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

Capitol Report

May 2, 2011

Special Edition

This special edition of the Capitol Report provides a summary of the top ten high priority bills currently being worked in Trenton in numerical order:

S-184/A-1050 (Scutari/Quijano) (NJSBA supports) Upgrades offenses of engaging in unauthorized practice of law. The NJSBA supports this legislation because the relationship between an attorney and client is one of mutual trust and we believe that it will help to protect the interests of New Jersey citizens and the credibility of the judicial process. A-1050 passed in the Assembly and S-184 is pending review by the Senate Budget and Appropriations Committee.

S-477/A-570 (Lesniak/Cryan) (NJSBA supports) Requires certain civil actions against certain licensed persons to be brought within two years. This NJSBA-drafted bill seeks to reduce the current six year limitations period to two years for actions against certain licensed professionals which are subject to the requirements of N.J.S.A. 2A:53A-27. New Jersey's statute of limitations would continue to be subject to the discovery rule. Both bills are pending review by the Senate Commerce Committee and Assembly Regulated Professions Committee respectively.

S-1820/A-2422 (Turner/Diegnan) Permits certain motor vehicle offenders to apply for a restricted use license. The NJSBA supports the concept of allowing judges, as part of a diversionary program, to permit defendants to apply for a restricted use driver's license because we believe the license suspension component of the current motor vehicle penalties, in many cases, prohibits an individual from remaining, or in some cases, becoming, a productive member of society. This is particularly troublesome in New Jersey where mass transit is not always accessible. Both bills are pending review in the Senate and Assembly Law and Public Safety Committee respectively.

S-1963/A-3096 (Beach/Connors) (NJSBA supports) Prohibits permanent change of child custody during period of active military service; provides that absence due to active military duty, by itself, is insufficient justification to modify a child custody or visitation order. This NJSBA-drafted bill seeks to ensure that children in New Jersey have a secure and stable environment in the event that their parents are deployed for active duty in the military. A-3096 is awaiting Assembly vote and S-1963 is pending review by the Senate Judiciary Committee.

S-2586/A-3672 (Lesniak/Quigley) (NJSBA supports) Provides for access to adoptee's original birth certificate under certain circumstances. This NJSBA-drafted bill provides for a confidential intermediary system that will both help adoptees get the information they want and preserve anonymity for those birth parents who do not want contact. Both bills are pending review by the Senate Health, Human Services and Senior Citizens Committee and the Assembly Human Services Committee respectively.

S-2666/A-2722 (Burzichelli/Oroho) Modifies process for contested case hearings by the Office of Administrative Law (OAL) regarding telephone and video conferences, delegation of final decision authority, oral decisions, checklist decisions, electronic filings, and settlements. The NJSBA supports empowering Administrative Law Judges with authority to render a final decision, pursuant to the Administrative Procedures Act (APA). We can no longer support a system of justice wherein one party, in a contested matter, has the ability to overrule a judge once a decision has been rendered at the conclusion of a hearing. A-2722 passed in the Assembly and S-2666 is awaiting Senate vote.

A-401 (Diegnan) Imposes limits on fees charged for discovery in municipal court matters. Currently, municipal prosecutors may exact from defendants exorbitant fees for discovery ranging from $10.00 to $35.00. The fee for duplicating videotapes can be up to $100. While such fees are common, they are not universal. The cities of Newark and Lakewood have fee schedules which track the New Jersey Right to Know Law. The NJSBA believe these fees should be standard and this NJSBA-drafted bill seeks to standardize these fees. The bill is pending review by the Assembly Judiciary Committee.

A-1451 (Wisniewski) (NJSBA supports) Revises New Jersey's adverse possession law. New Jersey's current adverse possession law allows an adverse possessor to acquire title to land after 30 years of uninterrupted possession of the property or sixty years in the case of woodlands or uncultivated land. New Jersey also has a twenty 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. This NJSBA drafted bill seeks to eliminate this longstanding confusion surrounding New Jersey's adverse possession statutes 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 bill is pending review by the Assembly Judiciary Committee.

A-3723 (Quijano) (NJSBA supports) Proposed modification to New Jersey Spendthrift Trust Provision. NJSBA-drafted bill would be declarative that existing law is inapplicable to trusts where the creator retains no beneficial interest in the trust, but that the trustee has discretionary authority to either reimburse the trust creator for income tax liability in the trust assets or pay taxes directly to the taxing authority on behalf of the trust creator. This provision is modeled after New York statute EPTL 7-3.1(d). The bill is pending review by the Assembly Judiciary Committee.

The Uniform Adult Guardianship and Protective Proceedings Jurisdiction Act (UAGPPA) is a draft bill that has been endorsed by the NJSBA. This bill seeks to standardize important jurisdictional issues regarding adult guardianships, conservatorships, and other protective proceedings, providing an effective mechanism for resolving multi-state jurisdictional disputes. It contains specific guidelines to specify which court has jurisdiction to appoint a guardian or conservator for an incapacitated adult. The objective is that only one state will have jurisdiction at one time. The bill was completed by the Uniform Law Commission and has been adopted in Alaska, Colorado, Delaware, Utah, the District of Columbia, and Missouri. The bill is pending introduction in approximately 25 states.

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.