The New Jersey State Bar Association continued its involvement as amicus curiae in the matter of State v. Zingis, which focuses on the admissibility of information and documentation in matters involving those convicted of driving while intoxicated (DWI) using breath samples involving former State Police Sgt. Marc Dennis. Dennis was charged with misconduct for failing to properly calibrate Alcotest machines, calling into question 20,000 tests produced in DWI stops where it was verified that the machines were calibrated by Dennis. The brief was authored by John Menzel.
In this latest round of briefing, the parties addressed the issue of a repeated DWI offense and enhanced sentencing where the person had a prior conviction arising from the faulty Alcotest readings from the Dennis calibrated equipment. The Association filed a brief with the Supreme Court urging it to follow the Special Master’s recommendation to use an index prepared by the state and a repository accessible by the prosecution and defense as a resource to challenge Alcotest results. The Association urged the Supreme Court to clarify that the repository be available for those contemplating post-conviction relief motions – rather than those already seeking post-conviction relief. It also urged the Supreme Court to require notice to the Association regarding any modification of the repository with an opportunity to be heard before any modification be accepted by the Court.
The NJSBA awaits the Supreme Court’s ruling on this issue.
Focus on Affordable Housing Draws Concerns
The Senate Community and Urban Affairs Committee heard extensive comments on a bill that would abolish the Council on Affordable Housing (COAH) and transfer rulemaking authority to the Department of Community Affairs (DCA) and the New Jersey Housing and Mortgage Finance Agency (HMFA) to establish a process to determine present and prospective fair share affordable housing obligations. Assemblywoman Yvonne Lopez and Senator Troy Singleton introduced A4/S50 at the end of the last session, drawing the attention of many stakeholders who are concerned about the bill’s implementation. The Association is reviewing this legislation in anticipation of this heavily debated discussion.
Sponsors of the bill touted their objective on the issue to provide opportunities to providing affordable housing opportunities for residents with varying means.
“Our objective here today is to bring that full circle so that everyone, no matter where they live, no matter where they come from, can find a home here in New Jersey,” said Senator Singleton.
At the hearing on Thursday, the committee took testimony on the bill, including Senator Holly Schepisi who voiced concerns about the bill’s impact on municipalities trying to meet their fair share obligations. Senator Brian Stack, who is also mayor of West New York, commented that the bill is a “start in the right direction” and acknowledged the bill needs work. In addition to the senators, members of municipal councils spoke of their own experiences struggling to meet the affordable housing obligations only to have them challenged following approval.
Connie Mercer, CEO of the NJ Coalition to End Homelessness and Executive Director of HomeFront, testified in support of the bill stating that “S50 must pass to set a firm course for the creation of much needed affordable housing.” She testified that there is a “tremendous shortage of affordable housing in New Jersey.”
The bill passed along party lines. Senator Singleton pledged to work with stakeholders to address concerns on the bill. NJSBA members are currently reviewing the bill.
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.