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 Weighs in on Several Supreme Court Rules Committee Reports
The New Jersey State Bar Association submitted comments on several reports and recommendations issued by the Supreme Court Complementary Dispute Resolution, Family Practice, Municipal Court Practice, and Rules of Evidence committees.
Complementary Dispute Resolution
The association’s comments on the report of the Complementary Dispute Resolution Committee focused on recommended amendments to Rule 1:40 regarding mediation and arbitrators. Specifically, it noted concerns with the proposal to Rule 1:40-4(b) to require mediators, including economic mediators, who make an application for fees for a litigant’s failure to pay fees to start an action in the Law Division, Special Civil Part. The current procedure is to file an application directly with the judge who appointed the mediator, which the association noted is effective and efficient because it moves “many cases off of the courts’ burdened calendars.” It was further noted that several counties already have a policy where the court will enter a one-page order to show cause requiring litigants to appear at a return date if the fees have not been paid, which puts a litigant on notice and provides the litigant an opportunity to respond. This often results in prompt payment before the court is called upon to rule on the fee application. For these reasons, the NJSBA recommended that a provision be added to permit a mediator to apply to the court of appointment for a summary disposition regarding the reasonableness of the fee and an order of payment.
The association further noted that while no specific amendment is proposed to Rule 1:40-12(b)(1) establishing qualifications for mediators and arbitrators in court-annexed programs, there are inconsistent training requirements between civil mediators who want to serve in the Family Part and other mediators. Civil mediators are exempt from additional specialized training if they want to serve in the Family Part, but Family Part mediators are required to take a supplemental civil mediation course. The association recommended that the qualifications for mediators in the Family Part should align with the qualifications for mediators in other divisions under Rule 1:40-12.
Family Practice Committee
The NJSBA generally agreed with and supported several of the recommendations issued in the Family Practice Committee Report, with specifically noted comments or objections to issues related to the confidentiality of Family Part pleadings and documents, the treatment of causes of action related to civil unions or domestic partnerships, and termination of child support obligations.
The association reiterated its comments in an earlier letter with respect to Rule 1:38 regarding access to Family Part records. It acknowledged the committee’s willingness to expand confidentiality of Family Part pleadings and other documents, but highlighted the need to expand this confidentiality even further to eliminate or greatly reduce “the potential of immeasurable harm to children and the destruction of families in transition that could arise from the dissemination of personal information contained in those records.” As such, recommendations to expand these recommendations include:
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