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

Capitol Report

June 21, 2010

This is a status report on recently passed and pending legislation, regulations, gubernatorial nominations and/or appointments of interest to lawyers. The report may also include information about appearances of NJSBA representatives before legislative committees, and the involvement of the NJSBA as amicus in appellate court matters. It is compiled by the government affairs department of the New Jersey State Bar Association. Following each bill number is the sponsor's name, the NJSBA position, if any, bill description and status. Full and previous versions of the Capitol Report with links to related text are available online at www.njsba.com.

NJSBA Action in Trenton

S-799/S-1399 (Vitale/Allen/Weinberg) and A-1406 (Prieto/Voss/Spencer) (NJSBA opposes) Permits adopted persons, their adult descendants, and adoptive parents and guardians of minors access to an adopted person's original birth certificate and other related documents, with certain restrictions to protect the birth parents' privacy. On June 14, Family Law Section chair, Thomas J. Snyder of Einhorn Harris Ascher Barbarito & Frost PC, testified on behalf of the NJSBA before the Assembly Human Services Committee. The NJSBA is a member of the New Jersey Coalition to Defend Privacy in Adoption, a diverse coalition that includes the American Civil Liberties Union of New Jersey, the New Jersey Right to Life, and the New Jersey Catholic Conference, who were also represented before the committee.

While each member of the coalition brings a different perspective to the issue, members all agree that birth parents who place children for adoption should have the right to keep their identities private, both prospectively and retroactively. Historically, the NJSBA has supported mutual consent adoption registries and supported adult adoptees access to the original birth certificate, if made prospective in its application. The NJSBA has submitted suggested amendments to address the privacy issues raised by the bill, but those amendments have not been adopted. On June 14, S-799/S-1399 was released from the Assembly Human Services Committee. A-1406 was also released from the committee with a substitute. Both bills are awaiting Assembly vote.

A-559 (Cryan) (NJSBA supports) The NJSBA communicated its support of this legislation, which decreases the fees set for copies of documents in various parts of the New Jersey statutes relating to government entities, excluding the court system. On June 14, the bill was released from the Assembly State Government Committee with amendments and is awaiting Assembly vote. The statute sections amended concern copies of certain public documents from the Office of the State Treasurer or the Board of Public Utilities, of motor vehicle accident reports, and of government records under the Open Public Records Act (OPRA). The fees for copies will be up to 10 cents per page for letter size copies and up to 15 cents per page for legal size copies, except that the fees set in the OPRA statute are a straightforward 10 cents or 15 cents per page. Currently, there is no uniform cost for copies of documents among governmental entities.

On the Governor's Desk

A-2168 (Vainieri Huttle) Establishes Jaden's Law; requires the Department of Health and Senior Services to prepare an online brochure about the option to donate bone marrow. On June 10, the bill was substituted for S-2038, passed in the Senate (38-0) and was sent to the governor.

Pending Legislation

Business Law

A-2809 (Greenstein) (NJSBA supports) This NJSBA-drafted bill allows professional corporations to use or register an alternate name; allows use of certain abbreviations in certain business names; and updates references for certain state business filings. On June 10, the bill was introduced and referred to Assembly Commerce and Economic Development Committee.

Civil Trial Bar

A-2473 (Schaer) (NJSBA opposes) Limits the amount of an appeal bond in civil actions to the total value of the monetary judgment or $50 million, whichever is less. The bill provides that if an appellee proves by a preponderance of the evidence that an appellant is concealing its assets, or is dissipating or diverting assets outside the ordinary course of business to avoid payment of a judgment, a court may enter orders that are necessary to protect the appellee and require the appellant to post a supersedeas bond in an amount up to the total amount of the judgment. On June 14, the bill was transferred to the Assembly Appropriations Committee.

Consumer Protection

A-633 (Moriarty) (NJSBA takes no position) Prohibits sending unsolicited advertising by text messaging, and requires companies offering text messaging services to allow their customers to block all incoming and outgoing text messages. On June 10, the bill was transferred to the Assembly Consumer Affairs Committee. On June 10, the bill was released from the Assembly Consumer Affairs Committee with amendments and is awaiting Assembly vote.

A-2790 (Voss) (NJSBA supports) Establishes the Domestic Violence Health Care Response Act, which creates the Domestic Violence Health Care Response Program within the Division on Women in the Department of Community Affairs. On June 10, the bill was introduced and referred to the Assembly Health and Senior Services Committee.

Criminal Law

S-911/A-2309 (Girgenti/Scalera) (NJSBA takes no position) Upgrades the penalties for assaulting certain healthcare professionals and workers at healthcare facilities and human services and veterans' facilities. On June 10, the bills were released with committee amendments and are awaiting Assembly vote.

A-2895 (Vainieri Huttle) (NJSBA opposes) Eliminates the statute of limitations for kidnapping and increases the statute of limitations for these serious crimes to 10 years: aggravated assault (N.J.S.A.2C:12-1b.); robbery (2C:15-1); carjacking (2C:15-2); arson (2C:17-1); causing or risking widespread injury or damage (2C:17-2); burglary (2C:18-2); theft by extortion (2C:20-5); endangering the welfare of a child (2C:24-4); corrupting or influencing a jury (2C:29-8); possession of weapons for unlawful purposes (2C:39-4), and weapons training for illegal activities (2C:39-14). In addition, the bill also increases the statute of limitations for prosecutions for criminal sexual contact or endangering the welfare of a child when the victim was under age 18. This bill would authorize such prosecutions up to 10 years after the victim reaches age 18, or within two years of discovery of the offense by the victim, whichever is later. On June 14, the bill was introduced and referred to the Assembly Judiciary Committee.

A-2910 (Coutinho) (Under review by the NJSBA) Increases the amount of compensation awarded under current law to persons mistakenly convicted and imprisoned, provides for additional services for such persons. On June 14, the bill was introduced and referred to the Assembly Judiciary Committee.

Family Law

A-2891 (Vainieri Huttle) (Under review by the NJSBA) Provides rental and lease protections for domestic violence victims. Under the bill, a landlord may not terminate a tenancy, fail to renew a tenancy, or refuse to enter into a rental agreement based on the tenant's or applicant's or a household member's status as a victim of domestic violence, sexual assault, or stalking, or based on the tenant or applicant having terminated a rental agreement pursuant to a recent enactment, the New Jersey Safe Housing Act. Under Section 3 of the enactment, P.L.2008, c.111 (C.46:8-9.6), a tenant may terminate a lease prior to its expiration if the tenant provides written notice that the tenant or a child of the tenant faces an imminent threat of serious physical harm from another person if the tenant remains on the premises, and provides appropriate documentation. On June 14, the bill was introduced and referred to the Assembly Judiciary Committee.

Health and Hospital Law

A-2890 (Vainieri Huttle) (Under review by the NJSBA) Amends the Health Care Facility-Associated Infection Reporting and Prevention Act," P.L. 2007, C.196 (C.26:2H-12.39 et seq.) to allow for the transmission of data that identifies patients, thereby enabling the Department of Health and Senior Services to independently verify data submitted by hospitals. A recent Government Accountability Office report evaluating state infection reporting programs found that systems that do not independently verify data pose a substantial risk of misleading the public, because some hospitals may provide more accurate and complete data than others. On June 14, the bill was introduced and referred to the Assembly Health and Senior Services Committee.

Medical Malpractice

A-2807 (Conaway) (NJSBA opposes) Extends the Medical Malpractice Liability Insurance Premium Assistance Fund and collection of annual surcharges for five years. The surcharges apply to all employers subject to the "unemployment compensation law," ($3 per employee each year), and to practicing physicians, podiatrists, chiropractors, dentists, optometrists, and attorneys licensed in this state ($75 each year). On June 10, the bill was introduced and referred to Assembly Health and Senior Services Committee.

Municipal Court Practice

A-651 (Moriarty) (Under review by the NJSBA) Requires a breath or blood sample to be obtained from drivers involved in motor vehicle accidents resulting in death or serious bodily injury. On June 10, the bill was released from the Assembly Law and Public Safety Committee and is awaiting Assembly vote.

Note: "Under review by the NJSBA" means that the bill is currently being examined by NJSBA sections, committees and/or Board of Trustees and a final position has not yet been reached on the measure.