Board of Trustees Report - December 11, 2015

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The following is a summary of actions taken at the Dec. 11, 2015, meeting of the New Jersey State Bar Association Board of Trustees at the New Jersey Law Center in New Brunswick. This summary does not constitute official minutes. 

New trustee named to board: The New Jersey State Bar Association s (NJSBA) Board of Trustees selected a new member earlier this month to fill the vacancy created when Thomas Scrivo was tapped as counsel to Gov. Chris Christie.

Alexandra V. Gallo joined board, which is the associations governing body.

Gallo is of counsel to McElroy, Deutsch, Mulvaney & Carpenter LLP in Morristown, where she practices corporate law and handles appellate work and local government matters. She co-chairs the NJSBA’s Equity Jurisprudence and is a former trustee of the Essex County Bar Association. She received her law degree from Seton Hall University School of Law.

Diversity action plan approved: The trustees approved the Diversity and Inclusion Action Plan and Checklist, the latest development in a series of moves to ensure the association is diverse and inclusive at all levels.

Creation of the action plan and checklist culminates two years of work by the NJSBA Diversity Committee. The tool is designed to give association members in leadership positions — trustees in particular — a way to measure and certify their efforts to make the organization more open.

Bylaws to be reviewed: The New Jersey State Bar Association is seeking input from its groups, county bar associations and specialty bar associations on a proposal to streamline and modernize the organization’s bylaws.

The Bylaws and Resolutions Committee has been examining the association’s rules since 2013, working with the recommendations of a nationally recognized parliamentarian. The goal is to eliminate ambiguities resulting from piecemeal revisions made since the last comprehensive review a decade ago, and to produce a clear, cohesive document to guide the organization. It would include a policy manual for administrative details and set forth definitions.

This winter, the bylaws committee plans to gather, review and evaluate suggestions and then submit a final document to the board. If the board approves the proposal, the full membership would vote on adopting the recommended changes.

 

NJSBA offers comments on proposed changes related to metadata: With much of the practice of law being conducted electronically, many in the legal community are concerned about what happens when bits of sensitive information embedded in legal documents are shared.

The New Jersey Supreme Court formed the Working Group on Ethical Issues Involving Metadata in Electronic Documents, which studied what happens when information is inadvertently disclosed. The group recently released its recommendations.

The NJSBA, the states largest group of lawyers and judges, supported much of the report, including recommendations that:

    Steps be taken to minimize the disclosure of metadata in documents electronically filed with the Judiciary;

    Judges, lawyers and law students be educated about metadata;

    Rules be modified to create ways for documents with metadata to be reviewed in a manner that wont prejudice a case or lead to an ethics violation; and that

    The Rules of Professional Conduct (RPC) should reference metadata.

Based on comments from a wide swath of sections and committees in the association, the NJSBA does not support adopting the committee’s proposed change to the RPCs. Doing so would place the burden of determining whether metadata was inadvertently sent on the recipient, and the possibility of an ethics violation is too great, the trustees determined. Read the full comments here.

Uniform Bar Exam should wait in NJ: The Uniform Bar Exam should not be implemented in New Jersey until data from other jurisdictions where it’s used is collected and reviewed, the trustees said.

The association previously expressed concerns about use of the uniform exam, which is used in New York and 16 other states. While the UBE has some benefits, there are unanswered questions about the impact its use would have on law students, newly admitted attorneys, employers and the profession, the trustees said. The data should be collected and reviewed for at least one year. The Court’s report is here.

Action on legislation: The board of trustees supported A3301, which prohibits a person appointed to a case as an arbitrator and who subsequently serves as a mediator from returning as an arbitrator unless the parties agree; and A4230, which establishes a separate class of claims against insolvent estates for child support judgments.

The trustees opposed S1270/A3065, related to drunk driving; S2336, which transfers immunity from civil liability for healthcare providers; and S2479/A4294, which raised concerns among family law practitioners because it sought to add aggravating factors in sentencing of certain domestic violence situations.

 

Examining the future of the legal profession: The trustees reaffirmed the associations opposition to the prospect of non-lawyers being allowed to offer legal assistance.

At issue are two items from the American Bar Association (ABA) that the NJSBA believes would open the doors to allowing limited-license legal technicians and other non-lawyers to handling legal matters, as well as the possibility of non-attorney owned law firms.

The association forcefully contends that the public and profession are best served when trained attorneys, who are subject to stringent ethics rules, provide legal advice.

The trustees directed the associations representatives to the ABAs House of Delegates to oppose a resolution that would encourage courts to create a regulatory framework and implement regulations allowing legal services to be offered outside the traditional legal model. The trustees also agreed the association should provide feedback on another ABA paper, reaffirming that the public has been well served under the traditional legal model.

Hotel selected for Mid-Year Meeting 2016: The NJSBA Mid-Year Meeting will be headquartered at the Hilton Amsterdam, Oct. 22-29, 2016.

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