Board of Trustees Report - June 19, 2015

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The following is a summary of actions taken at the June 19, 2015, meeting of the New Jersey State Bar Association Board of Trustees at the New Jersey Law Center in New Brunswick. This summary does not constitute official minutes. 

New officer: The New Jersey State Bar Association’s governing body reached its full complement of members when Association President Miles S. Winder III administered the oath of office to Kimberly A. Yonta. Yonta, a former trustee who will serve as secretary, swore to “faithfully execute the duties of the office of the New Jersey State Bar Association.”

Budget: The trustees approved the 2015-2016 $12 million annual budget, which provides members free CLEs, an e-version of the New Jersey Lawyer Magazine, in addition to the print version, and extends free membership to first-year attorneys and a half-price dues cut to second-year attorneys, all while ensuring the organization maintains a strong fiscal position. The budget was introduced in March, and a public hearing was held at the Annual Meeting in May. The fiscal plan is the product of a close analysis of the association’s finances and provides meaningful ways to serve association members, deliver excellent educational opportunities and offer practice-enhancing member benefits to meet the ever-evolving needs of the legal profession.

At the recommendation of the NJSBA Finance Committee, the budget approved by the Board includes a modest dues increase. The 5 percent increase – the first in 10 years - takes effect later this fall and will ensure the association can continue to invest in infrastructure upgrades, produce conventions and events to serve its members at the same time that it reaches out to the newest generation of lawyers. Over the 10-year period, the increase amounts to one-half of one percent for each year.

Task Force on Judicial Independence recommendations: The New Jersey State Bar Association’s governing body renewed its commitment to support a judicial system that is free from political influence and able to provide a fair and impartial place for residents to resolve disputes. The trustees adopted many of the recommendations put forth by its Task Force on Judicial Independence, which studied the issue for 18 months before issuing a 50-page report in May. The NJSBA vowed:

 Not to advocate or endorse any modification to the method of judicial selection established in the 1947 New Jersey Constitution, and to oppose any suggestion or attempt to institute judicial elections.

 To continue to urge governors to sign and abide by the Hughes Compact, which empowers the association to conduct nonpartisan and confidential investigations and interviews of judicial and prosecutorial candidates. The trustees agreed to urge governors to use a second vetting committee that incorporates lawyers and members of the public to ensure the qualified nominations are made.

 To play a vocal role in advocating for the reappointment of judges and justices who have served an initial term with integrity, competence, diligence and the appropriate temperament, and to monitor the practice of senatorial courtesy, the practice of senators blocking approval of a candidate.

 To urge that the statutory provisions governing salaries of judges and justices be amended to provide annual increases to reflect the changes in the cost of living in New Jersey, and that steps be taken to ensure the state Salary Commission has mandatory periodic meetings to address such issues. 

 To request the Municipal Court Practice Section create a task force to examine judicial independence issues in municipal court.

 To ask the New Jersey State Bar Foundation to explore ways to educate students and the public about the importance of a fair and independent court system.

Under-represented seats designated: As required under NJSBA bylaws, the trustees conducted their annual review of underrepresented groups on the board. The trustees designated a seat each for members who are: African-American; Hispanic; Asian-Pacific; age 70 and over; women; or gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender. Two additional at-large seats are open to members of any of the underrepresented groups.

Government affairs: The trustees took action on various legislation, including supporting S-1001, which concerns life insurance and child support; and opposing A-2932, which allows landlords to take actions after the death of a tenant in certain situations; and S-1900, which relates to the notice and payments of state transfer inheritance and estate taxes.