NJSBA successfully adds its voice to court rule changes

Enter Title

For Immediate Release
July 30, 2014
Kate Coscarelli
Senior Managing Director, Communications
The New Jersey Judiciary recently released the 2014 Omnibus Rule Amendment Order. It details court rule amendments adopted by the Supreme Court, including several changes the New Jersey State Bar Association advocated related to everything from amicus matters to pro bono representation to contingent fees. Other suggestions made by the NJSBA were not adopted. Some of the amendments become effective Sept. 1; others take effect Jan. 1. To read the full rules order, visit njcourts.com.
Here is a summary of some of the key rule changes the NJSBA addressed:
•         R. 1:13-9—New requirements for amicus participation were adopted, but the NJSBA suggestion that the time frame for filing a brief after leave to appeal or certification is granted be extended to 90 days was not adopted.
•         R. 1:20 -3—The Court did not adopt a proposed amendment that would have permitted a temporary suspension for failure to timely produce certain financial records. The NJSBA had argued that the proposed rule was too broadly worded and unnecessary, given the enforcement tools already available to the Office of Attorney Ethics.
•         R. 1:20-4—The Court agreed with the NJSBA that the rule should not require that matters investigated by a district ethics committee be tried by another district committee.
•         R. 1:21-7—The recovery amounts set forth within the contingent fee rule were increased, as supported by the NJSBA. However, other NJSBA-proposed changes were not adopted, including the removal of a 25 percent cap in cases involving minors and incapacitated persons, where settlement is reached prior to trial.
•         R. 1:21-11 and 12—The Court adopted the new pro bono rules (which will become effective Jan. 1) substantially in the form suggested by the association’s Pro Bono Task Force. The NJSBA was successful in getting the Court to include in the rule language allowing a Madden exemption for pro bono work done in concert with state, federal or local entities.
•         R. 1:27-4—A new rule permits temporary New Jersey licensure of the spouse of a member of the armed forces assigned to the Garden State, as long as the lawyer is admitted and in good standing in another jurisdiction. As the NJSBA suggested, the lawyer would have to associate with a New Jersey lawyer. The rule also permits employment by a state or federal agency. Instead of a two-year license, subject to renewal, the Court will allow temporary practice until the military spouse is transferred out of New Jersey or military service otherwise terminates.
•         R. 4:17-4—The Court agreed with the NJSBA that the term “expert” should be changed to “non-treating expert.” Also, the Court did not adopt a proposed Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPPA) form that was criticized by the NJSBA. Instead, the rule amendment will require counsel to prepare and submit an executed form that is HIPPA compliant.
•         R. 4:25-4—Despite NJSBA opposition, amendments were adopted that will require the automatic expiration of trial counsel designations in track II medical malpractice cases that are at least three years old.
•         R. 4:42-11—The post-judgment interest rule will be amended to set a floor of 0.25 percent as a minimum rate of interest on judgments. However, an NJSBA recommendation that special civil part judgments be increased by an additional two percent was not adopted.
•         R. 4:64—A number of amendments related to foreclosure case procedures were adopted, as proposed by the general equity presiding judges and supported by the NJSBA.
•         Advertising Rules—RPC 7.3 will be amended to permit electronic communication with prospective clients, and requires any solicitation letter include on the envelope only the firm name, address and “ADVERTISMENT” in large letters. Also, a letter must contain the name of the lawyer responsible for the letter’s content. An NJSBA suggestion that the rule’s “mass disaster” provision include situations involving death in the family or serious bodily injury was not adopted by the Court.