The members of the governing body of the New Jersey State Bar Association unanimously vowed to each provide free legal help to residents with legal issues stemming from Hurricane Sandy.
 
At the Board of Trustees meeting last week, the first since Sandy ravaged much of the state, the trustees vowed to volunteer at least two hours of their time providing free legal help to residents with legal questions related to the storm.
 
The members of the trustee board also said they would urge others in the legal community to provide assistance to members of the public with legal questions through a free public helpline the state bar association established.
 
In the days following the storm, the state bar association opened the toll-free help line, 888-541-1900, for the public. Since it opened, the help line has been receiving over 50 calls a day from residents with questions about insurance claims, Federal Emergency Management Administration efforts and other issues related to the storm.
 
Over 140 attorneys have said they will provide free legal help, but still more are needed to help residents or answer the help line. To volunteer or learn more, visit njsba.com.
 
On the legislative front, the trustees reviewed a number of issues, ranging from health care to wedding ceremonies. They voted to:
 
Oppose S-1588, which would strengthen various statutory provisions for civil union couples. The trustees’ opposition to the measure is consistent with the association’s position in favor of full marriage equality.
 
Oppose S-1881, a measure that sought to facilitate the making of health-care decisions for patients in a hospital, nursing home or assisted living facility who cannot make their own decisions. The bill was opposed out of concern that the legislation violates due process and is unconstitutional.  
 
Support A-225, a measure that would exempt Holocaust reparations payment and money from estate recoveries under Medicaid from the legal process, except child support payments.
 
Oppose A-2609, which would amend and supplement the New Jersey Parentage Act to provide relief from judgment and modification of child support orders under certain circumstances and requires paternity testing of all infants at birth. The trustees opposed it because the legislation would take away judicial discretion in paternity testing, which is often a fact-sensitive determination based on what represents the best interest of the child.
 
Support with high priority legislation the association drafted, that has not yet been filed, that would clarify and streamline the process for succession and the removal of fiduciaries where the governing instrument provides a specific mechanism for doing so and there is no other opposition.
 
Oppose S-1157, S-2155 and A-2201, a measure that would allow celebrants to solemnize marriages. The association felt the legislation would allow the deregulation of the performance of marriages.
 
In addition to addressing legislation, the trustees approved a new member benefit called Delete Me that helps prevent people from being tracked during online sessions. State bar association members can receive a discounted subscription for the service that scrubs address, age, political and religious views and other data from the Internet.
 
The trustees also endorsed a resolution urging the state’s municipal courts to adopt statewide standards that would grant prosecutors the discretion to amend disorderly person charges to allow people to plead guilty municipal ordinance violations that cover identical conduct of the disorderly persons charge. The resolution was put forward by the association’s Municipal Court Practice Section.