Board of Trustees Report, January 17, 2020

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The following is a summary of the NJSBA’s Board of Trustees meeting. It does not constitute official minutes.

Diverse Voices The board approved two speakers for the Diverse Voices speaker series. The speakers are: Kevin Richardson, who was exonerated after he was arrested, charged and imprisoned at 14 for an attack on a jogger in New York’s Central Park; and Eric LeGrand, the former Rutgers University football player who sustained a spinal cord injury during a game and has realized an impressive recovery.

LeGrand, who has written a book and served as a sports commentator, will discuss overcoming obstacles and maintaining a positive outlook in the face of adversity as part of an April 7 program. The seminar will also explore and celebrate the challenges and resilience of those with differing abilities, and guide attorneys in making sure they are treating individuals with differing abilities with respect and in accordance with the law.

Richardson will be telling his story at the New Jersey Law Center in New Brunswick on June 15 as part of a program that looks at important issues around criminal justice reform. 

Mel Narol Award: The board approved a revision to the criteria of the Mel Narol Award, the signature annual award from the NJSBA’s Diversity Committee. The change allows for groups to be recognized for their contributions to a more inclusive profession. The award commemorates Narol’s commitment to the work of and enthusiastic support of the Task Force on Diversity, and the award is presented to those members of the association, as well as organizations, groups or entities, that have spearheaded inclusion and made strides for women and diverse lawyers. It will be presented at the Annual Meeting and Convention in May. To submit a nomination for the 2020 award, provide a complete bio or profile of the nominee or entity, along with an explanation supporting the nomination to Paula Saha, Director of Diversity, Inclusion and Community Engagement at [email protected], no later than March 3.


NJSBA Census: The board approved a request from the Diversity Committee to undertake a demographic study of the NJSBA membership, and as much of the attorney population as possible. The information will be used to evaluate what groups should be designated as underrepresented by the Board of Trustees each year, per the bylaws.


General Council Bylaws Amendment: After a lengthy analysis and consultation with county and affinity bar groups, as well as the NJSBA’s Diversity Committee, the General Council Executive Committee concluded the group has outlived its meaningful purpose and should be dissolved given the current more-expansive NJSBA governance structure, technological advances that make coordination and communication faster and easier, the low participation in General Council activities and the considerable time, effort, resources and funds needed to administer the group.


The Diversity Committee concluded, “the original objectives of the General Council are being met via other avenues and … as it is currently operating, has outlasted both its efficacy and purpose,” it told the board recently. The Board of Trustees agreed.

Now it will be up to the NJSBA membership to make the final determination. Members will vote this spring on a bylaws proposal that dissolves General Council.


The proposed changes to the bylaws will maintain the intent of the General Council’s role in the Nominating Committee make-up. General Council traditionally held an annual election where a member was selected for one of the two General Council seats on the Nominating Committee.


Under the proposal, the size of the Nominating Committee will remain the same and the General Council’s two seats will be held for: a member from an unrepresented group and a general member of the NJSBA. The selection process will be the same as it is for other general and at-large members of the Nominating Committee.


Court rules and attorney regulations: The board voted on several measures relating to attorney regulation and court rules.


The board supported a recommendation to revise Rule 3:4-2, concerning first appearance of a defendant who is subject to a pretrial detention motion. The changes will ensure it is consistent with the statutory intent of bail reform and ensure that defendants are provided with important, adequate information as soon after detention as possible. The NJSBA will also supported a plan to revise Rule 3:11 to provide additional guidance about best practices when conducting an out-of-court identification. The NJSBA said the change gives clear guidance about the proper procedures to use.


The trustees voted to continue the NJSBA’s objections to proposed changes to RPC 7.1-7.5, which have to do with advertising and lawyer solicitation. If enacted, the changes would allow lawyers to send thank you gifts to people who recommended their services; be more lenient with law firm names and allow solicitation by tweet and text. The NJSBA expressed concern that the proposed changes would loosen the regulation of attorney advertising. The NJSBA argued that the proposals would detract from the protections in place that safeguard the public and guide attorneys to ethically meet the legal needs of society.


The NJSBA will seek wide feedback from its sections and committees on proposed RPC 8.4(g), dealing with lawyer misconduct, at the request of a Supreme Court committee. The NJSBA previously supported adoption of the rule in New Jersey to help eradicate discriminatory and harassing behavior in the legal profession, and to ensure that lawyers maintain the dignity and respect of the profession in any action, without undermining their ability to zealously advocate for their clients. In other states, however, reaction to the rule has been mixed, with some state attorneys general opining that the rule would be unconstitutional under the First and Fourteenth Amendments. As the rule will broadly affect all lawyers in New Jersey, the NJSBA Board of Trustees has asked for comments from all NJSBA sections and committees.


American Bar Association Mid-Year Meeting: The trustees considered resolutions that will be before the American Bar Association’s House of Delegates at the upcoming Mid-Year Meeting in Austin.


The trustees will ask the NJSBA delegates to oppose ABA Resolution 115, which has to do with non-lawyers and non-lawyer owned firms offering legal services. The NJSBA has been a national leader in opposing such proposals.


The NJSBA believes the public is best served when receiving individualized guidance from trained and licensed attorneys who can help them in making some of life’s most difficult decisions. The cost-savings such program tout is a false promise and instead lulls the public into believing that these programs are a reliable alternative, when they are not backed by the knowledge, expertise and ethical safeguards that only attorney can provide, which leads some to additional legal troubles.


To address the justice gap, the NJSBA developed a technology platform that provides a way to match up attorneys who are willing to work at reduced rates with members of the public who need legal guidance but cannot afford the market rates of attorneys. It is an online lawyer referral service platform and was refined as the result of extensive consultations with county bar association leaders and legal services officials throughout the state to ensure it will fulfill the designated mission. Once finalized, the NJSBA anticipates it will make the platform available to county and affinity bar associations for free.

The NJSBA will support ABA Resolutions 103B and 103D, which concern lawyers being protected from prosecution if they give clients advice about cannabis matters.


Government relations: The trustees voted to support A4463 Freiman / S3927 Andrzejczak. The bill would create an “Electronic Permit Processing Review System” that towns can use for issuing permits. The NJSBA supported the legislation and will advocate that the process be implemented statewide, rather than by individual municipalities.


Upcoming events: The trustees agreed to the locations for two signature events.


The board approved London as the site of the 2021 Mid-Year Meeting and it approved Las Vegas as the site of the 2021 Family Law Retreat.