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

Capitol Report

March 30, 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.

Governor Conditionally Vetoes Interlock Bill; Sends Bill Back with Major Changes

Governor Chris Christie rejected a bill that would increase the use of ignition interlock devices, criticizing it as too soft because it did not prevent drunk driving or deter repeat offenders. He also said the bill was overly broad. The bill (S-385 Scutari/A-1368 Stender), sought to move New Jersey away from driver’s license suspensions as the default penalty for first offenders by creating a rebuttable presumption that first offenders charged with drunk-driving offenses should be sentenced to install an ignition interlock device on their primary vehicle. Supporters of the bill highlighted the fact that this presumption would be the least disruptive and a rehabilitative penalty, but did not remove the court’s discretion to also impose a license suspension for a first offender. The bill also imposed stricter penalties on second and repeat offenders.

In his conditional veto, the governor called the bill “too sweeping, and too lenient,” but applauded the deterring effect of ignition interlocks. Instead, he proposed a mandatory interlock period of three to six months, as well as a license suspension, for first offenders. He also proposed increased fines for repeat offenses and interlock devices in all vehicles registered to chronic repeat offenders and not just the vehicle chosen by the offender.

The association previously testified in favor of the legislation with amendments, specifically related to interlock devices being installed only after suspension of a driver’s license and only upon vehicles owned or leased by the offender. Additionally, the NJSBA advocated certain amendments that would cause pretextual stops, namely the placard requirement. The governor’s conditional veto would significantly change those amendments. The association will continue to monitor the bill.

Governor Signs Bill Ensuring Halfway House Residents Access to Legal Counsel

P.L.2015, c.25 was signed into law to require halfway houses to allow attorney-client visits for individuals incarcerated in halfway houses. The bill was sponsored by Assemblyman Gordon M. Johnson and Senator Loretta D. Weinberg to clarify current law on attorney/client visitation. It permits attorneys and certain representatives of attorneys to visit clients in halfway houses. Title 10A of the New Jersey Administrative Code currently governs attorney-client visits at correctional facilities, but halfway houses are private facilities under contract with the Department of Corrections. This bill ensures that attorney-client visitation includes privately owned halfway houses.

The association supported the passage of this legislation as essential to maintaining the attorney-client relationship and transitioning into reentry programs.

Deputy Clerk of Administrative Services Named in Appellate Division

Leigh Eastty has been named deputy clerk for administrative services for the Appellate Division of the New Jersey Superior Court. Effective April 4, Eastty will be responsible for the day-to-day operations of the official court record statewide, including all electronic recording systems, court reporters and transcripts generated from all judicial proceedings. She will also oversee personnel, budget and other administrative services and reporting services, and e-filing and technology applications. She is also responsible for Americans with Disabilities Act accommodations, facilities, security and other management duties for the Appellate Division.

Eastty has worked for the Judiciary for 19 years, recently as the manager of the programs and procedures unit in the trial court services division of the Administrative Office of the Courts.

Gestational Carrier Agreement Act Heads to Vote

The Gestational Carrier Agreement Act (S-866 Vitale/A-2648 Huttle) heads to a full vote in the Assembly, the last step before the governor. The bill was vetoed by the governor in the last session, but the sponsors remain hopeful this legislation will ultimately become law.

The drafters sought to provide legal protections to those who choose to use a gestational carrier. As of now, gestational carriers are unregulated, and parties face uncertainty with respect to their legal rights. Under this bill, a written contract is required to address a number of issues and expressly state certain terms before any agreement can be made. Of note, the bill:

-       Applies only to a gestational carrier who carries an egg belonging to another party, not her own egg;

-       Requires that a gestational carrier:

  • be at least 21 years old;
  • has given birth to at least one child;
  • complete medical and psychological evaluations conducted by licensed professionals; and
  • retain an attorney independent of the intended parent but for whose services the independent parent would be permitted to pay.

-       Requires express terms of the process the gestational carrier will go through, the right the carrier will have to medical care throughout the process and the financial responsibilities of the parties;

-       Requires the agreement be executed by the gestational carrier, her spouse or partner, and the intended parent or parents;

-       Includes express terms that the intended parent agrees to accept custody of the child immediately upon the birth of the child and assume sole responsibility for support of the child;

-       Requires the intended parent file a complaint for an order of parentage with the superior court.

The NJSBA supports this bill, believing it creates best practices for gestational carrier agreements.

Comments on Proposed Court Rules

Written comments on published reports from various Supreme Court rules committees are due by April 10. The reports contain recommendations for rule amendments and other non-administrative actions. More information on the reports and how to submit comments can be obtained from the court’s website, at njcourtsonline.com.

SAVE THE DATE

New Jersey State Bar Association Annual Meeting and Convention

May 13-15

Borgata Hotel Casino & Spa, Atlantic City

Join more than 2,700 attorneys, judges, law clerks, legal administrators and paralegals for a full program. Programming includes over 80 educational seminars in virtually every area of the law, exceptional networking receptions and other ticketed events including section sessions, judicial updates and legislative updates. Register online at njsba.com.

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 mlap@njsba.com.

Past issues of the Capitol Report