Board of Trustees Report, January 12, 2018

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The following is a summary of actions taken at the 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. 

Attorney malpractice insurance: The association submitted comments on a Report of the Supreme Court Ad Hoc Committee on Attorney Malpractice Insurance. The association commended the committee for its work and agreed with its recommendation to reject a mandatory malpractice insurance requirement. The association noted that the insurance marketplace would not be able to absorb the additional need, given that there are only five carriers writing policies in the state and the rates are higher than those in neighboring states. Further, clients may not be better protected if an attorney is required to have insurance, plus additional costs may be passed on to clients. The association did not agree that attorneys should be mandated to disclose whether they have malpractice insurance, given there is no evidence that the requirement is necessary or will resolve any demonstrated problem in connection with the ability of consumers to obtain quality legal services and to have recourse available in the event of negligent representation.
Amicus: The association will seek friend-of-the-court status in Kernahan v. Home Warranty Administrator of Florida. The association will advocate for a reaffirmation of Atalese that any contractual waiver of rights language must be clear and unambiguous.
Election 2018: The trustees approved March 22 as the start of an election to change the association’s bylaws to incorporate additional diverse representatives on the Judicial and Prosecutorial Appointments Committee. The board also selected Intelliscan, Inc., to serve as the third-party election administrator.
Attorney advertising rules: The board expressed concerns about some of the American Bar Association’s proposed changes to the model rules governing lawyer advertising. The trustees voted to allow the Executive Committee to finalize an official association position, pending additional research. The association will send its comments to the ABA group that made the proposals. The association is expected to express concerns that the proposals would: 
     • allow lawyers to give nominal gifts to people who recommend their services; 
     • say attorneys don’t have to ensure that any referral service in which they participate complies with professional obligations; 
     • allow attorneys to solicit employment from an “experienced user” of legal services for business services; 
     • allow attorneys to remove the words “advertising material” from solicitations; 
     • include text and chat communication to count as live person-to-person contact; 
     • remove prohibitions from repeated follow-up contact if an individual does not respond to solicitations; and 
     • move information about law firm names to commentary in the rules, rather than an actual rule.
Comments on character review process: The association submitted comments to the Supreme Court Ad Hoc Committee on the Character Review Process, which evaluated the existing system and looked at how it compares to nearby jurisdictions. The NJSBA agreed with many of the recommendations, including establishing timeframes within which the committee should act, in order to address delays in the process. The association did encourage that the timeframes be firm, rather than guidelines; that review panels should continue to be comprised of three members; and that a periodic review be conducted to determine the effect any changes have on the system, with an eye toward ensuring only candidates with the requisite good character and fitness are admitted to practice in New Jersey.
Support for law change: The NJSBA sent a letter to Gov. Chris Christie urging him to sign legislation into law that would create business and job opportunities by creating an assistance program for businesses that are owned by veterans, the disabled and members of lesbian, gay, transgender and bisexual communities. The law also has the support of the United States Business Leadership Network and National LGBT Chamber of Commerce.
Mid-Year Meeting: The New Jersey State Bar Association’s 2017 Mid-Year Meeting in Madrid was a financial success. The event, like most in the recent past, proved to be profitable. The next Mid-Year Meeting will be held in Rome from Nov 3-10.