September 25, 2017
This is a status report provided by the New Jersey State Bar Association on recently passed and pending legislation, regulations, gubernatorial nominations and/or appointments of interest to lawyers, as well as the involvement of the NJSBA as amicus in appellate court matters.
Public Comments Sought on Municipal Court Practice Proposed Rules
The Supreme Court seeks comments on two new rules its Municipal Court Practice Committee proposed in a report issued last month. Comments are due Oct. 6.
The report focuses on sanctions for failure to appear or failure to pay municipal court-ordered obligations. The proposed rules were presented in February, but the Court took no action instead indicating that the rules would benefit from “minor modifications to achieve greater clarity.” The New Jersey State Bar Association submitted comments to the initial proposed rules and is reviewing the latest report.
Proposed Rule 7:8-12 presents subsections highlighting the factors a court should consider in evaluating the monetary sanction for failure to appear that a court may impose upon a defendant within the monetary limits set forth in the proposed rule. A judge may only impose a sanction for contempt in an amount higher than the limits set forth in the rule if the procedures and legal standards of Rule 1:10 – Contempt of Court and Enforcement of Litigant’s Rights Related Thereto – are met.
The association opposed proposed R. 7:8-12(a), saying that the changes are duplicative of R. 1:2-4(a), create an unintended distinction between prosecutor and defense attorneys, and would cause confusion.
“The proposal contains terms such as ‘timely application for adjournment,’ ‘reasonable attention,’ and ‘aggrieved party,’ but it is unclear what those terms mean,” said then-President Thomas H. Prol in an April letter to the Judge Glenn A. Grant, the acting administrative director of the courts. “As an overarching practical matter, with over 500 municipal courts and only five days in a week, an attorney should not have the added burden of having multiple cases on the same date and time, and having to worry about being sanctioned when their reasonable adjournment requests are denied, when their ‘ready hold’ requests are denied, or when they arrive to a subsequent court late.”
Those phrases still appear in the proposed rule. The association specifically supported the initial proposed R. 7:8-12(b), which enumerates factors for assessing a monetary sanction as a “measure of protection to defendants that did not previously exist by placing limits on the sanctions that can be issued against defendants.” The amended proposed rule makes only minor modifications to the previously proposed rule.
Proposed Rule 7:9-5, Failure to Pay, allows the judge, on the record, to order the defendant to pay an aggregate monetary sanction per time payment order not to exceed $50 if the defendant defaults on the payment of a municipal court imposed financial obligation without just cause or excuse.
The association supported the original proposed rule “because it provides protection against unreasonable sanctions for failure to pay fines, but preserves a judge’s discretion to impose lesser or no sanctions as circumstances may dictate,” Prol stated.
The report is available at judiciary.state.nj.us/courts/supreme/reports.html. Comments must be submitted in writing no later than Oct. 6 to:
Glenn A. Grant, J.A.D.
Acting Administrative Director of the Courts
Rules Comments – Municipal Court Supplemental
Hughes Justice Complex; Post Office Box 037
Trenton, New Jersey 08625-0037.
Comments may also be submitted via email to Comments.Mailbox@njcourts.gov.
Mandatory eCourts Civil Update
The Bergen Vicinage is the latest to enter the realm of mandatory eCourts Civil filing. As of Sept. 14, eCourts Civil has been implemented in the vicinage. Mandatory efiling begins on Oct. 16. Exceptions to this requirement include confidential documents, name changes, documents excluded under public access, documents to be filed under seal, False Claims Acts, Abilify Claims, MCL cases, and enforcement motions filed under a docketed judgment lien.
Any document submitted for filing in paper form in the Bergen Vicinage by an attorney in a civil matter Oct. 16 will be rejected for filing, with an instruction to file the matter electronically. In these cases, the filing date will be the date the document is received electronically through eCourts.
In the Hudson Vicinage, eCourts Civil filing became mandatory on Sept. 5. In addition to the exceptions set forth for the Bergen Vicinage, the Hudson Vicinage proscribes the direct filing of matters with a judge or with chambers staff. In addition, a paper courtesy copy of all motion-related papers should be provided directly to the judge assigned to handle motions for the matter. This requirement includes, but is not limited to, notices of motion, briefs in support of or in opposition to the motion, certifications, exhibits, proposed orders, and cross motions. Attorneys must clearly indicate “COURTESY COPY” on the first page of each motion-related paper.
Supreme Court Adopts New Pretrial Intervention Rules
The Supreme Court adopted new rules to realign the pretrial intervention (PTI) program to its original purpose to divert from prosecution first-time offenders who would benefit from rehabilitative components. The new Court Rules 3:28-1 through 3:28-10 supplant the existing PTI Guidelines and official comments, much of the substance of which have been incorporated into the new rules.
The Supreme Court also adopted amendments to Rule of Evidence 1001 to clarify that the “original” of an electronic document is a printout or other output readable by sight.
The association took no position on the newly adopted PTI rules, but supported the amendment to evidence rule. The new rules became effective on July 18.