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Un-privileged The marital privilege that allows husbands and wives not to testify against each other will not be extended to unmarried gay couples anytime soon, the state Supreme Court ruled last Thursday. A woman suing the Essex County Sheriff’s Office for sexual harassment had sought to prevent defense lawyers from deposing her longtime girlfriend, with whom she shares a house, finances and a dog. Her lawyer, Neil Mullin of Smith Mullin in Montclair, moved to stop the hearing, claiming that their relationship was so like a marriage that it ought to be treated as such and that not to do so would be an unconstitutional unequal treatment. At trial, Union County Judge Ross Anzaldi struck down the motion on the basis that no marriage existed. The law treated unmarried gay and straight couples equally, he ruled, and the Legislature had no discriminatory intent in framing the rule. Mullin asked for leave to appeal, opposed by partners Rosemary Alito and Vincent Avallone of Newark’s McCarter & English, and partners Robert Levy and Andrew Indeck of Lyndhurst’s Scarinci & Hollenbeck. The appeal rode a rocket docket: Filed on Feb. 12, it was denied without comment by the Appellate Division on Feb. 24 and by the Supreme Court two days later. Both sides decline to comment. Map Inquest When Robert Tombs, a hobbyist cartographer, asked for topographic maps of Burlington County under the Open Public Records Act, county officials told him the cost in advance: $8.9 million. When Tombs balked, the county sued him in federal court, seeking a declaratory judgment. County Solicitor Evan Crook contends in the suit that OPRA is superseded by federal copyright law and that the maps are not subject to the state’s fee schedule. He relies on a 2001 Second Circuit ruling, County of Suffolk v. First American Real Estate Solutions, which said a county could copyright its maps and that New York’s Freedom of Information Law did not preclude the county from enforcing its copyright. But isn’t $8.9 million a little pricey? Crook says the fee reflects the cost of contracting out the production of detailed maps using aerial photos. “What we’re saying is this is a significant asset which is paid for and created for the taxpayers of Burlington County,” he says. Tombs, by the way, lives in Point Pleasant Beach, Ocean Co. Legislature Abhors a Vacuum When the Supreme Court ruled on Feb. 2 that licensed professionals can’t be sued for deceptive advertising under the Consumer Fraud Act, it said it was bowing to the intent of the Legislature. Evidence of the intent was gleaned from lawmakers’ failure to amend the law in the face of court rulings that it did not apply to professionals. “If we are incorrect in our assumption, we would expect the Legislature to take action to amend the statute,” stated the Court. Lawmakers wasted no time. Seven days later, they filed A-2088, which extended the law generally to anyone who holds a professional or occupational license or certificate of registration. Last Thursday, the Assembly Consumer Affairs Committee decided to bring lawyers into the mix. It voted the bill out of committee after adding a proviso that permits the Court to establish standards for attorney advertising “substantially similar to, and consistent with” the Consumer Fraud Act. It also asks the Court to provide appropriate sanctions for any violation. Trust Buster – First, Linwood lawyer Carl Valore was disbarred. Now, he is facing jail time for defrauding clients who entrusted him with their funds. Valore, 68, pleaded guilty on Feb. 17 before Atlantic County Judge Albert Garofalo on charges of theft by deception and theft by failing to make the required disposition. He had been charged with stealing more than $2.3 million from clients, including $393,000 from a trust established from settlement of suit over contamination of the Price’s Pit Superfund site in Egg Harbor Township. The prosecution will seek full restitution and a four-year sentence when Valore is sentenced on March 19. Valore was once one of the state’s leading toxic tort lawyers, regularly winning payouts in the millions, but he gave up his practice in 1995 and agreed to disbarment in 2001. Atlantic County Prosecutor Jeffrey Blitz says that Valore, in order to convince clients to let him safeguard their money, told them their investments were guaranteed by the government. Valore’s public defender, Raymond Lee, did not return a call. - By Jim Edwards, Charles Toutant and Mary P. Gallagher

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