October 27, 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.
Clarifying Lobbying Guidelines
Legislation improving transparency in government lobbying and determining guidelines for conflicts of interests advanced in the Legislature last week. S-1921, sponsored by Senator Loretta D. Weinberg, prohibits lawyers or law firms who lobby public entities from being employed by or contracting with that public entity at the same time. The bill was released from the Senate State Government, Wagering, Tourism and Historic Preservation Committee and is awaiting Senate vote.
Another bill sponsored by Senator Weinberg dealing with lobbyist activities was also released from the State Government, Wagering, Tourism and Historic Preservation Committee last week. S-1530 requires governmental affairs agents retained by public entities to file regular and annual reports with the Election Law Enforcement Commission (ELEC). Under the bill, government affairs agents who are retained to represent local, county or state governmental entities in New Jersey will be required to file notice of these representations regarding any activities and expenditures incurred, just like agents representing private parties. Currently, under the Legislative and Governmental Process Activities Disclosure Act, an agent retained by a private party to influence legislation, regulations or government processes is required to file such reports. This bill would place the same requirements on agents hired by public entities. The bill now heads to the full Senate for a vote.
Real Estate Installment Contract Act
Assemblyman John J. Burzichelli’s bill, A-1873, which authorizes the Real Estate Installment Contract Act, permitting the use of a real estate installment contract to purchase residential real property, was amended last week in the Assembly. As a substitute to the more traditional use of a mortgage to finance a purchase of real property, the proposed act allows a real estate purchaser to render installment payments to the seller toward the purchase of the property while the seller continues to retain the title to the property as security toward the purchaser’s obligations until the contract terms have been met. The amendments provide that if there is a breach or default by either party, the seller must serve written notice to the purchaser, allowing the purchaser to remedy the default within 30 days; however, if the default fails to be corrected within the time allotted, either party can seek legal or equitable relief within the superior court. In the event the seller files suit seeking a forfeiture of the purchaser’s interest in the property, the proceeding will be treated as an action to foreclose a mortgage, in which the seller is deemed to be the lender and the purchaser is deemed to be the debtor, under the provisions in New Jersey’s Fair Foreclosure Act. The bill was amended on the floor of the Assembly, and is awaiting Assembly vote.
OLS and OAL Distributing Electronic Notifications
A bill allowing government services to become more efficient and cost effective through electronic means passed unanimously last week in the Assembly. A-1898, sponsored by Assemblyman John J. Burzichelli, requires the Office of Legislative Service (OLS) to transmit certain notices and reports via electronic mail to legislators and legislative staff members when reporting or scheduling notices of a hearing, proceeding or activity within the Legislature.
Another measure, requiring the Office of Administrative Law (OAL) to create and maintain a public online database consisting of all state rulemaking actions, also passed last week in the Assembly. Assemblyman Raj Mukherji’s bill, A-2581, would facilitate regulatory transparency in the state by requiring the OAL to establish and maintain, on its website, a searchable database that identifies the number, nature, and status of all pending or proposed state rule-making actions.
Both bills were sent to the Senate for consideration.
Public Hearing Held on Proposed Fee Increase
On Oct. 21, the Supreme Court held a hearing on proposed fee increases pursuant to P.L. 2014, c.31, which authorizes the Court to adopt rules to revise and/or supplement current filing fees and other statutory fees payable to the Court in order to assist with funding the e-court system, providing legal assistance in civil matters on behalf of the Legal Service of New Jersey and developing a Statewide Pretrial Services Program. NJSBA Second Vice President Robert B. Hille, of McElroy, Deutsch, Mulvaney & Carpenter, LLP, testified on the association’s behalf, urging the Court to provide more detailed information about the costs of implementing the programs to be funded by the increases and the cost savings expected to be realized by such implementation, as well as the anticipated revenue to be generated by each proposed increase.
NJSBA Amicus Activity
The Supreme Court heard oral argument last week in State v. Julie Kuropchak, involving an appeal challenging a conviction of driving while intoxicated, and focusing on the documentary evidence that is required and appropriate to be considered in such convictions. John Menzel, Esq., of Point Pleasant, argued on behalf of the New Jersey State Bar Association amicus curiae, advancing the proposition that narrative documents prepared by police for the purpose of prosecuting particular defendants in particular circumstances should not be admissible in evidence, and prosecutors must continue to offer essential documents as a prerequisite for admission of Alcotest results.
For more on the argument and to obtain a copy of the brief, please visit njsba.com.
SAVE THE DATE
Don’t forget to register for this upcoming program featuring prominent government officials:
Reception Honoring Minority Judges has been scheduled for Tuesday, Oct. 28, at 6 p.m. at the New Jersey Law Center in New Brunswick. The Honorable Hany A. Mawla, J.S.C., of Somerset County, will be honored.
To register for these and other meetings, please visit njsba.com.