Board of Trustees Report, July 13, 2018

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The following is a summary of actions taken at the July 13 meeting of the New Jersey State Bar Association Board of Trustees at the Navesink Country Club in Red Bank. This summary does not constitute official minutes. 

ABA HOD resolution: At the August American Bar Association Annual Meeting, New Jersey’s representatives to the House of Delegates were advised that the NJSBA trustees expressed concern about a resolution about online legal form providers.

The resolution from the New York State Bar Association concerned regulation of online legal document providers and called for regulations and best practice guidelines to be adopted for practitioners. Included in those were requirements that the providers should include plain language instructions for all documents; convey information to customers about enforceability in the customer’s home state; explain that the documents don’t substitute legal advice with explicit language to contact attorney; and would prohibit providers from advertising in a way to suggest they are providing legal advice.

            While the NJSBA supports the concept of the resolution, the trustees explained that it opposed any encroachment by such providers which many consider to be engaged in the unauthorized practice of law (UPL) and viewed it as an attempt by the providers to gain further traction into the market or open the door to paid referrals.

            The NJSBA has been a leading voice in the national debate over such providers. After asking the New Jersey Courts to examine the practices of some of the providers, the Supreme Court upheld a determination that some of the providers were engaging in unethical behavior. New Jersey has clear standards about what is and is not permitted by any form providers, as well as an active UPL committee, and efforts are underway, within those parameters, to address the online providers in the state.

Government affairs: The board granted its support to A2318/S1860, which provides immunity from civil and criminal liability for rescue of animal from vehicle under inhumane conditions. 

Mid-Year Meeting 2019: The trustees approved the selection of Puerto Rico as the likely site of the 2019 Mid-Year Meeting. The island is believed to be a good location because it is affordable and relatively easy to get to. If it is approved, the association plans to organize a public service activity for attendees to participate in that will benefit island residents still suffering in the wake of last year’s hurricanes. A site visit was conducted over the summer. 

Professional Lawyer of the Year: Arnold Fishman, a former trustee and member of the association's judicial vetting committee, was tapped to receive its Professional Lawyer of the Year Award at the annual Commission on Professionalism event this fall.

Fishman, a South Jersey municipal court practice attorney, has also been active with the association's amicus program. On a volunteer basis, he attended each day of a four-week special master hearing on State v. Cassidy, which has to do with DUI cases, to ensure the association's interests were represented.

Committee chairs: The board approved several people to serve an additional term as the chair of standing and special committees, even though they had already served two terms. The approved chairs are:

Cedric Ashley, Law Office Management;

Christina Vassiliou Harvey, Membership;

Cynthia D. Santomauro, Professional Responsibility;

Alexandra V. Gallo and Andrea J. Sullivan, Equity Jurisprudence;

Steven L. Menaker, Ethics Diversionary;

Michael R. Morano, Fidelity and Surety Law;

Edward G. Sponzilli, Higher Education;

Nyree Dawn Benitez and Lisa M. St. Clair, Paralegal; and

William A. Despo, Securities Law.