Capitol Report

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November 11, 2019

Workers’ compensation courts improve security statewide

A statewide security upgrade has been implemented in New Jersey’s workers’ compensation courts after an evaluation by the Department of Labor and Workforce Development (NJDOL). The New Jersey State Bar Association (NJSBA) recently sent a letter outlining its own concerns about security following an incident involving an injured worker threatening to kill people, including a workers’ compensation judge.

“The NJSBA is concerned for the safety of the judges, the staff, the lawyers and the general public who appear in the workers’ compensation courts,” said NJSBA President Evelyn Padin in a letter to the department’s commissioner, Robert Asaro-Angelo. Commissioner Asaro-Angelo responded to the concerns in a letter less than a month after it was sent, assuring Padin that the security assessments had been performed and outlining the security upgrades already being implemented.

Among the statewide security upgrades, NJDOL will implement the following at all of the state’s 15 workers’ compensation courts:

   A second armed guard will be on duty in the morning to assist the existing armed guard with security patrols.

   All people doing business with the workers’ compensation court, including petitioners, respondents, witnesses, and attorneys, will be required to check in and sign in with the guards and provide identification, if requested.

   Individuals will be screened for weapons, and all bags will be subject to search.

   Panic alarms will be installed in each courtroom to instantaneously alert the guard in case of an emergency.

   Fob locks will be installed on all doors leading from the courtrooms to judicial chambers and/or court staff offices.

Further, each county/vicinage will be assessed to identify specific security upgrade needs.

“NJDOL appreciates the NJSBA’s input on improving security in our courts and we hope that you will continue to share your ideas in the future,” said Asaro-Angelo.

Former NJSBA trustee elected to state Senate

In a race billed as one of the most competitive in the state, former NJSBA Trustee Michael Testa Jr. defeated Democrat Bob Andrzejczak to fill the opening left by now-Congressman Jeff Van Drew. Andrzejczak gave up running again for his seat in the Assembly in an attempt to elevate to the Senate seat.

Testa served on the board from 2016 to 2018 as the Cumberland County trustee. He is a partner at Testa Heck Testa & White, P.A. in Vineland. He previously served as the Cumberland County Republican chairman. His win flipped the district to Republican, ­taking with him his Assembly running mates, Erik Simonsen and Antwan McClellan, who defeated Democratic Assemblymen Bruce Land and Matthew Milam.

In other election news, incumbents held their seats, including Assembly Republican leader Jon Bramnick, who faced a strong challenge this year. Newcomers to the Legislature include Democrat William Moen in District 5, Republican Jean Stanfield in District 8, Republican John Catalano in District 10, Republican Gerard Scharfenberger in District 13, and Republican Brian Bergen in District 25. At the time of this writing, incumbent Democrats Vincent Mazzeo and John Armato were down in the machine vote, but could have an edge after the counting of votes by mail and provisional ballots. If they lose, newcomer Republicans Philip Guenther and John Risley will join the Legislature in January.

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.