenses and many other significant materials. Under the current law, an individual is required to undergo expensive and/or medically risky surgery that is generally not covered under most health insurance plans, putting this surgery financially out of reach of many transgendered individuals and, based on appropriate medical standards, impossible for anyone under the age of 18. Thus, transgendered individuals should be able to obtain a birth certificate that is consistent with their gender identity more easily and without going through expensive surgery that is often either a very late-stage step in the gender affirmation process or a step the individual chooses never to take at all. The bill still requires documentation from a healthcare provider that the person requesting an amended birth certificate has undergone clinically appropriate treatment based on contemporary medical standards. The NJSBA believes this provision is more than sufficient to limit the availability of amended birth certificates to those people who should have them.
Municipal Court Practice
A-3254 (Coughlin)/S-2309 (Vitale) (NJSBA supports) Permits a municipal court to order certain offenders to perform community service in lieu of payment of penalty. On Dec. 9, the bill was heard before the Senate Judiciary Committee and is scheduled to be released.
The New Jersey State Bar Association’s Board of Trustees, Legislative Committee, Criminal Law Section and Municipal Court Practice Section support this legislation, believing the bill will allow defendants the opportunity to give back to their community by receiving restorative justice. The bill further provides an opportunity for judges to avoid putting a defendant in jail if they cannot pay a penalty, based upon hardship or other unanticipated circumstances. The bill will spare defendants their time and money by not having to continually travel back and forth to the courthouse. There is, however, a concern on the part of the NJSBA that municipalities will not have the manpower or funding to oversee the program and, thus, further consideration to address this concern may be warranted.
A-3835 (Stender)/S-2427(Scutari) (NJSBA supports) Revises the penalties for certain drunk driving offenses, including mandating installation of an ignition interlock device, and creates restricted use driver's license. On Dec. 16, the bill was released from the Assembly Judiciary Committee with amendments and referred to the Assembly Appropriations Committee.
The NJSBA’s Board of Trustees and Legislative Committee voted to support this legislation, believing the interlock law, as it now stands, has created confusion and consternation among the bench, bar and public. It currently requires an interlock during suspension. The NJSBA’s position on the original law was that it is not rational unless related to a work license. This amendment would cure what the NJSBA sees as the two problem areas of the law: 1) that an interlock must be installed even though the defendant’s license is suspended, and 2) that it pertains to vehicles a defendant does not own. This amendment imposes the interlock only after suspension and only upon vehicles owned or leased by the defendant. In addition, the NJSBA is seeking an amendment to revise the school penalties. Schools are not in session indefinitely. Speed limits are regularly adjusted when school is not in session or when children are not present. As a result, the state bar believes it is impractical to penalize drivers when operating a motor vehicle in a school zone when school is out of session or when children are not present.
Real Property, Trust and Estate Law
A-1551 (Wisniewski)/S-2946 (Van Drew) NJSBA DRAFTED BILL (NJSBA supports) Concerns time frames for establishing or enforcing property rights related to adverse possession. On Dec. 9, former Real Property, Trust and Estate Law Section chairs Edward Eastman and Lawrence Fineberg testified in support of the bill before the Senate Judiciary Committee. The bill awaiting Senate vote.
The New Jersey State Bar Association Board of Trustees, Legislative Committee and Real Property, Trust & Estate Law Section support this legislation, believing New Jersey’s adverse possession law allows an adverse possessor to acquire title to land after 30 years of uninterrupted possession of the property, or 60 years in the case of woodlands or uncultivated land. However, New Jersey has a 20-year statute of limitations applicable to actions concerning real property, such as an action to recover possession of property by a record owner. This conflict between the 20-year statute of limitations and the 30 years of possession required for title to vest through adverse possession has resulted in conflict and confusion. Through case precedent, state courts have allowed title to vest after 20 years of adverse possession.
This bill was developed to eliminate longstanding confusion in the law by clarifying that title in land vests after 20 years of adverse possession in most cases, and 30 years for woodlands and uncultivated land. The association believes the bill would further encourage the productive and diligent use of land in New Jersey while promoting appropriate title transfer and preventing barren wasteland.