New Jersey State Bar Association
Board of Trustees Report
November 20, 2020
This is a summary of action taken at the November 20 meeting of the New Jersey State Bar Association Board of Trustees. This meeting was held via Zoom, due to the COVID-19 public health crisis. This summary does not constitute official minutes.
Government affairs: The board voted to support several pieces of pending legislation, including:
• A4288 Vainieri Huttle/S2545 Singleton, would establish certain requirements concerning rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, undesignated/non-binary, questioning, queer, intersex, and HIV-Positive residents of long-term care facilities. Specifically, the bill provides that it will be prohibited for a long-term care facility, or for staff at the facility, to take certain actions based in whole or in part on a person’s actual or perceived sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression, intersex status, or human immunodeficiency virus status.
• A3617 Quijano, would require actions to recover certain residential tenancy security deposits be heard in county in which the rental property in dispute is located.
• A3620 Quijano, would require the Truth-in-Renting Guide to include of information about discriminatory housing practices in. This bill would require the Department of Community Affairs to include information that it is discriminatory and unlawful for a landlord: to refuse to rent to a person who would be paying with a housing voucher or other lawful rental subsidy; and to advertise that the landlord will not rent to persons with a housing voucher or another lawful rental subsidy. The bill would also require the department to include information in the Truth-in-Renting Guide indicating that state and federal rental housing vouchers are considered a source of lawful income, which is a protected category under the Law Against Discrimination, and therefore, unlawful for a landlord to refuse to rent to persons who would pay with these rental subsidies.
• A1032 Downey/S758 Gopal, would require workers’ compensation judges to be enrolled in Public Employees’ Retirement System of Workers’ Compensation Judges of the Division of Workers' Compensation in the Department of Labor and Workforce Development as a condition of employment for service as a judge of compensation. This would apply for each judge enrolled after the effective date of the bill. Currently, workers’ compensation judges are enrolled in the Defined Contribution Retirement Program or the Workers’ Compensation Judges Part of the Public Employees’ Retirement System.
In addition, the board supported legislation the Family Law Section drafted to address the “black hole” that exists between the elective spousal share and the laws of equitable distribution. The black hole exists when a surviving spouse is excluded from receiving their elective share and also precluded from receiving their share of equitable distribution when a spouse dies prior to a final judgment of divorce has been issued. In this case, the surviving spouse is currently left without a remedy. The proposed legislation recommends amendments to N.J.S.A. 2A:34-23 to allow the court to effectuate equitable distribution, bars the party responsible for an attempt or conspiracy to murder the other party from receiving equitable distribution and to add “partner to a civil union” to the definition of family member for this section. The proposed legislation also contains amendments to N.J.S.A. 3B:5-1, et seq. to add “partner in a civil union” to “surviving spouse” and “domestic partner” where appropriate; and to specifically eliminate the elective share when either party has filed a complaint that has not been dismissed in N.J.S.A. 3B:8-1. The Association will now seek sponsors for the legislation.
Section bylaws update: The Board approved a proposal to update the bylaws of the Elder and Disability Law Section to affirmatively state that the section will work to include more diverse and inclusive participation and update aspects of its nominations process.
Pandemic Task Force: The Board received an update about the activities and work of the NJSBA Pandemic Task Force, which was established to address the issues facing the legal community and society as a result of the COVID-19 public health crisis.
The Committee on the Resumption of Jury Trials has released several reports and statements about criminal trials. Most recently, at the invitation of the Judiciary and after researching options taking place around the country, it provided a series of recommendations that would accommodate civil jury trials in a virtual environment while ensuring that those trials are fair, just and produce a credible result.
The Courthouse Operations Committee is anticipating creating a clearinghouse of information that will be available this winter to the legal community about practices and procedures in each courthouse around the state.
The Law Firm Opening and Operations Committee has released nine reports which are all now on the NJSBA website and its members are holding educational seminars to help the legal community navigate these issues.
The Practice of Law Committee anticipates releasing a report soon that will address general issues facing various practice areas of law and how these have been affected by the pandemic.
The Access to Justice Committee is preparing resources for public participants in virtual court proceedings.