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.

NJSBA’s Bill to End Double Taxation of Certain Attorney’s Fees Passes Senate

A New Jersey State Bar Association-drafted bill meant to end the double taxation of attorney’s fees and costs received in connection with certain unlawful discrimination, unlawful retaliation and qui tam claims or actions passed the Senate earlier this month. S-784 (Sarlo)/A-3614 (Burzichelli) passed the Senate unanimously after it was amended to expand the bill’s reach to qui tam claims.

The association drafted the bill out of a concern that the state was taxing attorney’s fees awarded in unlawful discrimination, retaliation claims and other actions for both the client, who never gets the money, and the attorney, who does. The bill would exclude the tax to the client so that only the attorney would be taxed on the fees. The bill was amended to include qui tam claims following a recent Appellate Division decision in Kite v. Division of Taxation, Docket No. A-3349-15T3, Feb. 8, which taxed the qui tam plaintiff for his own recovery, but also for the recovery of two other qui tam plaintiffs who were joined in the suit. The revised bill addresses this anomaly to ensure that individuals are taxed only on what they recover.

The bill is pending in the Assembly Judiciary Committee. The association continues to monitor its progress.

Gestational Carrier Bill Makes its Third Trip to Governor’s Desk

The New Jersey Gestational Carrier Act passed both houses earlier this month and awaits the governor’s signature. It is the third time the bill has been submitted to a sitting governor for approval; Governor Chris Christie vetoed the measure both times it was presented to him. The association supports this legislation and NJSBA member Deb Guston testified several times in support of the bill.

S-482(Vitale)/A-174(Vainieri Huttle) would codify best practices for gestational surrogacy agreements in New Jersey, which currently do not exist. There are no protections for the carrier, the intended parents or the child in such arrangements, and, as a result, many couples are encouraged to leave the state to enter into such arrangements.

The legislation applies only to surrogacy arrangements where the child is not genetically linked to the carrier. While the practice exists in New Jersey, there are currently no guidelines governing these arrangements. The bill would require that anyone entering into an agreement be represented by counsel, undergo psychological testing, and be fully informed of their obligations prior to entering into the arrangement.

Judicial Salary Increase Awaits Governor’s Sign Off

A long-awaited measure to provide for salary increases for judges and certain public employees awaits the governor’s signature. S-1229 (Sweeney)/A-3685 (Coughlin) would provide for an automatic increase of $8,000 for this year and the next two years, and annual cost of living increases for four years beginning in 2021. The NJSBA supported the bill, believing it is needed to ensure the state attracts quality candidates to the bench.