February 17, 2014
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 the state bar association’s website at www.njsba.com.
RECENT AMICUS ACTIVITY
The New Jersey State Bar Association sometimes acts as amicus curiae in pending cases before New Jersey and federal courts where issues are believed to affect the legal profession or the system of justice.
State of New Jersey v. Julie Kuropchak
Supreme Court Docket No.: 072718
This case questions whether certain narrative reports may be admitted into evidence in criminal and quasi-criminal matters, and what foundational documents are necessary to sustain the admission of Alcotest results in a driving while intoxicated trial.
On Jan. 31, the New Jersey State Bar Association filed a motion to participate as amicus curiae along with a proposed brief in the New Jersey Supreme Court. The brief was drafted by John Menzel, Esq. To read the NJSBA’s amicus curiae brief (PDF) in this and other matters, visit the NJSBA’s website at njsba.com.
NJSBA RECENT ACTION IN TRENTON
A-2389 (PDF) (Singleton) (NJSBA opposes) Prohibits animal cruelty violators from owning domestic companion animals and from working at animal-related enterprises; designated as Moose's Law. On Feb. 6, the bill was introduced and referred to the Assembly Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee.
The New Jersey State Bar Association has concerns with this legislation, believing: 1) 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; 2) the legislation imposes a mandatory sentence if a person was previously convicted of an animal cruelty offense in any other jurisdiction without knowing whether or not such offenses were consistent with New Jersey law; and 3) the bill strips 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 New Jersey State Bar Association has traditionally opposed mandatory minimum sentences because they eliminate judicial discretion to impose the proper penalty for the particular facts involved. The state bar also feels the bill appears to be a reaction to a single incident of allegations involving the negligent actions of an alleged dog trainer that may have resulted in the death of a dog. Thus, there does not appear to be a demonstrated need for this type of law.
A-2280 (PDF) (Moriarty) (NJSBA supports) Requires certain police vehicles to be equipped with cameras. On Feb. 6, the bill was introduced and referred to the Assembly Law and Public Safety Committee. It was later released from the committee and is awaiting Assembly vote.
The New Jersey State Bar Association supports this bill, believing it will provide more transparency in the encounters between officers and citizens. However, the association feels an amendment should be made to the bill requiring that audio be turned on and used where available.
A-2415 (PDF) (Dancer) (NJSBA supports) Provides for termination of parental rights under certain circumstances; expands the definition of "abused child." On Feb. 6, the bill was introduced and referred to the Assembly Human Services Committee.
The New Jersey State Bar Association supports this bill, believing it is appropriate for human trafficking of a child to be included as one of the enumerated crimes where termination of parental rights may be authorized. This bill would also appropriately expand the definition of "abused child" in Title 9 to take into account the crime of human trafficking by the parent of the child.
A-2418 (PDF) (Dancer) (NJSBA supports) Requires certain accuracy standards for child support wage garnishments. On Feb. 6, the bill was introduced and referred to the Assembly Judiciary Committee.
A-2373 (PDF) (McGukin) (NJSBA supports) Omits State Police detectives from the Open Public Records Act. On Feb. 6, the bill was introduced and referred to the Assembly Judiciary Committee.
The New Jersey State Bar Association supports this legislation, which allows for personal identifying information of investigating officers to be considered an exemption under the Open Public Records Act.
Labor and Employment
A-2287 (PDF) (DeAngelo) (NJSBA supports) Provides exclusive jurisdiction to the Public Employment Relations Commission (PERC) for certain unfair labor practice claims. On Feb. 6, the bill was introduced and referred to the Assembly Labor Committee.
Municipal Court Practice
A-2350 (PDF) (Gusciora) (NJSBA opposes) Establishes the Municipal Court Prosecutors' Automated System. On Feb. 6, the bill was introduced and referred to the Assembly Judiciary Committee.
The New Jersey State Bar Association agrees that county prosecutors should have access to existing criminal and traffic records; however, the association does not feel a new system needs to be developed. Instead, the NJSBA believes access to existing systems would suffice and would avoid the additional costs of creating a new system.
A-2355 (PDF) (Gusciora) (NJSBA supports) Requires an ignition interlock device to be installed on a vehicle owned or leased by a drunk driver only after a period of driver's license suspension. On Feb. 6, the bill was introduced and referred to the Assembly Law and Public Safety Committee.
The New Jersey State Bar Association supports this legislation, believing the current interlock law has created confusion and consternation among the bench, bar and public because: 1) it requires an interlock be installed even though the defendant’s license is suspended, and 2) it pertains to vehicles a defendant does not own. This amendment addresses both problem areas of the law by imposing the interlock only after suspension and only upon vehicles owned or leased by the defendant.
Real Property, Trust and Estate Law
A-2341 (PDF) (Greenwald) (NJSBA opposes) Authorizes county surrogates to establish or expand programs to provide information to law enforcement officers, firefighters and first aid squad members concerning the preparation of wills, living wills and powers of attorney. On Feb. 6, the bill was introduced and referred to the Assembly Homeland Security and State Preparedness Committee.
The New Jersey State Bar Association has concerns with the clarity of this bill, believing it may encourage the unauthorized practice of law. This legislation would establish a program to give certain emergency services personnel information "concerning the preparation of wills, powers of attorney, living wills and advance directives for health care." However, it is unclear whether the information to be provided is for the purpose of alerting the emergency services personnel to the importance of having wills and related documents or may encourage them to attempt to prepare these documents.