June 29, 2015
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.
Two Judges Elevated to Appellate Division
Two new judges will join the Appellate Division effective August 1. Middlesex County Superior Court Judge Heidi Willis Currier and Robert J. Gilson of the Morris/Sussex Vicinage currently serve on temporary assignment to the Appellate Division.
Judge Currier makes her temporary assignment permanent after over 11 years in the Superior Court. Appointed to the bench by Governor James E. McGreevey on Jan. 29, 2004, Judge Currier served in the civil and family divisions and was acting presiding judge of the civil division from February through May 2013. She is a graduate of Smith College and Rutgers Law School – Camden.
Prior to her service on the bench, Judge Currier was a partner at Connell Foley LLP. She served as a trustee to the New Jersey State Bar Association from 2001 to 2004 and chair of its Civil Trial Bar Section. In addition, she served as president of the New Jersey Defense Association from 2002 to 2004, was a member of the Supreme Court Committee on Character, and served as an arbitrator in Middlesex and Union vicinages. She was a member of the committee to oversee the implementation of best practices in the civil division. She is a member of the Supreme Court Civil Practice Committee.
Appointed by Governor Jon Corzine on Oct. 1, 2009, Judge Gilson served in both the family and criminal divisions in Superior Court before his temporary assignment to the Appellate Division in April 2015. Prior to joining the bench, Judge Gilson was partner at Riker, Danzig, Scherer, Hyland & Perretti LLP. In 2006, he left the firm to serve as the director of the Division of Law in the New Jersey Office of the Attorney General. He is a graduate of Hamilton College in Clinton, N.Y. and Boston College Law School.
Judge Gilson has served on the Supreme Court Advisory Committee on Professional Ethics and the District X Ethics Committee. He was a trustee and chair of the New Jersey Lawyers’ Fund for Client Protection.
Senate Judiciary Committee Recommends Slate of Judges
The Senate Judiciary Committee recommended to the full Senate the approval of nominations of 15 new judges and a second term for Passaic County prosecutor Camelia Valdes. Of the fifteen judges, six head to the Superior Court, one to the Tax Court, four to the Administrative Law Division, and four to Workers’ Compensation Court. The following recommendations were presented to the full Senate:
- Yolanda Adrianzen – Paterson, Passaic County
- Scott Bennion – Clifton, Passaic County
- Vicki Anne Citrino – Clifton, Passaic County
- Frank Covello – Wayne, Passaic County
- Marybel Mercado-Ramirez – Ringwood, Passaic County
- Justine Niccollai - Totowa, Passaic County
Administrative Law Division:
- Thomas Betancourt – Northvale
- Thomas Hurley – Ridgewood
- Danielle Pasquale – Wyckoff
- John Scollo - Bloomingdale
Workers’ Compensation Court:
- Michael Dillon – Teaneck
- Thomas Ludlum – Glen Rock
- Matthew Malfa – Wanaque
- William Roca – Wayne
- Mark Cimino – Wenonah
Trenton is buzzing with budget talks and last minute deal-cutting this week. Governor Chris Christie’s proposed budget drew heavy criticism from democrats, mainly because of the Governor’s decision not to fully fund the pension payment. Christie’s $33.8 billion budget proposes an increase in spending of 3.1 percent, a surplus of $350 million, an increase in education funding, a $33.2 million reduction in homestead property tax credits, and a 3.8 percent increase in projected revenue.
Several unions challenged Christie’s decision not to fund the pension payment arguing that the State undertook a contractual obligation to make the payment into the pension system and that the failure to do so violated the state and federal contracts clauses. The Supreme Court held that Chapter 78 – declaring that each member of the state’s pension systems has a contractual right to the annual required contribution amount – was not a legally enforceable contract entitled to constitutional protection.
Democrats vowed to make good on the $3.1 billion pension payment and last week unveiled a $35.3 million budget that would use unexpected revenues from tax collections to increase the pension payment. Senate President Stephen Sweeney and Assembly Speaker Vincent Prieto announced plans to spend $300 million in surprise tax collections from the 2014-2015 fiscal year toward public worker pensions. Democrats are calling this payment a prepayment toward the 2016 contribution and pointed out that by making the payment on July 1, rather than June 2016 would generate more than $21 million in additional investment over the course of the year.
In their budget, democrats pledged a $3.1 billion pension payment using the prepayment, a new millionaires’ tax and increased business taxes, and a boost in revenue. Democrats predict an approximate $700 million in increased tax receipts in the next two fiscal years.
Despite the democrats’ votes to advance their budget last week, it is anticipated that Christie will use his veto power to eliminate the tax increases and increased pension payment, among other things.
Of note relative to the legal community, Christie’s budget highlights the bail reform legislation, which established the 21st Century Justice Improvement Fund. The fund is supported by court fees and dedicates a minimum $22 million annually to a statewide pretrial services program and $10 million annually to a statewide digital e-court information system. Legal Services of New Jersey maintains its funding of $14.9 million and includes an anticipated increase of $10.1 million from the fund.
Military Legal Assistance Program Seeks Volunteer Attorneys
The NJSBA’s Military Legal Assistance Program provides free legal advice to veterans who encounter legal issues before their deployment or upon their return home. Members of the military who have served in active duty or in the reserve units can receive assistance with family law, debtor-creditor issues and employment law matters. Any attorney who annually volunteers 25 or more hours of pro bono service can earn a Madden exemption. Learn more at njsba.com or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org