New Jersey Bytes Archives
Tuesday, October 25, 2011
Gov. Chris Christie, true to his word, caused an appeal to be filed Tuesday from an Oct. 17 trial court decision that declared his pension reform legislation unconstitutional as applied to state judges. [See: Voiding of Pension Reform For Judges Riles Christie, Who Upbraids Judiciary.]
Assistant Attorney General Robert Lougy signed the notice of appeal, along with a statement of grounds: that the constitutional prohibition against reducing judges’ salaries while in office does not apply to increases in deductions for pension contributions and health-care benefits. Even if the deductions are found to reduce judicial salaries, they don’t violate the constitution, Lougy said, because they apply to all state employees and don’t implicate questions of judicial independence.
The statute, P.L. 2011, c. 78, modified benefit and pension plan deductions for all state employees, but only judges are protected by the state constitution’s art. VI, sec. 6, para. 6, stating that judges’ “salaries … shall not be diminished during their term of appointment.”
Also on Tuesday, Christie held a rally at the War Memorial Building in Trenton with more than 50 Republican legislators, declaring GOP support for a constitutional amendment that would state specifically that the provision does not apply to reductions in other emoluments of judicial office. Christie urged Democrats to fall in line and to make their positions known before the Nov. 8 elections.
A constitutional amendment presents a long row to hoe. It must be approved by a 3/5 supermajority in both houses of the Legislature or by a majority in both houses for two successive years. It then must be put in the ballot in the next general election, after publishing notice in newspapers three month in advance. If an amendment is voted down, it can’t be put on the ballot again until the third general election afterward.
Both houses are dominated by Democrats and are expected to remain so after next month’s elections. Senate President Stephen Sweeney and Assembly Speaker Sheila Oliver have both spoken out against the amendment, saying they prefer to allow the appeal process to play itself out. A slim majority of Democrats in each house supported the pension reform.
Posted by Ronald J. Fleury at 04:57 PM.
Monday, October 24, 2011
Clifford Minor, a former Essex County prosecutor and Newark municipal judge, was sentenced Monday to 24 months in prison for accepting $3,500 to carry out a plan by which an innocent man would confess to another’s criminal conduct.
U.S. District Judge Dickinson Debevoise also imposed three years of supervised release and a $6,000 fine and ordered payment of $8,500 in restitution.
Minor, who had been operating a criminal defense firm in Newark, permanently surrendered his law license as a condition of his guilty plea last April 5.
Minor admitted that in July 2007, he went to the Essex County Jail to meet with Abdul Williams of East Orange, who had been charged with possession of a gun and faced a lengthy sentence because he is a convicted felon. Minor later escorted Jamal Muhammad to the Newark Police Department, posing as his counsel, where Muhammad confessed to possessing the firearm for which Williams had been arrested. Muhammad previously had agreed to accept $1,500 for making the phony confession, authorities said. Minor was captured in recorded telephone calls telling Williams how to post Muhammad’s bail, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office.
Authorities said that in conversations with federal officials, Minor made several false statements under oath: that he had no communication with Williams about his representation of Muhammad, that he had been retained by Muhammad and that he had no indication Muhammad’s false statement was made in return for a bribe. Minor later admitted Williams paid him $3,500 for his role in the conspiracy and he pleaded guilty to conspiring to commit witness bribery, obstruction of justice, falsification of records and lying under oath, among other charges.
Minor, 68, is a former Newark police officer who graduated from Rutgers Law School in 1979 and began his law career as an administrator in Newark Municipal Court. In 1985, Mayor Kenneth Gibson appointed him to a municipal judgeship. In 1986, Mayor Sharpe James made him the court’s presiding judge. Nominated as Essex County prosecutor in 1992, he initially was declined a “qualified” rating by the State Bar Association’s Judicial and Prosecutorial Appointments Committee because he lacked public or private trial experience. Under pressure from Gov. James Florio, the Bar did an about-face and approved of his appointment. He served for a five-year term.
Posted by Pamela Brownstein at 02:27 PM.
Monday, October 17, 2011
U.S. District Judge Lewis Kaplan in the Southern District of New York has scheduled oral arguments for 11 a.m. on Nov. 3 in connection with Jacoby & Meyers' challenge to a court rule on professional conduct prohibiting non-lawyer ownership interest in law firms.
Jacoby & Meyers claims Rule 5.4 violates several constitutional provisions and prevents law firms from securing the outside investment needed to establish and maintain a modern practice. The firm claims the prohibition against non-lawyer investment increases the cost of capital to law firms and drives up the cost of legal services to consumers.
The firm is suing the presiding justices of the four N.Y. Appellate Divisions, who have rule-making authority over attorney conduct, Jacoby & Meyers v. Presiding Justices, 11-cv-3387.
Attorney General Eric Schneiderman has moved to dismiss the complaint. He argues the court rule is constitutional and that abandoning it would open a Pandora's Box of ethical issues by permitting non-lawyers to have ownership interests in law firms, and presumably a voice in how firms conduct business.
Jacoby & Meyers has virtually identical cases pending in the federal courts of Connecticut and New Jersey.
Posted by John Caher at 11:47 AM.
Friday, October 7, 2011
The overall economy outpaced analysts' predictions last month by adding 103,000 jobs, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics' preliminary September employment report released Friday. But the uptick didn't carry over to the legal sector. It lost 1,300 jobs last month, according to the report.
After adding 4,100 positions in July, the legal industry has now suffered two straight months of job losses. The Bureau of Labor Statistics' adjusted figures for August—released as part of Friday's report—show that the legal sector shed 300 jobs that month; the agency originally reported that the industry added of 100 jobs during August.
After a see-saw first half of the year, the legal sector has seen a net loss of 1,500 jobs so far in 2011 and has shed 3,500 jobs since September 2010, according to the BLS report.
With some economists continuing to raise the specter of a double-dip recession, the six-figure gain in overall employment was better than expected. The private sector added 137,000 new jobs in September, and got a big lift from a combined increase of 45,000 jobs in the education and health services sectors. Despite the gains, the nation's unemployment rate remained stuck at 9.1 percent.
Posted by Claire Zillman at 05:47 PM.