Board of Trustees Report - February 13, 2015

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The following is a summary of actions taken at the February 13, 2015, meeting of the New Jersey State Bar Association Board of Trustees. This summary does not constitute official minutes. 

Membership survey: In an effort to better understand the needs of the association’s more than 18,000 members, the kinds of services that would be of the greatest benefit to them, and the issues they consider most pressing, the association will conduct a large-scale survey in the coming months. The poll, which was approved by the trustees, will also ask members to provide feedback about what the association does best and areas where it can improve.

Member benefit on student loans: With an eye toward aiding the membership, the trustees approved the expansion of benefits that USI Affinity, the association’s member benefit insurance broker, can offer. Now, members will be able to consolidate and refinance student loans at ostensibly lower rates through a company called Social Finances, Inc. The association has no role in the loan transactions. Members would not have to pay applications fees and can receive a $300 credit toward their first loan payment.

Election administrator: The board approved the selection of Intelliscan Inc. as the election administrator, if balloting of the membership is necessary.

Opinion sought on Medicaid advisors: The association will seek an advisory opinion from the Supreme Court’s Unauthorized Practice of Law Committee on the activities of so-called Medicaid advisors, who are non-attorneys that are frequently retained when a family needs to have a member reside at a nursing home. In some instances in New Jersey and around the country, these advisors have provided guidance that relates to the application of laws and regulations, estate planning, and other issues that are typically addressed by an attorney. The association believes the opinion will educate the public about the scope of guidance these advisors can provide. Three other states -- Tennessee, Ohio and Florida -- have issued opinions on the topic.

Collaborative law evidence rule needed: The board agreed the association should proactively reach out to the Supreme Court’s committee on evidence to draft a rule related to evidence in collaborative law divorce matters. The Family Law Section suggested the plan, which would codify the privileges laid out in the statute, similar to the evidence rule adopted following the enactment of mediation.

Section bylaws amended: The trustees approved a request from the Land Use Section to update its bylaws to clarify the purpose of the section, the roles of directors and officers, terms of service and eliminate proxy voting, among other issues.

Mid-Year Meeting: The trustees approved exploring Amsterdam as the possible location of the 2016 Mid-Year Meeting.

Government relations: The trustees supported A483, which would allow New Jersey corporations to include in their bylaws that internal disputes can be brought to federal and state courts.

Workers’ Compensation Court: The association will oppose the closure of a regional workers’ compensation court in Lebanon that serves routinely 2,900 petitioners and 3,800 claimants since it would impose a travel burden on those requiring access to the court and likely cause other venues to be inundated by additional cases, leading to delays.

Post-judicial employment: The trustees formed a committee to examine the pros and cons of the current restriction that state court judges who are collecting a pension not be allowed to appear in state courts, unlike their federal counterparts.