August 31, 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.
Senate Recommends Judicial Nominees
The Senate Judiciary Committee recommended 10 people for nomination to the superior court and one to the workers’ compensation bench. The following recommendations were presented to the full Senate for approval:
- Lisa M. Adubato, Cranford*
- Mark Sadiq Ali, Verona*
- Michael T. Collins, Eagleswood Township
- John M. Doran, Toms River
- John Isadore Gizzo, Nutley*
- Nora Jane Grimbergen, West Caldwell*
- James R. Paganelli, Verona
- Russell Joseph Passamano, West Orange
- Bridget Anne Stecher, Fairfield*
- John Zunic, Cedar Grove*
- Diana Esther Montes-Infante, West Caldwell*
*indicates NJSBA membership
Judiciary to Consider Mental Health Service Provider Privilege Rule; Removes Pretrial Intervention Rule from Consideration
The Judiciary will consider proposed N.J.R.E. 534—the mental health service provider privilege—at its judicial conference this Wednesday. It has withdrawn from consideration proposed amendments to New Jersey Court Rule 3:28 regarding pretrial intervention (PTI).
The withdrawal of the pretrial intervention rule from consideration was based on the passage of legislation that revises several statutes, including N.J.S.A. 2C:43-12, which governs the Pretrial Intervention Program. The legislation revised the statute by creating a presumption against admission into PTI for certain cases that involve domestic violence; requiring the prosecutor and the court to give due consideration to the crime victim’s position regarding whether the defendant should be admitted into the program; and allowing certain defendants into PTI only upon entry of a guilty plea. The new statutory provisions, which went into effect immediately, conflict with several of the proposed PTI rule amendments that were scheduled to be discussed at the conference. The chief justice chose instead to refer the matter back to the Criminal Practice Committee to address the statutory amendments and the resulting conflicts with the proposed rule amendments.
Remaining on the agenda is a proposed new N.J.R.E. 534, which would create a unified mental health service provider privilege. The privilege is intended to replace the privileges that currently exist for communications between patients and various mental health service providers. Those privileges are seen as inconsistent. The unified privilege applies to confidential communications between a mental health service provider and patient during the course of treatment, or related to the patient’s mental or emotional health condition. The rule would apply to psychologists, physicians (including psychiatrists), marriage and family therapists, social workers (including social work interns and certified school social workers), alcohol and drug counselors, nurses, professional counselors (associate counselors or rehabilitation counselors), psychoanalysts, midwives, physician assistants, and pharmacists. The proposed rule would exclude communications made between those service providers and victims of violent crimes. Those communications are governed by the victim counselor privilege contained in N.J.R.E. 517.
The NJSBA indicated in comments on proposed court rules last spring that it supports the adoption of a unified mental health service provider evidentiary privilege. The association views the adoption of one unified privilege as an important step forward, as there are currently different and sometimes inconsistent privileges that exist for mental health service providers.
The Judicial Conference will be held at the New Jersey Law Center, One Constitution Square in New Brunswick, on Wednesday, Sept. 2, at 5:30 p.m.
RPC Amendment Broadens Law Firm Trade Name Options
Law firm names may include a description beyond the names of lawyers as a result of an amendment to RPC 7.5 governing law firm names. The rule change becomes effective tomorrow. RPC 7.5 requires that a law firm name include the full name or last name of a lawyer practicing with the firm or the names of lawyers who are no longer associated with the firm through death or retirement. Under the amended rule, in addition to that which is already permitted, the law firm name may also include additional information “so long as it describes the nature of the firm’s legal practice in terms that are accurate, descriptive, and informative, but not misleading, comparative, or suggestive of the ability to obtain results.”
The Court adopted the recommendations of the Ad Hoc Committee on Law Firm Trade Names, which was an implementation of the Court’s decision in In re Letter Decision of the Committee on Attorney Advertising, Docket No. 47-2007, 213 N.J. 217 (2013). There, the Court revised RPC 7.5 to permit the use of trade names within certain limits. The Court directed the committee to review matters pertaining to its implementation, including mandatory registration and pre-approval of law firm trade names. The committee recommended the rule change as well as an official comment to explain the rule change, but did not recommend mandatory registration or pre-approval of law firm trade names. The committee instead recommended that it monitor and review law firm names to ensure compliance with the amended rule. The NJSBA was supportive of the committee’s recommendations, including the need for guidance about permissible and prohibited trade names. The official comment adopted with the rule provides some guidance as follows:
By way of example, “Millburn Tax Associates, John Smith, Esq.” would be permissible under the trade name provision of this rule, as would “Smith & Jones Millburn Professional Injury Lawyers,” provided the law firm’s primary location is in Millburn and its primary practice area is tax law or personal injury law, respectively. John Smith Criminal Defense and Municipal Law would also be permissible. However, neither “Best Tax Lawyers” nor “Tax Fixers” would be permissible, the former being comparative and the latter being suggestive of the ability to achieve results. Similarly, “Budget Lawyer John Smith, Esq.” is not permissible as it is comparative and likely to be misleading; “Million Dollar Personal Injury Lawyer John Smith, Esq.” is not permissible as it suggests the ability to achieve results; and “Tough As Nails Lawyer John Smith, Esq.” is not permissible as it purports to describe the lawyer and does not describe the nature of the firm’s legal practice.
Military Legal Assistance Program
Attorney Volunteers Needed: The New Jersey State Bar Association’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. To find out more, visit njsba.com or email firstname.lastname@example.org