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 RECENT ACTION IN TRENTON
P.L. 2014, c.19 SUPPORT Provides that crime victims do not have to pay fees to obtain records relating to the crime and that requests for these records are not public information. On July 30, the governor signed this bill into law. ( A-1676 Johnson).
The New Jersey State Bar Association has always supported this legislation, believing crime victims should be entitled to free “discovery” in obtaining any record relating to their alleged victimization, including but not limited to restraining orders, domestic violence offense reports and any other law enforcement agency reports. The association is in favor of amending the Open Public Records Act, and believes any request to obtain these records by the alleged victim should not be public information.
BAIL REFORM: NJSBA LEGISLATIVE UPDATE
S-946 (Norcross) SUPPORT Implements a constitutional amendment providing for pretrial detention of certain criminal defendants; establishes non-monetary bail alternatives for release; authorizes the Judiciary to revise fees for certain legal programs and services. On July 31, the bill was amended in the Senate by emergency resolution and later passed in the Senate (29-5). On Aug. 4, the bill was substituted for A-1910 (Burzichelli), an emergency resolution was issued and the bill later passed in the Assembly (53-7-9) and was sent to the governor.
SCR-128 (Norcross) SUPPORT Proposes a constitutional amendment to authorize, under certain circumstances, pretrial detention of persons in criminal cases. On July 31, the bill passed in the Senate (31-0). On Aug. 4, the bill was substituted for ACR-177 (Mazzeo), passed in the Assembly (60-0-8) and filed with the secretary of state.
The New Jersey State Bar Association supports a holistic approach to bail reform. The association is the largest group of judges, lawyers and other legal professionals in the state and counts among its members representatives of all those involved in the criminal justice systems, including prosecutors, public defenders, individual rights advocates, and judges. With that experience and insight, the New Jersey State Bar Association generally backs the proposed constitutional amendment, SCR-128/ACR-177, in tandem with the critical implementing legislation, S-946/A-1910, that addresses pretrial detention, speedy trial and funding issues.
As passed, the bill contains the following key aspects: (1) the amendment and implementing bill were passed together as part of a “holistic” approach, (2) the bill provides for pretrial detention for only a small group of defendants accused of the most egregious offenses and (3) speedy trial provisions in the bill ensure defendants who are detained are entitled to a hearing within established timeframes.
The bill also permits filing fee increases to provide exclusively for annual appropriations as follows: (1) $22 million for the pretrial services unit; (2) $10 million for the e-court information system; and (3) $10.1 million for Legal Services. Certain safeguards are also included in the bill in connection with the increases. Any additional funds raised by the increases are to be used by the Judiciary for the pretrial services unit or for court information technology, not revert to the general treasury. Filing fees cannot be increased or supplemented more than $50 in the aggregate for each fee. Certain annual reports are required regarding the use of the funds from both the Administrative Office of the Courts (AOC) and Legal Services, and the increases may be revisited after five years and again after 10 years to see if they are still necessary.
Finally, the bill establishes a Pretrial Services Program Review Commission to monitor implementation of this law, and to research pretrial release and detention programs in other states and make appropriate recommendations. The 17-member commission includes members from the Attorney General’s Office, Senate, Assembly, AOC, county prosecutors offices, public defenders office, NAACP, Latino Action Network, American Civil Liberties Union, Drug Policy Alliance and Institute for Social Justice, as well as various appointed public members.
OTHER CHAPTER LAWS
Below is a list of bills recently signed into law:
P.L. 2014, c.20 Allows a person to request voluntary exclusion from gaming activities without acknowledging being a problem gambler. On July 30, the governor signed this bill into law. ( A-2444 Caputo)
P.L. 2014, c.21 Allows the reemployment by a school district of a Teachers’ Pension and Annuity Fund (TPAF) retiree as an athletic coach when compensation is under $10,000. On July 30, the governor signed this bill into law. ( A-3346 Diegnan)
P.L. 2014, c.22 Prohibits the import, sale, purchase, barter or possession of ivory or rhinoceros horn and items containing ivory or rhinoceros horn, with limited exceptions. On Aug. 5, the governor signed this bill into law. ( S-2012 Lesniak/Mukherji)
MILITARY LEGAL ASSISTANCE PROGRAM
ATTORNEY VOLUNTEERS NEEDED
The association, through its Military Law and Veterans’ Affairs Committee, in conjunction with McCarter & English, L.L.P., has established the Military Legal Assistance Program. This pro bono program provides assistance to New Jersey residents who have served overseas as active duty members of reserve components of the armed forces after Sept. 11, 2001.
The association’s Military Legal Assistance Program continues to provide free legal advice to veterans who encounter legal issues before their deployment or upon their return home. Members of the military who have served in active duty or in the reserve units can receive assistance with family law, debtor-creditor issues and employment law matters.
Any attorney who annually volunteers 25 or more hours of pro bono service can earn a Madden exemption through the Military Legal Assistance Program. To find out more information, please visit njsba.com or email mlap@njsba.com.
WHAT IS THE MADDEN EXEMPTION?
Attorneys who certify they have performed at least 25 hours of pro bono services in New Jersey in the form of legal assistance to the poor in the year prior to the registration date in conjunction with a Rule 1:21(e) legal assistance organization and legal aid society, or a Supreme Court-approved program, are exempt. Additionally, attorneys who satisfy the same 25-hour requirement by serving as a court-appointed attorney-trustee pursuant to Rule 1:20-19, or who volunteer to handle termination of parental rights appeals as compensated public defender pool attorneys, are also exempt under this category.
Approved pro bono agencies and programs (Exemption Code 88) are listed below:
  • Rule 1:21-1(e) legal assistance organization and legal aid societies
  • United States Bankruptcy Court Pro Bono Program
  • Domestic Violence Service Providers
  • United States Immigration Court Pro Bono Program
  • United States District Court Pro Bono Program
  • The Pro Bono Partnership Program
  • The Essex Volunteer Lawyers for Justice Program
  • The New Jersey State Bar Association’s Military Legal Assistance Program
  • The New Jersey State Bar Association’s Hurricane Sandy Relief Program
  • Veterans Law Clinic (at Widener University School of Law)
  • Unchained At Last
For more information, please visit the Judiciary’s website.