July 27, 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.
Model Prisoner Reentry Resource Center to Open in Jersey City
An impressive audience of state and local officials, local business owners, and residents were welcomed to a walk-through of Martin’s Place, a model community resource center for recently released prisoners. The center has been hailed as a national model and is part of Jersey City’s prisoner reentry program, run by former Governor James E. McGreevey. McGreevey is the executive director of the Jersey City Employment and Training Program.
The resource center is located in a once-vacant three-story building, part of Sacred Heart Church on Bayview Avenue. The building was closed in 2005, but with the help of Hudson County inmates and local businesses, which donated their services, the building was renovated to house a multitude of programs for recently released prisoners in need of resources. Martin’s Place, which officially opens in September, will focus on treatment, healthcare, education, housing and employment services to recently released prisoners returning to Hudson County.
Prisoner reentry is not a popular issue, said McGreevey. But he lauded the Republican administration, specifically Governor Chris Christie, for making prisoner reentry one of his priorities. The resource center will be funded in part by a $4.2 million grant from the New Jersey State Parole Board. At one point, Jersey City Mayor Steve Fulop lauded McGreevey for his tenacity in obtaining funding for the program. McGreevey also touted key partnerships to expand the resources of the reentry program.
One of those key partnerships is with the NJSBA’s Young Lawyers Division, which established a Prisoner Reentry Program to provide legal assistance to recently released prisoners. The NJSBA hosted a daylong continuing legal education program to educate attorneys about the challenges facing prisoners re-entering society in areas such as family law, municipal court, public benefits and procedural matters. The program was offered for free to attorneys who would agree to take on a matter on a pro bono basis.
Four ex-offenders offered their perspectives of the challenges they faced upon release. One recounted his experience of being released after serving 30 years in prison with no place to go, no job, and no prospects for employment. He resorted to robbing people and faced new charges. His participation in Jersey City’s prisoner reentry program has helped him find housing and a job. In fact, he cut short his own speech because he had to go to work.
Also in attendance were Acting Governor Kimberly Guadagno, Mayor Fulop, Hudson County Executive Tom DeGise, Senator Brian Stack, Assemblyman Raj Mukherji, State Parole Board Chairman James T. Plousis, and Jersey City Councilwoman Diane Coleman.
For more information on YLD’s Prisoner Reentry Program, or to volunteer, contact Kathleen M. O’Malley, NJSBA’s YLD Reentry Committee member, at Katie.firstname.lastname@example.org.
Senate Moves Identity Theft Bill Forward
The Senate Commerce Committee voted favorably on S-1344 (Van Drew)/A-3516 (Andrzejczak), which would establish a process to cease debt collection against a victim of identity theft. Under the proposed legislation, once the identity theft victim advises the debt collector of his or her status as a victim, debt collection activities must stop until a determination is made by the debt collector that the consumer is, in fact, responsible for the debt.
The bill was passed by the Senate Commerce Committee with several amendments, including the removal of an attorney-at-law collecting a debt as an attorney on behalf of and in the name of a client from the definition of “debt collector.” Also removed from the bill was the automatic finding of a disorderly person’s offense upon violation of the act. The amendments would require that any documents, forms or written statements submitted to the debt collector by the consumer only include the last three digits of the person’s Social Security number or other personal identifier.
According to Senator Robert Singer, also a sponsor of the bill, there are over 8,400 reported victims of identity theft in New Jersey. Significantly, Singer noted that in a Federal Trade Commission report, those age 60 and over represent the largest percentage of fraud cases.
The Assembly companion bill awaits review from the Assembly Financial Institutions and Insurance Committee.
Bill to Create Presumptive Termination of Child Support Passes Senate
The Senate voted in favor of S-1046 (Turner)/A-2721 (Gusciora), which would presumptively terminate child support at the age of 19. The NJSBA opposes this bill in its current form, believing it unfairly shifts the burden on the payee to request an extension of child support and the presumptive age of termination is too low.
Under current law, unless a court order, judgment or agreement otherwise dictates, a child is entitled to support until he or she is emancipated. There is no presumptive termination date in New Jersey; rather, emancipation may occur upon completion from post-secondary education, marriage, entry to military service, or other factors. The proposed legislation would administratively terminate child support at age 19, and further provides that under no circumstance does it continue past age 23.
Several key amendments to the bill include the requirement of two notices of proposed termination of child support to be sent to the payee prior to termination of child support; clarifying that the “custodial parent” is the party responsible for seeking continuation of child support; providing for the continuation of child support based on an application to the court following notice of child support termination that the child is enrolled in school full-time, that a child has a physical or mental disability, or that there are exceptional circumstances; and clarifying that while child support ends at 23, nothing prevents the payment of an alternate form of financial support or reimbursement from a parent for the child.
The Administrative Office of the Courts (AOC) noted in earlier testimony on the bill that the legislation is necessary to cut down on the large number of open cases that accrue arrearages long after a child has been emancipated but a parent fails to properly terminate child support. The presumption of termination at age 19 would fix the termination at an age when most children have graduated high school, according to the AOC.
In addition to the concerns that this bill unfairly shifts the burden on the payee to continue child support in direct contradiction to current case law, the NJSBA expressed concerns that the presumptive termination age of 19 is too low and does not account for a growing number of children who attend college.
The amended bill awaits a full vote of the Assembly.