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

Capitol Report

October 20, 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.

NJSBA-MONITORED BILLS ADVANCE

Two bills the NJSBA supports, and one for which the NJSBA expressed concerns recently advanced in the Legislature.

CORPORATE AGENTS

Legislation allowing corporations to reimburse corporate agents without prior approval from the board of directors was released from the state Senate Commerce Committee.

 A-2603 and S-2405, sponsored by Assemblyman Patrick J. Diegnan and Senator Nia H. Gill, amends the current law requiring corporate boards of directors to authorize the advancement of expenses and permits such boards to delegate responsibility for authorization. The association supports this bill as it brings New Jersey’s corporate indemnification law in line with that of neighboring Delaware and New York, allowing greater flexibility in determining how decisions will be made in connection with advancing a corporate agent’s expenses in a legal proceeding prior to the final disposition in that proceeding. The bill allows corporations to establish a more efficient, streamlined decision-making process in such matters.

HELPING CHILDREN

Another measure supported by the NJSBA is A-2550, sponsored by Assemblyman Carmelo G. Garcia. That bill authorizes the Office of Public Defender to provide legal representation for children in legal proceedings after parental rights have been terminated.  The association supports this legislation because children are legal orphans following the conclusion of a termination of parental rights proceeding until they are adopted. This proposal would allow legal guardians to continue to represent a child’s interest in further proceedings until a placement is finalized. The measure was released from the state Assembly Health Services Committee and referred to the Assembly Appropriations Committee.

CONCERNS OVER BURDENS OF PROOF

Legislation seeking to ensure that New Jersey’s first responders receive medical care and compensation for conditions resulting from their actions in the line of duty also advanced in the Legislature last week when it was released by the state Senate Budget and Appropriations Committee. 

S-264, sponsored by Senator Linda R. Greenstein, also known as the Thomas P. Canzanella Twenty First Century First Responders Protection Act, creates a rebuttable presumption of workers’ compensation coverage for certain injuries suffered by public safety workers, including coverage for cancer developed by firefighters employed for a length of time. The senate committee amended the bill to clarify certain definitions and timeframes and to eliminate a provision that required psychological and social counseling and care programs to be offered for workers during and after a “traumatic” incident. 

The association expressed concerns with the bill to legislators. While the association supports first responders and is sensitive to the potential risks that they face, this bill would introduce into the workers’ compensation system rebuttable presumptions and legal burdens of proof for first responders that are not applicable to other petitioners. The association does not believe these special standards are necessary, as the present workers' compensation statute already offers defined burdens of proof that are fair and equal and must be met by all petitioners. This allows highly skilled workers' compensation judges to weigh all factors in a particular situation and reach a fair conclusion. 

ANIMAL CRUELTY BILL PACKAGE RELEASED FROM COMMITTEE

A comprehensive package of five animal law bills meant to crack down on animal cruelty was released from the state Assembly Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee.

Assemblyman Reed Gusciora sponsored A-201, which authorizes the court to issue animal protection orders against any person found guilty of abusing an animal or violating the state animal cruelty laws, and A-3381, which expands criminal and civil acts of animal cruelty to include theft or release of animals during a burglary, subjecting violators to a fine of up to $1,000, a jail term of six months or both.

A-1023, sponsored by Assemblyman Daniel R. Benson, authorizes the placement of involved animals with animal welfare agencies pending adjudication of alleged animal cruelty violation. A-2938, sponsored by Assemblyman Robert Andrzejczak, permits a municipality to contract with animal and humane societies for animal foster care. Under the bill, the service is to be supported by a nonprofit organization whose members provide temporary shelter and have been involved in animal foster care for at least one year. 

Finally, a measure sponsored by Assemblyman Andrzejczak, A-2961, would establish monetary penalties for failure to include bittering agents in antifreeze, which animals have been known to drink for its sweet taste, but is a dangerously toxic substance if consumed. The bills now head to the full General Assembly for a vote.

ACTING JUSTICES WOULD RECEIVE TITLE

Acting justices would receive a title commensurate with their duties under a measure released from the state Assembly Judiciary Committee. A-3269, sponsored by Assemblyman Raj Mukherji, confers title of Acting Associate Justice of the Supreme Court on any judge of the Superior Court, Appellate Division who the Chief Justice assigns to temporary service in the Supreme Court for a continuous period of at least 180 days. 

OTHER LEGISLATION

A number of bills aimed at protecting children and their adoptive parents’ also advanced in the Legislature recently.

The Assembly Human Services Committee released A-882, sponsored by Assemblywoman Nancy F. Munoz, which addresses concerns of stalking by parents whose rights have been terminated. The bill allows restraining protection orders to be issued against a former parent whose parental rights have been terminated and is found to be victimizing the adoptive family. It expands the scope of the current law to make stalking a crime of the third- or fourth-degree and allows temporary restraining orders to be issued for behaviors involving unsolicited contact, assault, terroristic threats, kidnapping and more.

Another measure, sponsored by Senator Joseph F. Vitale and Assemblywoman Valerie Vainieri Huttle, would allow a one-time application that would streamline and facilitate the process for requesting services for individuals with developmental disabilities from the Department of Children and Families and the Department of Human Services. S-2065 and A-2717  would establish a cooperative agreement between the Division of Children’s System of Care and the Division of Developmental Disabilities and authorizes the release of the individual’s information found on the completed application. Last week, the bill was released from the state Senate Budget and Appropriations Committee and is awaiting Senate vote.

Finally, legislation that permits a child, whose parent or guardian is ordered into active military service, to remain enrolled in the school district in which they resided prior to active military service, regardless of where the child resides during the parent or guardian’s period of active duty. A-1667, sponsored by Assemblyman Gordon M. Johnson was released from the Assembly Military Law and Veterans’ Affairs Committee and is awaiting full Assembly vote.

THIS WEEK IN TRENTON

On Oct. 21, the Supreme Court will hear oral argument in State v. Kuropchak, where the Court will determine whether trial courts must strictly adhere to the documentary requirements established by State v. Chun in order for Alcotest results to be admitted in a driving while intoxicated matter. John Menzel, immediate past chair of the association’s Municipal Court Practice Section, will present argument on behalf of the association, which is participating in the matter as amicus curiae.

The arguments will begin at 10 a.m. and can be viewed at njcourts.com.

Later that day, the Supreme Court will hold a public hearing on a schedule of proposed fee increases published on Sept. 15. The hearing will take place in the Supreme Court courtroom at the Hughes Justice Complex in Trenton.

SAVE THE DATE 

Don’t forget to register for these upcoming programs featuring prominent government officials:

7th Annual Pro Bono Conference on October 21 celebrating Pro Bono volunteers in the legal profession. Chief Justice Stuart Rabner will offer remarks.

2014 New Jersey Commission on Professionalism in the Law Awards Luncheon on Oct. 22 will pay tribute to outstanding lawyers who exemplify the values that frame the legal profession. Judge Glenn A. Grant, Acting Director of the Administrative Office of the Courts, will offer keynote remarks.

To register for these and other meetings, visit njsba.com.

 

 

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