NJSBA Board of Trustees Report
Nov. 18, 2022
Court report comments: The New Jersey State Bar Association (NJSBA) has submitted comments on three rule changes proposed by the Judiciary.
The NJSBA supported clarifications in the state’s background screening policy for guardians, particularly one that exempts court-appointed attorneys from the background screening requirements. The NJSBA recommended the following changes to Rule 4:86-2(b)(3) with the aim to create more uniformity in how the background screening processes are applied in each county:
• Clarify the nature of a judgment search on potential guardians;
• Implement standard fingerprinting protocols;
• Amend the rules to clearly delineate those individuals for whom the background screening certification is inapplicable; and
• Disclose the results of a background screening to each party through a secure portal or secure email system.
Under the proposed changes to Rule 4:21A-4(a), parties to a civil arbitration would be required to submit their arbitration statements to the arbitrator before the hearing date. The NJSBA fully supported the requirement, as it would allow the arbitrator and all parties sufficient time to review and prepare for the hearing, according to the letter. Beyond the latest rules changes, the NJSBA said further reforms are needed in the civil arbitration system, according to the letter. The NJSBA recommended that the Judiciary consider several revisions:
• Restrict arbitration submissions to five pages, with an index not to exceed 35 pages;
• Allow an in-person opt-in for virtual hearings;
• Limit arbitrators to no more than eight cases in a single day. Fees should be provided to reflect the level of responsibility, with single arbitrators earning $500 for up to five cases, or $750 for six to eight cases;
• Ban telephonic arbitrations;
• Extend the time to file for de novo review from 30 days to 60 days;
• Allow for 60 days’ notice that a matter is being scheduled for arbitration, to provide the parties with adequate time to prepare; and
• Require the arbitration award to be transmitted to the civil division manager on the day of the hearing, with a copy sent via email that day to the attorneys for the litigants or by email to the pro se party and clarify when the time to file for de novo review begins to run.
The Association also offered comments about the way the non-dissolution matters are handled in family court, urging a uniformity as a central focus to eliminate disparity between the FD (typically cases that involve unmarried individuals) and FM dockets (those that typically address matrimonial and divorce matters). “The experience of our members has been that cases pending on the FD docket are no different than cases pending on the FM docket in terms of complexity and importance. The litigants who appear in the courts are deserving of the same level of respect and consideration regardless of the docket. We urge the Court to take all necessary and appropriate steps to afford all litigants the same level of fairness and access to justice, both from a substantive and procedural perspective,” the Association said.
Government affairs: The Board of Trustees supported the following bills before the state Legislature:
A4428 Conaway—A bill that establishes cause of action for residents of assisted living facilities and comprehensive personal care home providers. The NJSBA will seek amendments to expand protections against third-party guarantees and to limit judicial discretion about attorney’s fees.
A1309 Greenwald / S2696 Greenstein—A measure that requires law enforcement agencies to provide a copy of certain police reports to crime victims. The NJSBA will seek amendments to define what a police report is so there is uniformity in its application.
Annual Meeting and Convention: The Trustees approved the Borgata Hotel Casino & Spa as the site of the 2023 Annual Meeting and Convention. It will be held May 17-19. A request for proposals for seminar programming has also been sent to all section and committee leadership to once again deliver the sophisticated, innovative and meaningful programming that helps make the event the largest annual gathering of the state’s legal community.
Pro Bono Award recipients: The Trustees approved a slate of attorneys and law students to receive this year’s Pro Bono Awards in recognition of their dedication to the profession and service to those who most need assistance but cannot afford to hire an attorney. They will be celebrated at an event on Feb. 15 at the New Jersey Law Center.
NJSBA Board of Trustees Report