Board of Trustees Report April 16, 2021

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New Jersey State Bar Association
Board of Trustees Report
April 16, 2021

Note: This is a summary of the recent Board of Trustees meeting, which was held virtually due to the ongoing public health pandemic. It does not constitute official minutes.

Preliminary FY22 budget introduced: The trustees approved a preliminary operating budget for fiscal year 2021-2022, which starts July 1. The proposed budget reflects about $10.2 million in projected revenue and nearly the equivalent in projected expenses. First-year members will be offered free dues and free membership in the NJSBA Young Lawyers Division. The plan anticipates continuing with virtual events into the first half of the fiscal year and maintains the goal of investing in infrastructure upgrades and producing events, seminars and conventions that keep members up-to-date and provide benefit to their practice and professional endeavors. The preliminary budget will be published, per the bylaws, and reviewed by the Board before it is finalized in June.

Pandemic Task Force: The Board approved the NJSBA Pandemic Task Force’s Practice of Law Committee report. The Committee examined how the ongoing public health crisis changed the practice of law and what steps should be taken as attorneys emerge from it. The report’s findings will be shared with the New Jersey Supreme Court, bar associations, the public, membership and other relevant groups. The Board also adopted the NJSBA Pandemic Task Force Access to Justice Committee’s recommendations. Key among those is a plan to release a resource guide for the public that will be an aide to navigate legal issues that have stemmed from the pandemic.

Right to Counsel Report: The Board accepted the Achieving Effective Representation in Right to Counsel Matters Report from the ad hoc Right to Counsel Committee. Former NJSBA President Evelyn Padin created the Committee to address growing concerns about Madden assignments in matters where the Court has concluded indigent litigants are entitled to legal representation. The Trustees granted final approval to the report and its recommendations after reviewing comments from county and affinity bar associations. The report will be shared with officials and a plan for advocacy and the implementation of the recommendations is being developed.

Government affairs: The trustees supported several pieces of legislation, including A729/S391 that expands categories of individuals who can bring a claim under the wrongful imprisonment statutes. The Board also supported bills, A3394/S854, known as “Laura Wooten’s Law,” with amendments. The bills require civics instruction in middle school and authorizes the New Jersey Center for Civic Education to provide curricula, professional development and technical assistance for middle and high schools. The Association will seek to have the New Jersey State Bar Foundation included on the list of potential groups to teach the curricula. A third pair of bills, A4618/S2876, would revise and update the law pertaining to guardianship, was approved with amendments. The amendments would include clarifying the scope of representation in guardianships, limiting the necessity of formal accounting requirements and expanding protections to people in civil unions and domestic partnerships. The bills are intended to encourage ethical conduct by guardians and to provide stronger protections for wards and proposed wards.

Section matters: The trustees approved the NJSBA Dispute Resolution Section’s request to rename its Distinguished Service Award after Lewis J. Pepperman, a titan in the practice who died last year.

The trustees also approved a recommendation from the Insurance Benefits Committee to send a letter about the experiences of members regarding health insurance affordability issues to a new working group Gov. Phil Murphy convened.

Insurance help for members: The Board approved USI Affinity as the exclusive administrator of the Association’s member benefit insurance program. The agreement will be renewed for three years. USI Affinity helps members research the best insurance plans for their individual or firm needs and is available to work with members as they go through the process of selecting insurance plans.

Recognizing William Kane: The trustees adopted a resolution honoring William J. Kane, the first and only director of the New Jersey Lawyers Assistance Program, who will retire this summer.