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

Capitol Report

November 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 learn more, visit njsba.com.

New Court Filing Fees Effective Nov. 17

The Supreme Court of New Jersey has announced that it has adopted, pursuant to authority granted by the Legislature, increases in court filing fees. Over 80 fees, in all divisions of the superior court, as well as in the Supreme Court and tax court, have been increased. A significant portion of the revenue generated by the fee increases will be used to establish a pre-trial release system for certain criminal defendants, pursuant to bail reform legislation (P.L. 2014, c. 31) enacted in August. (Please see the summary below on the passage of a constitutional amendment permitting the pre-trial detention of certain offenders charged with serious crimes.)

The legislation also requires additional revenue from the filing fee increases to be used by the Judiciary to advance its efforts to implement electronic filing and improve case management systems. The legislation also earmarks a portion of the revenue from the fee increases for Legal Services of New Jersey.

A list of all filing fee increases can be found on the Judiciary website, www.njcourts.com

Ballot Question on Bail Reform Passes

Public Question No. 1, a constitutional amendment to allow a court to order pretrial detention of persons in certain criminal cases, was approved by the voters, but will not take effect until 2017.

The amendment derives from legislation that was signed into law last August, known as the Bail Reform Act. The act overhauled New Jersey’s bail system, requiring the creation of an extensive pretrial services unit to evaluate the concerns and risks of each defendant to assist a judge in making a pretrial detention or release decision. The act permits judges to release appropriate defendants under non-monetary conditions, but also permits judges to order defendants accused of the most serious crimes to remain in jail until their trial. Implementation of the latter portion of the bill was dependent upon passage of the proposed constitutional amendment, which would permit pretrial release to be denied if the court finds no amount of monetary bail, non-monetary conditions of pretrial release, or combination of the two, would reasonably assure the defendant’s appearance in court when required, or protect the safety of any other person or the community, or prevent the defendant from obstructing or attempting to obstruct the criminal justice process.

The New Jersey State Bar Association was generally supportive of the proposed amendments and the bail reform measures contained in the Bail Reform Act. The association supported a “holistic” approach to the issue, with passage of the proposed amendment and the act together. It also urged that pretrial detention be imposed only on those defendants accused of the most egregious offenses, and advocated for speedy trial provisions contained in the measure to ensure detained defendants receive a hearing within established timeframes.

Amicus Action

NJSBA President Paris Eliades presented oral argument in a matrimonial case being considered by the New Jersey Supreme Court, Gnall v. Gnall. At issue in the case is whether the Appellate Division was correct in reversing the trial court’s award of limited duration alimony and remanding for consideration of permanent alimony in light of language in the trial court opinion about what length of time constitutes a long-term marriage. The NJSBA had submitted a brief drafted by Brian M. Schwartz of Brian Schwartz Attorney at Law LLC; Brian G. Paul of Szaferman, Lakind, Blumstein & Blader; and Derek M. Freed of Ulrichsen, Rosen & Freed, urging the Court to re-emphasize the need for a trial court’s consideration of all of the statutory factors in considering alimony awards and to reject any kind of bright-line rule. (For more information about the argument, see page 22. To find out more about NJSBA amicus matters, visit njsba.com.)

Elections Result in New Senate Law and Public Safety Committee Chair

Senate President Stephen M. Sweeney last week announced that Senator Linda R. Greenstein will succeed Congressman-elect Donald Norcross as chair of the Senate Law and Public Safety committee.

In a press release from the Senate Democrats, Senator Sweeney commented that, "Senator Greenstein has the experience and the ability to lead the Senate Committee on Law and Public Safety, including a record of accomplishment on a wide range of laws that make our communities safer and more secure. She is hard working and dedicated to public service, qualities that will serve her and the committee well."

Senator Greenstein takes over as chair of the committee immediately.

Supreme Court Committee Openings Available

The Supreme Court is soliciting individuals to serve on the following Court committees:

    Family Practice Committee

    Judiciary-Surrogates Liaison Committee

    Jury Selection in Civil and Criminal Trials Committee

    Lawyers' Fund for Client Protection

    Minority Concerns Committee

    Model Civil Jury Charges Committee

    Model Criminal Jury Charge Committee

    Municipal Court Practice Committee

    Outside Activities Advisory Committee

    Rules of Evidence Committee

    Special Civil Part Practice Committee

    State Domestic Violence Working Group

    Tax Court Committee

    Women in the Courts Committee

Any person who is a judge, an attorney or a professional in a related field, and is interesting in serving on any of the above committees, should consult the Court’s website at njcourtsonline.com for more information on submitting an application for consideration.

U.S. Bankruptcy Judgeship Vacancy

Chief Judge Theodore A. McKee of the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit has announced that applications may be submitted for a U.S. Bankruptcy Court vacancy that exists in Camden. Applications may be submitted electronically by Wednesday, Dec. 3, 2014. To apply or for further information, visit www.ca3.usacourts.gov<http://www.ca3.uscourts.gov or call the circuit executive at 215-597-0718.

Past issues of the Capitol Report