87 posts categorized "Politics"

Thursday, April 03, 2014

State Bar Forum on Judicial Independence Long on Complaints, Short on Solutions

The New Jersey State Bar Association’s Task Force on Judicial Independence held the first of its four public hearings on April 1, 2014, at the New Jersey Law Center.  Though over 20 people testified at the three-hour hearing, few offered concrete suggestions for how the court system could be improved. The majority of the testimony focused on perceived problems with the system.

Continue reading "State Bar Forum on Judicial Independence Long on Complaints, Short on Solutions" »

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Top News Clips for the Week of March 8-14

A selection of the need-to-know civil justice news for the week of March 8-14, 2014.

 

Flushability of Wipes Spawns Class-Action Lawsuit

U-Jin Lee | ABC News

A New York doctor has filed a federal class-action lawsuit against the makers of "flushable" wipes after experiencing what he claims were major plumbing and clogging issues in his home.

“The defendants should have known that their representations regarding flushable wipes were false and misleading,” the complaint states.

The lawsuit by Dr. Joseph Kurtz, who lives in Brooklyn, N.Y., cites Kimberly-Clark and Costco Wholesale corporations and seeks damages of at least $5 million.

Full Story.

 

 

An Elected Attorney General? Lawmaker Wants to Let Voters Choose, Not Christie

Matt Friedman | The Star-Ledger

Some now say the time has come to make New Jersey’s top law enforcement official more responsive to the public and less beholden to the governor, and one lawmaker has introduced a measure to do just that. The issue has taken on added urgency with the apparent decision by the Attorney General’s Office to stay out of the George Washington Bridge investigation, much to the annoyance of veteran prosecutors in the office.

Full Story.

 

 

Has Supreme Court lost its zeal to curb consumer class actions?

Alison Frankel | Reuters

On Monday, the U.S. Supreme Court declined to grant review to two small Nebraska banks facing class action allegations that they failed to post stickers on ATM machines to alert users about add-on fees. That might not seem like a surprise, except that the certiorari petition by the banks’ counsel at Mayer Brown raised a question that the Supreme Court has previously struggled with: whether class action plaintiffs asserting federal laws that provide statutory damages have constitutional standing to sue even if they haven’t suffered any actual injury. The justices heard a different case posing the exact same question in 2011 in First American Financial v. Edwards, but didn’t resolve the issue because they dismissed the appeal on the last day of the term in June 2012. Class action opponents like the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the Washington Legal Foundation and the Association of Credit and Collection Professionals were hoping that the Nebraska banks’ case was a new chance to end litigation by uninjured plaintiffs whose small, individual statutory damages claims turn into a big nuisance when they’re accumulated in class actions.

Full Story. 

 

 

Can Panel Compel Kelly, Stepien to Release Bridgegate Emails?

Mark J. Magyar | NJ Spotlight

The future of the Legislature’s Bridgegate investigation is in the hands of a Superior Court judge who will decide whether Bridget Kelly and Bill Stepien, the deputy chief of staff and campaign operative who are the only two staffers Gov. Chris Christie has fired, must turn over emails and other communications related to the infamous George Washington Bridge lane closures.

Full Story.

 

 

Family Feud Ends for NJ Teen Rachel Canning and her Parents

Ben Horowitz | The Star-Ledger

Rachel Canning, the 18-year-old who sued her parents for support after an escalating family squabble, returned home last night, an attorney for the couple said today.

Angelo Sarno, who represents the Cannings, would not say what sparked the reconciliation, but said the parents welcomed her back.

Full Story.

 

 

2013 Civil Justice Update: Recently Enacted State Reforms and Judicial Challenges

Andrew C. Cook | Federalist Society

The purpose of this paper is to provide a comprehensive national survey of both recent court decisions ruling on challenges to existing civil justice laws and the newly enacted civil justice reforms. This paper has two main parts: Part I describes state and federal court rulings in 2013 and Part II describes legislation passed during the year’s legislative session.

Full Story.

 

 

Chevron Case Shows Why We Must Police Lawsuit Fraud

Lisa A. Rickard | U.S. Chamber Institute for Legal Reform

Terms like “racketeering,” “extortion,” “money laundering” and “wire fraud” are typically more associated with the Mafia than plaintiffs’ lawyers. But in a landmark ruling last week, a New York federal judge used these terms to describe conduct by a lawyer.

Full Story.

 

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Top News Clips for the Week of Feb. 15-21

A selection of the need-to-know civil justice news for the week of February 15-21, 2014.

Continue reading "Top News Clips for the Week of Feb. 15-21" »

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Top News Clips for the Week of Jan. 25-31

A selection of the need-to-know civil justice news for the week of January 25-31, 2014.

 

Opinion: Background Checks - ‘Ban the Box’ is Not the Answer

Jon Bramnick|The Record

As Americans, we believe in giving people a “second chance.” The proposed “Ban the Box” legislation is not the answer to the problem of a job applicant with a criminal history.

 

Imagine you are looking to hire someone to care for your elderly mother. That person will be alone with her and will have access to her home and her possessions.

 

After receiving applications for the job, you discover that one of the applicants has a criminal history of assault and theft. One would presumably be concerned about hiring that person to assist your mother.

 

You may not have a choice if “Ban the Box” legislation is enacted.

Full Story.

 

Continue reading "Top News Clips for the Week of Jan. 25-31" »

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Top News Clips for the Week of Jan. 18-24

A selection of the need-to-know civil justice news for the week of January 18-24, 2014.

How to Sue Over the Christie Bridge Scandal and Win

John Culhane | Slate

As New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie tries to recover from the fallout for his administration’s participation in the vindictive decision to close lanes and snarl traffic on the George Washington Bridge for five days, he will get no help from lawsuits brought by angry citizens stuck in the mess. The first suit has already dropped. These claims will surely breed others. They could keep the story alive for years. And they could even result, unusually, in personal liability for the officials involved, including, perhaps, the governor himself.

Full Story.

Continue reading "Top News Clips for the Week of Jan. 18-24" »

Friday, January 17, 2014

Legal Impacts of Bridgegate

You can’t turn on the news, open a paper, or scroll through your Twitter feed these days without being inundated with stories about the George Washington Bridge lane closing scandal. While most stories focus on the political fallout, there are real legal implications that deserve attention as well.

 

Here's Who's Behind The Huge Civil Lawsuit From The Chris Christie Bridge Scandal

Brett LoGiurato | Business Insider

Four-hour delays. Late for work. Lost wages. Late for crucial doctor's appointments.

Some of these alleged hardships are at the heart of a proposed class-action complaint in the burgeoning George Washington Bridge scandal. The complaint was filed last Thursday, the day after new revelations tying the administration of New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie to the lane closures.

Full Story.

 

Chris Christie hires law firm to review administration's role in 'Bridgegate'

By Statehouse Bureau | Asbury Park Press

A former federal prosecutor will head up an internal review by the administration of Gov. Chris Christie of his staff’s involvement with the politically motivated lane closings on the George Washington Bridge in September 2013.

The administration this morning announced the hiring of the Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher law firm and specifically Randy Mastro to assist both with the review and an investigation by the U.S. Attorney’s office into the closings, which snarled traffic for four days in Fort Lee.

Full Story.

 

Bridge scandal: Chris Christie's Nominees Delayed

By Jenna Portnoy | The Star-Ledger

The ongoing scandal over George Washington Bridge lane closures is having more ripple effects through Gov. Chris Christie’s administration.

The Republican governor has put on hold his plan to nominate John Hoffman, his acting attorney general, to the state Superior Court. The move comes as the nomination of Christie’s chief of staff, Kevin O’Dowd, is also in a holding pattern.

Full Story.

 

Monday, December 10, 2012

Christie announces Supreme Court pics - 1 Republican, 1 Independent

Governor Christie formally nominated Board of Public Utilities director Robert Hanna and Monmouth County Superior Court Judge David Bauman to the state’s highest court.  While calling it a compromise, the announcement is “not part of a deal with Senate President Steve Sweeney,” according to a Star-Ledger report

Hanna was appointed to the BPU by Governor Christie last year and is an unaffiliated voter.  Bauman, a registered Republican, is a Monmouth County Superior Court judge but was appointed to that role by then-Governor Jon Corzine, a Democrat. 

The announcement follows a Rutgers-Eagleton survey in which 91 percent of the state’s small business owners indicated they want the impasse between the Governor and Senate President Stephen Sweeney resolved.  There are currently two vacancies on the Supreme Court, which creates a degree of economic uncertainty for small businesses which operate in New Jersey. 

Wednesday, September 05, 2012

Since it's peak convention season, now is the perfect time to REGISTER to VOTE!



While we’re all embroiled in patriotism (or nausea, depending on your perspective), now is the time to keep the momentum going and turn your sentiments into action.  The deadline to register to vote is October 16th, not Election Day.  Click here and follow prompts to register.

Monday, August 13, 2012

Christie, Romney, and Legal Reform

Paul Ryan is Mitt Romney’s vice-presidential pick.  This means Governor Christie officially belongs to New Jersey for at least another 16 months. 

With movement on pension and education reform, legal reform and medical liability reform may rise on the Governor’s agenda.  The need for legal reform has grown more apparent in recent months as studies confirmed that New Jersey will face a shortage of physicians by the end of the decade.  The State Senate unanimously passed legislation authorizing DHSS to convene a summit to analyze the shortage’s implications for New Jersey residents; its Assembly counterpart, A-1828, awaits action by the Assembly Health and Senior Services Committee. 

Monday, June 11, 2012

Until further notice, the halls of justice will be closed

In the criminal court system, it’s often said that justice delayed is justice denied. 

But for the civil court system in Union County, justice is suspended. 

A political stalemate over judicial vacancies is contributing to a shortage of judges available to hear civil cases, according to a report in the Star-Ledger.  A nearly 40 percent vacancy rate among judges, a backlog of over 800 cases, and four recall justices on vacation beginning July 1st means that the Union County Courthouse will not hear any civil cases during the months of July and August, a spokesperson said.  Civil cases include everything from child custody disputes and divorces to the resource-draining “I-drove-drunk-and-hurt-myself-time-to-sue-the-bar” cases for which New Jersey has become infamous.  

New Jerseyans from all walks of life need access to our civil courts.  Union County taxpayers are no exception.  Once the political stalemates are resolved, the Legislature needs to get serious about keeping frivolous lawsuits of our civil courts, which take scarce time, money, and resources away from disputes which need judicial intervention.

Tuesday, June 05, 2012

Beauty is in the eye of the beholder - not the ADA attorney - right?

To the dismay of taxpayers and Americans with actual disabilities everywhere, unfortunately, it appears that the answer is “wrong.”

A University of Texas professor mused in an op-ed in the New York Times last year that affirmative-action like programs for the “ugly” should be in order, giving self-described “ugly” Americans grounds for a lawsuit under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). 

Lacking a high school diploma, the Department of Justice warned, may also count as a disability under the expanded definition of the ADA, should a potential employer reject an applicant because of it.

The Washington Times points out that the expanded definition of “disability” is consistent with a 2008 Congressional amendment to the Act, following concerns that courts were interpreting the definition too narrowly.  The tide seems to have been reversed and then some, with ADA claims rising by 90 percent in the past five years.  “The flood includes more frivolous claims than ever,” writes Luke Rosiak for the Washington Times.  “Despite the broadened law, the EEOC [Equal Employment Opportunity Commission] saw the highest percentage yet deemed ‘no reasonable cause’ last year.” 

Alas, even with the expanded definition on the plaintiffs’ side, ADA attorneys are still finding ways to te$t the bounds of our taxpayer-funded court system. 

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Bruce Harris nomination tomorrow, 10 a.m.

Some say it's a done deal: Bruce Harris, Mayor of Chatham and Governor Christie's Supreme Court nominee, won't be approved by the Senate Judiciary Committee tomorrow. 

The Star-Ledger reported this last week (Spoto, 5/22), and others have weighed in since.  Here is a sampling:

"Before a second of testimony has been heard or a single question has been asked, once again Democrats are disrespecting the nomination process and rushing to judgment to kill another qualified man’s nomination before he even sits in the committee room."- Kevin Roberts, spokesman for Governor Christie

"The nomination of Mr. Harris sends the wrong message, that we can only achieve diversity on the Supreme Court through lowering the bar for qualifications.  In a state with many distinguished African-American lawyers and judges, nothing could be further from the truth." – Senator Ronald Rice, leader of the NJ Black Legislative Caucus

"I don’t think it’s going to be an extremely long hearing because there’s just not a lot of experience to question him on," Senator Nick Scutari, Senate Judiciary Chair

(and of course)

"It's interesting that someone like Nick Scutari, with his educational background [found Harris unqualified]" - Governor Christie

Thursday, March 01, 2012

Touting tort reform before business

Read Andrew Kitchenman’s story in NJ BIZ about the prospect for lawsuit reform this year:

 

Marcus Rayner HeadshotAdvocates of lawsuit reform are touting the possibility of significant bills to reform the state's laws governing class action and consumer fraud cases, signaling what may become the biggest opening for changes since the 1990s.

A pair of bills introduced this session would limit the cost to post bonds for corporations that are appealing judgments, and would allow the subjects of class-action lawsuits to directly appeal the determination that a "class" exists.


The state's most prominent lawsuit reform advocate may be Marcus Rayner, president of the New Jersey Civil Justice Institute, which launched in 2007 to bolster lobbying on tort reform and related issues.

Rayner said the political climate is shaping up to be good for the bills.

"I think the business community has been impressed with this legislative leadership's interest with helping," along with that of Gov. Chris Christie, Rayner said.

Rayner said tort reforms in other states — including North Carolina, Wisconsin, Tennessee and Texas — increased pressure on New Jersey.

"A climate of excess litigation drives up the costs for everybody, from the business owner to the consumer," he said.

Read full story.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Governor’s budget address

Governor Christie’s budget address will take place at 2 p.m. today.  While lawsuit reform measures are typically devoid of budgetary line-items, changes that NJLRA seeks would add much-needed business investment to the state’s economy

You can listen the Governor’s budget address live on the Legislature’s homepage, linked here

Monday, January 09, 2012

Item of note: last day of the 2010-2011 voting session

A-3304, which NJLRA opposes, is scheduled for consideration by the full Assembly today.  If enacted, this legislation would make the 2008 False Claims Act retroactively applicable to alleged offenses occurring up to 14 years ago, from March 1998.

A lot can happen in nearly 14 years.  Companies change. Employees change.  Exonerating evidence is harder to come by.

But this bill doesn’t take any of that into consideration.  Instead, a company – no matter how big or small, equipped with a legal department or not – may be forced to defend itself against a False Claims lawsuit without the benefit of time-sensitive exonerating material. 

More importantly, A-3304’s retroactive application of the False Claims Act is unconstitutional, and puts companies that do business in the State of New Jersey in serious danger of unfair and unjust litigation abuse. 

Friday, December 09, 2011

Statute of limitations bill, A-3929, advanced by committee

The Assembly Regulated Professions Committee unanimously approved A-3929, which requires certain civil actions against certain licensed professionals to be brought within two years, down from six.

Thursday, December 01, 2011

The Lame Duck Season is upon us

The so-called “lame duck” session of the Legislature – the period between Election Day and the start of the next legislative session in January – is traditionally a period of frenetic lawmaking activity.  For outgoing legislators who may be retiring or have not been reelected, it is the very last chance they have to shepherd bills through the democratic process. 

NJLRA has five bills which it hopes will advance:

A-2473/S-480, which would apply the $50 million appeal bond cap enjoyed by tobacco companies to all businesses in New Jersey, so they do not have to prepay in order to appeal a judicial decision.

A-3333/S-2855, which would limit causes of actions under the New Jersey Consumer Fraud Act to consumers who suffer an ascertainable loss (as opposed to businesses), and make the Act applicable only to transactions which occur in New Jersey. 

A-4228/S-3028, the “New Jersey Licensed Alcoholic Beverage Server Fair Liability Act.” This bill would prevent drunken motorists, convicted of DUI, from suing licensed beverage servers who served them in the event they drive drunk and cause themselves injury.  (Yes, thanks to the New Jersey Supreme Court, we need legislation to clarify that drunk drivers cannot legally profit from their irresponsibility).

A-4135, which would allow defendants the right to immediately appeal a class action certification.

A-1982/S-760, which would address skyrocketing medical malpractice premiums and a consequential physician shortage in certain specialties by: protecting volunteer physicians acting in good faith from liability; prevent insurance companies from immediately imposing an increase on doctors who are named in a malpractice suit; require physicians providing expert testimony to be licensed in New Jersey and board certified in the appropriate specialty; and reverse the New Jersey Supreme Court’s decision in Ryan v. Renny, which gutted the Affidavit of Merit Statute enacted in 2004. 

LRW will keep you abreast should any of the aforementioned bills advanced.  For the most up-to-date legislative calendar, click here to visit the Legislature’s website

Friday, September 16, 2011

Assemblyman Cryan: “Everybody wins if we curb frivolous lawsuits."

One thing is clear: NJ's hospitality industry could be severely impacted by Voss v.  Tranquilino.

Here are some highlights from Assembly Majority Leader Joseph Cryan’s (D-Union) keynote address at NJLRA’s annual Fall Membership Luncheon:

"As much as we try to help new businesses establish, hire people and flourish, we need to devote the same sort of efforts to making sure existing businesses and industries flourish. We all know that tort reform goes a long way to removing the obstacles that exist and actually prevent businesses and industries from growing.

"We've got to be able to give businesses and physicians and those who are impacted by what we [legislators] do some stability and some certainty in the marketplace. And hopefully together we can do that."

Cryan told the audience about his personal experience with lawsuit abuse in Middlesex County. His family-operated establishment was the third and largest of three establishments visited by an intoxicated patron. The patron, who was refused service by Cryan's establishment, fled as an employee attempted to call him cab and caused a fatal automobile accident. Cryan's establishment - the only establishment to refuse him service - ended up paying out half a million dollars in claims.

"I look at this recent Voss decision, for example, and the Supreme Court is going to potentially take down the whole hospitality industry... Have we kind of lost our way a little bit in terms of who's responsible for what?

The case refers to the New Jersey Supreme Court's decision in Voss v. Tranquilino earlier this year, which permitted an Ocean County motorcyclist to sue the establishment which served him for bodily injuries he sustained while driving under the influence.

"Tort reform isn't a Republican or Democrat issue - it's an economic issue," said Marcus Rayner, NJLRA’s executive director.

"That's why it's important to urge the legislature to support measures like A-3333/S-2855, which would help protect honest businesses from frivolous litigation," Rayner said.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Tort Reform in New Jersey, Round 1 (2002 – 2003)

We get a lot of questions about tort reform efforts pre-NJLRA, particularly with respect to medical malpractice reform.  Here is a roundup of what occurred in New Jersey, 2002-2003.  Note: Since this effort predates NJLRA’s founding, please chime in with anything else that should be included. 

  • Omnibus legislation was introduced in December 2002 with the sponsorship of then-Assembly Majority Leader Joe Roberts.  The legislation, A50, was intended to address escalating medical malpractice insurance premiums and concerns over a consequential shortage of doctors in New Jersey.  Liability insurance for New Jersey’s hospitals had increased an average of 50 percent in just the previous year.  Dubbed the “Patients First Act,” A50 called for a $300,000 cap on non-economic damages for physicians, nurses, and other healthcare professionals, while allowing plaintiffs to collect up to $1 million in “pain and suffering” from a special state fund; tightening the statute of limitations during which an individual could file a malpractice claim; create discoverability protections and medical error reporting to help healthcare providers improve patient safety; provide a “good Samaritan clause” for physicians providing emergency care on a volunteer basis. 
  • December 12, 2002: A50 clears Assembly Health and Human Services Committee; Assembly Banking and Insurance Committee, and Assembly Appropriations Committee before being passed by the full Assembly, 44-20-12.  The $300,000 cap on non-economic damages for physicians, nurses, and other healthcare professionals is removed.
  • January 2003: Unhappy with the removal of the $300,000 cap, physician groups organize a three-day “work stoppage,” despite pleas from legislative sponsors for restraint.
  • March 2003: The Senate removes the $300,000 non-economic cap provision from its companion bill, S2174, before releasing it from the Health, Human Services, and Senior Citizens Committee with additional amendments.  It is passed by the full Senate, 32-5.
  • April 2003: Doctors’ associations threaten a second work-stoppage if the cap is not reinstated.
  • June 30, 2003: With heavy lobbying by the Trial Lawyers Association (now called the “American Association for Justice”) and waning physician sympathy, A50/S2174 dies on concurrence in the Assembly. 

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Beach Reading

Government-Grief-Handlin-Amy-H-9780313392597 If you’re a small business entrepreneur and manage to sneak some time away this summer (or just a concerned citizen wanting to learn more about how your local government works), you might want to pick up a copy of Assemblywoman Amy Handlin’s latest book, Government Grief: How to Help Your Small Business Survive Mindless Regulation, Political Corruption, and Red Tape

Handlin, who represents the 13th Legislative District, offers practical advice for engaging with local government officials.  There are also extensive glossaries designed to make navigating the multitude of government bureaucracies easier, as well interesting commentary on what Handlin calls the “corruption tax.” 

Perhaps best of all, the book is straightforward, down-to-earth, and actually helpful; it’s not filled with the generalities and hyperboles we’ve come to associate with elected officials.  She stresses that the advice offered in her book (which is rooted in her extensive backgrounds in marketing and public service) is applicable to every state and local jurisdiction. 

You can check it out here.  Happy reading - hope you enjoy it as much as we did!

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Strassel: The Senate’s Lawsuit Factory

In case you missed it, Kimberley A.  Strassel details trial lawyers’ attempts to use a controversial case to block mandatory arbitration clauses (The Senate’s Lawsuit Factory, The Wall Street Journal, 7/22/11).  Some how-to highlights:

1) Identify a law or regulation that prevents trial lawyers from cashing in.

2) Identify a "victim" of this law or regulation.

3) Get congressional allies to turn said victim into a cause célèbre.

4) Use ensuing moral outrage to get the law or regulation changed.

5) Buy a yacht.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Judgment 1/8th the size of a New Jersey town’s budget rendered

Even the plaintiff’s lawyer thinks it’s crazy. 

A state jury recently hit Warren Township, NJ (Somerset County) with a $2.5 million judgment over its handling of a municipal judge who came to work after consuming alcohol and prescription drugs. 

The judge, Richard Sasso, was reported to Warren’s town council by Michele D’Onofrio, who was Warren’s municipal prosecutor.  The Council chose not to take action, so D’Onofrio reported Sasso to the state Supreme Court’s Advisory Committee on Judicial Behavior.  He was barred from serving as a municipal court judge for life.  And she was dismissed.      

D’Onofrio sued and won.  The award breaks down as $552,000 in economic damages; $824,000 in punitive damages; and D’Onofrio’s attorney’s $1.2 million request for legal fees. 

“We would have settled for a fraction of that,” Bob Braun quotes D’Onofrio’s attorney, Nancy Erica Smith as saying. 

Municipal insurance doesn’t cover punitive damages, so for a town with a $16 million budget, the $2.5 million judgment is a hefty price for taxpayers to foot – especially when the Township had the opportunity to address it before it reached the Supreme Court’s Advisory Committee.    

The bad behavior of Sasso - who earned $200,000 a year by racking up part-time gigs in Warren, Bridgewater, Watchung, and Bound Brook – is a lesson on how taxpayers end up paying for the actions (or in this case, inactions) of others.  (See Braun’s piece in the Star-Ledger, “Warren Township melodrama highlights suburban mismanagement,” 7/18/11). 

Warren Township is appealing the decision.  Unless New Jersey acknowledges the need to reform its civil justice system, a single lawsuit – even a meritorious one – will have the power to influence a municipality’s budgetary priorities for years to come. 

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Patterson nomination confirmed by the Senate

Anne Patterson’s nomination to the New Jersey Supreme Court was approved late last night by the Senate, by a vote of 36-0

Senators Madden and Lesniak abstained, while Senator Stack was not present at the time the vote was recorded.  Senator Ciesla was absent. 

Patterson will assume the seat being vacated by Justice Roberto Rivera-Soto this fall.   

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

NJ Supreme Court Update

In case you missed it, Edwin Stern, who was temporarily appointed to the New Jersey Supreme Court by Chief Justice Stuart Rabner following the Justice Wallace controversy, retired last week after reaching the mandatory retirement age of 70. 

Justice Rabner has temporarily appointed Judge Dorothea O’C Wefing from the Appellate Division to serve on state’s the high court. 

Monday, June 06, 2011

Rayner, live

In case you missed it…

NJLRA's Marcus Rayner was on Fox & Friends this morning with Gretchen Carlson to discuss the New Jersey Supreme Court’s decision in Voss v. Tranquilino and what it means for Garden State businesses and bar patrons.  We’ll post the clip as soon as we get it. 

Thursday, June 02, 2011

Patterson nomination approved by Senate Judiciary Committee

 Nominee received bipartisan support from Senate Panel

Citing her temperament and diversity of experience, the Senate Judiciary Committee approved the nomination of Anne Patterson to the New Jersey Supreme Court.

Patterson declined to speak in-depth about ongoing matters before the Court, but said she fully appreciated the distinct roles of an activist and a judge. 

"Clearly you have the requisite skills to serve in this position," said Senator Nicholas Scutari (D-Union), who chairs the committee.

Senator Raymond Lesniak (D-Union), who previously cited concerns about the Court's lack of racial diversity, voted against Patterson’s nomination.

Patterson, 52, was originally nominated in May 2010 by Governor Chris Christie to fill the vacancy left by Justice John Wallace, whom he did not renominate for tenure. She was ultimately nominated to fill the anticipated vacancy left by Justice Roberto Rivera-Soto, who announced that he will not seek tenure.

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Patterson hearing scheduled to begin today at 1 p.m.

The Senate Judiciary Committee will begin reviewing Anne Patterson’s nomination to the State Supreme Court today at 1 p.m., according to reports, in Committee Room 4. 

Senator Nicholas Scutari (D-Union), who chairs the Judiciary Committee, told the Star-Ledger that the panel would be “looking for her [Patterson’s] philosophical views and thoughts on certain “facts and circumstances.”  He plans to ask how she would feel if she were not reappointed to the bench after seven years “for the same reasons Wallace was not reappointed.”   

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Op-Ed: The High (and Hidden) Costs of Lawsuits against Local Governments

It’s time to recognize the role that municipal lawsuits play in the crushing burden of New Jersey’s property tax.

In New Jersey, the arrival of spring doesn’t just mean warmer weather and the smell of fresh flowers, it’s also the time of year when our state’s 566 municipalities draw up their budgets.  And most of us, busy with daily life, fail to take note of our own council’s agenda – until we see the increase on our next property tax bill. 

Read NJLRA’s op-ed in NJ Spotlight

Monday, May 23, 2011

Tort reform and healthcare costs....

The cost of healthcare is a hot topic in New Jersey.  States that enacted non-economic malpractice caps saw a 3 – 4 percent decrease in healthcare costs over the last few years, according to the Agency for Healthcare Quality and Research

Why does tort reform reduce the cost of healthcare?  For starters, it lessens the needs for defensive medicine.  Unnecessary tests can be both costly and time-consuming, and the patient isn’t any healthier for it. 

With a looming physician shortage, perhaps it’s time for New Jersey to take a look at these cost-cutting measures.  A poll conducted by the American College of Emergency Physicians (ACEP) recently found that more than half of emergency room doctors cite their fear of being sued as the primary reason for ordering unnecessary tests in the ER.  Emergency room doctors may be particularly vulnerable to lawsuits, because patients are generally sicker and they often don’t have access to patients’ medical histories. 

Post-reform, Texas emergency rooms have undergone the second biggest improvement in wait times in the nation.  And that’s not it for the Lone Star State.  Texans -who faced a physician shortage not unlike the one New Jersey will likely face- have added at least one emergency room physician in 33 rural counties, 24 of which previously had none. 

That’s not just stopping the hemorrhaging: it’s a reversal.  One that New Jersey patients could benefit from, too – expanding access to care is a welcome consequence of enacting tort reform. 

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Anne Patterson hearing scheduled for Tuesday, May 31st at 1:00 p.m.

You can listen to the hearing live on the Legislature’s homepage.   

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Legislative Update

The Assembly held two bills opposed by NJLRA, NJBIA, and other business groups originally scheduled for consideration on Monday. 

A-3433 would prohibit consumer contracts from requiring that arbitration take place outside of New Jersey.  NJLRA maintains that arbitration offers a meaningful and effective forum for resolving disputes without litigation. 

The Assembly was also scheduled to consider A-3434, which would require a review of a consumer contract for unconscionability and set the standard for review.  The Assembly adopted amendments to specify that the bill would not apply to arbitrations conducted or administered by a self-regulatory organization; however, the bill was held.  It may also be in conflict with the U.S. Supreme Court’s April 27, 2011 decision in AT&T vs. Concepcion

Assemblyman Dominick DiCicco praised the decision to hold “bad business bills” A-3433 and A-3434, which he called the “first step in getting [the Legislature’s] priorities straight.”

Wednesday, May 04, 2011

New Jersey Supreme Court 101

The path Anne Patterson is taking to the State’s highest Court can be confusing to most non-judicial scholars.  Let’s recap:

The basics

The New Jersey Supreme Court is made up of 7 justices, compared to 9 on the U.S. Supreme Court.  Justices are initially nominated by the Governor and are referred to the Senate Judiciary Committee for consideration.  Once the State Senate bestows its blessing on the nominee, the Justice serves for an initial term of seven years. 

Following the seven year term, the Governor decides whether to nominate the Justice for tenure.  All justices must retire by age 70, if not sooner. 

Tradition calls for three justices of each party to occupy the bench, with the seventh justice to be of the Governor’s party. 

The road less traveled

Approximately one year ago this week, Governor Christie bucked tradition by choosing not to appoint Justice John Wallace for lifetime tenure – a tenure that would last two years, until he reached the mandatory retirement age.   Governors have traditionally nominated Justices for lifetime appointment despite the Justice’s party affiliation, which some argue is necessary so Justices aren’t pressured to take political conditions into their decisions on the Court. Others argue that it is the Governor’s right to base lifetime tenure on ideology as well as moral integrity.  Governor Christie then announced his intention to appoint Anne Patterson, a Republican, to the Supreme Court. 

 This is where Patterson’s path to the high court becomes unique.  In response to the bucking of tradition, Senate President Steve Sweeney declared that the Democratically-controlled legislature would not hold a hearing on Anne Patterson’s nomination until Wallace’s lifetime term would have ended in 2012.  The Governor did not budge on his decision not to nominate Wallace. 

 This left a vacant seat on the court.  In keeping with precedent, Chief Justice Stuart Rabner appointed appellate judge Edward Stern as a temporary justice.  Chief Justices have traditionally nominated the senior appellate judge to temporarily fill a vacancy on the high court when one occurs. 

 Not everyone was happy.  Justice Roberto Rivera-Soto declared in December, via a Court decision, that he would abstain from the Court’s decisions in protest because he did not believe Rabner did not have the authority to appoint a temporary justice.  Rivera-Soto later modified his stance, saying he would indeed vote on cases where Stern's vote did not affect the outcome.  Calls for Rivera-Soto’s immediate resignation grew louder from Senate Democrats and newspaper editorial boards.  A few weeks later, he informed Governor Christie that he would not seek renomination when his term ends this September. 

 Fast-forward to this week.  With the possibility of two vacancies on the Supreme Court this fall looming, Governor Christie and Senate President Sweeney announced that they reached an agreement: The Senate Judiciary Committee would consider Anne Patterson’s nomination by the end of May – to the seat about to be vacated by Justice Rivera-Soto, not Justice Wallace. 

Senate Judiciary Committee

Approval by the Senate Judiciary Committee is the next step in this process.  The Committee, headed by Senator Nick Scutari (D-Union) is made up of a total of eight Democrats.  There are five Republicans on the Committee.

Senator Ray Lesniak (D-Union) said that he intends to vote no.  Senators Scutari and Tom Kean, Jr. (R-Union) have released statements.

 LRW will keep you informed as the hearing unfolds. 

Monday, May 02, 2011

NJLRA Statement on Anne Patterson Nomination

NJLRA issued the following statement after the announcement that Governor Christie and Senate President Sweeney agreed to hold a hearing on the nomination of Anne Patterson to the seat being vacated by Justice Roberto Rivera-Soto on the State Supreme Court:

"We applaud Governor Christie and Senate President Sweeney for coming together to advance Anne Patterson's nomination and we look forward to a thoughtful hearing on her well-qualified candidacy.

“A strong and fully-constituted Supreme Court is vital to New Jersey's business community, as important issues decided by the Court directly impact New Jersey’s economic competitiveness.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Budget break. What’s a New Jersey Tort Reformer to do?

One of the most appealing aspects about tort reform is that it has the power to spur economic growth while being budget-neutral. 

That said, the legislative “budget break” – which is the period between the end of March and June when the Legislature is in recess while the Assembly and Senate Budget Committees meet to finalize the next fiscal year’s budget – can seemingly push tort reform to the back burner. 

Fortunately, there are some things tort reformers can do:

Take a look at your municipal budget.  How much money is your town or city spending on litigation costs?  It’s probably much higher than you think.  Could some endangered local government service be spared if its litigation tab weren’t so high?   Perhaps it’s worth mentioning at your next town council meeting, especially if a lot of cases are referred to expensive private firms.  You’ll be happy you spoke up when your next property tax bill is due. 

Review tort reform measures that were recently introduced.  Senators Jennifer Beck (R-Monmouth) and Loretta Weinberg (D-Bergen) recently introduced S-2800, which adds an additional protection for doctors to two of the proposals in S-760/A-1982.  The new bill addresses protecting a doctor from having his or her name linked to a malpractice suit prematurely.  It also provides protections for volunteer physicians acting and good faith and prevents doctors’ insurance premiums from automatically increasing when a lawsuit is filed.

Assemblyman John Burzichelli (D-Gloucester) also introduced several bills in late 2010 which would protect local governments from liability in certain instances where whether is to blame.  The bills were endorsed by the New Jersey League of Municipalities, which you can read about here

See where redistricting has left you.  Are you in a new legislative district?  Use this as an opportunity to educate your new legislators on the importance of a business-friendly climate in New Jersey.  Unless they live under a rock, they’ve heard this before.  But they might not have thought about tort reform as a means to achieving economic growth.  You can check the new legislative map here to see if your municipality has been moved to a different district.

In sum, the budget break is a great time for tort reformers to connect the dots between economic growth in Trenton and municipal and family budgets at home.  It’s a great way to keep up the momentum and learn more about your community at the same time. 

Monday, April 11, 2011

Senator Allen on medical malpractice reform, and other women’s issues

Allen The trials and tribulations Senator Diane Allen (R-Burlington) faced in New Jersey politics were front and center over the weekend in a Star-Ledger piece by Linda Ocasio. 

A cosponsor of S-760/A-1982, which would enact many of the medical malpractice reform measures NJLRA supports, Senator Allen offers her perspective as to why it hasn’t been acted upon:

“If we had more women of either party, we’d get a lot of these things through,” Senator Allen said. 

An extensive hearing of the bipartisan, bi-cameral Women’s Legislative Caucus last year underscored the declining number of OB/GYNs and subsequent impact on women’s access to care.  After months of languish, the Assembly version of the bill passed favorably from the Assembly Health and Senior Services Committee, but was later second-referenced to the Assembly Judiciary Committee. 

You can read the full Star-Ledger piece here

Thursday, April 07, 2011

The New Map

As most LRW readers already know, New Jersey’s new legislative district map has arrived.  Changes weren’t as drastic as some anticipated, and what this means for tort reform over the next decade remains to be seen.  LehighValleyLive.com has the before and after photos:   

New-jersey-redistricting-04f26e1901568216

Wednesday, April 06, 2011

Will trial lawyers make Caterpillar Inc. regret staying in Illinois?

Last month, we underscored Governor Christie’s pitch to attract Illinois businesses in an op-ed.  New Jersey’s “well-educated, diverse talent pool” and “innovative financing, incentive, and assistance programs” for new businesses is ideal for entrepreneurship – especially to a state which raised its corporate tax rate from 4.8 to 7 percent. 

The CEO of one business, however, recently told Illinois Governor Pat Quinn that his business would stay – but that the state’s business climate needs to change.   

Doug Oberhelman, CEO of Caterpillar Inc., which manufactures heavy equipment in the Peoria area, employs 23,000 people.  Governor Quinn reportedly acknowledged that the state’s business image is in need of an overhaul. 

Illinois ranked eighth in the region in job growth as a percentage of its population last year, according to Chicago Business.  To the chagrin of Caterpillar’s overseas representatives, personal income tax also rose, from 3 percent to 5 percent.  They expressed concern about the company’s ability to attract engineers, and reiterated that even if Governor Quinn’s call for a 30 percent reduction in businesses’ liability for workers compensation is enacted, Illinois would still have the 2nd highest rates in the nation. Illinois businesses also want to see a cap on civil liability. 

Governor Quinn also told Oberhelman that he plans to invest in Illinois’s infrastructure and help manufacturing companies improve their ability to export.  Let’s hope that that Illinois trial lawyers don’t take it as a green light to invest in workers compensation lawsuits in the meantime. 

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Read NJLRA’s op-ed in the Home News Tribune & Courier News

Lawsuit abuse a continuing drag on NJ business

By Marcus Rayner | March 29, 2011

“From a college student suing a Chinese restaurant for soup she spilled on herself (Somerset County), to a drunken motorcyclist who drives into a parked car and sues a restaurant (Ocean County), lawsuit abuse has an economic impact on businesses in every corner of the state. Every dollar spent fighting nonsense lawsuits is a dollar not spent on innovation or job creation, and it doesn't need to be this way.”

 Several hundred miles from here, Illinois business owners are learning about a place with an abundant supply of workplace talent and a high-quality lifestyle sure to make any entrepreneur envious. Weary from crippling tax hikes, a labor shortage and a shrinking consumer base, Illinois business owners can only dream about this land of milk and honey: New Jersey.

"Well-educated, diverse talent pool," reads the ad, placed by New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie. Want to start a business? "Innovative financing, incentive and assistance programs. Exceptional quality of life."

The catch? Here in New Jersey, businesses are vulnerable to lawsuit abuse. Everything the ad says about New Jersey is true. Christie's efforts to improve the business climate in New Jersey, combined with our state's existing assets make New Jersey fertile grounds for entrepreneurship. His outreach to the national business community is both constructive and sorely needed as we seek to reclaim our economic footing here in New Jersey. And business retention as well as recruitment will be critical to our economic growth over the next decade, a point that leaders in both political parties have made.

Click here to read entire piece.

Monday, March 28, 2011

OLS: NJ’s unemployment rate lags due to “changes” in “high end job market”

We’ve mentioned in previous posts that New Jersey’s pharmaceutical companies shed 7 percent of their workforce last year, according to a report published by the Healthcare Institute of New Jersey

As the Senate Budget Committee began its budgetary hearings for 2012 today, Senator Paul Sarlo asked Legislative Budget Officer David Rosen why, “despite ambitious pro-business policies touted by the governor,” the Garden State’s unemployment rate continues to exceed 9 percent. 

“The fact that N.J.’s high end job market has largely been telecomm and pharmaceuticals – [those are] two industries that have been transformed largely beyond our control,” Rosen replied. 

Of course, a third job field may have had an impact on the previous two: litigation tourism. 

A cost-free way to stop the hemorrhaging of high end jobs is to enact changes to New Jersey’s Consumer Fraud Act, which has become one of the most abused laws of its kind.  Assemblyman John McKeon has introduced legislation, A-3333, which would make the law less hostile for high-end industries in New Jersey. 

Politicker NJ’s Darryl Isherwood has additional commentary on Monday’s budget hearing.

Monday, March 07, 2011

A-1982 released by Assembly Health Committee!

Assembly bill A-1982, sponsored by Assemblyman Herb Conaway, was voted out of the Assembly Health and Senior Services Committee today, 8 votes in the affirmative and two abstentions. 

A-1982 takes steps to rectify the New Jersey Supreme Court’s 2010 decision in Ryan v. Renny, which gutted the affidavit of merit statute.  It also protects volunteer physicians from medical malpractice liability and prevents insurance companies from immediately imposing an increase on doctors who are named in a malpractice suit. 

Several committee members, including Assemblywomen Celeste Riley and Elease Evans, spoke of the impact New Jersey’s doctor crisis will have on women’s access to healthcare.  New Jersey already has a 12% gap between the number of New Jersey’s patients and doctors available to treat them.  This number is expected to widen by another 3,000 doctors by the end of the decade if changes are not made, and higher-risk specialties like obstetrics will be hit hardest. 

Assemblywoman Nancy Munoz, who voiced language concerns in a previous hearing, and Assemblyman Jerry Green were the lone abstentions. 

Wednesday, March 02, 2011

New York’s Medicaid Redesign Task Force recommends a cap on noneconomic damages; the trial lawyers hate it

Nearly every state in the country is grappling with rising Medicaid costs.  New York, however, bears the distinction of having the highest Medicaid costs in the nation, and also leads among avoidable hospital use and costs.  On a per capita basis, it runs about twice the cost of the national average. 

To help his “functionally  bankrupt” state cleanse its Medicaid program of inefficiencies and waste, Governor Andrew Cuomo convened a Medicaid Redesign task force to “redesign and restructure” the program. 

The task force consisted of 30 stakeholders – doctors, hospitals, nursing homes, the Greater New York Hospital Association, and other patient care providers you would expect.  The objective, according to the Syracuse Post-Standard, is to move nearly all of the state’s 4.7 million Medicaid recipients to managed care within the next three years in order to stop the use of hospital emergency rooms for preventative and routine care.  Its expected savings could exceed $1.1 billion.  The task force issued 79 recommendations last Thursday for the approval of the Governor and Legislature.  And they include a $250,000 cap on noneconomic damages – which would save hospitals hundreds of millions of dollars in insurance premiums alone. 

Now enter the trial lawyers.  They’re throwing a fit over aforementioned recommendation.  Not because it saves taxpayers’ money, but because their interests weren’t represented on the task force.  New York Times blogger Nicholas Confessore has noted their frustrations in detail. 

New York State faces a $10 billion deficit, and Governor Cuomo has said he needs to cut Medicaid spending by $2.85 billion and limit it to 4 percent annual increases thereafter if he has any chance of plugging it.  Josh Vlasto, a spokesperson for Governor Cuomo, called the interest group opposing this recommendation a “mouthpiece for the trial lawyers.” 

I suppose the task force could have recommended cuts in patient spending instead of a cap on litigation and insurance spending.  As a patient, however, wouldn’t you rather have a $250,000 cap on noneconomic damages instead of a reduction in care?  It seems nonsensical and transparent for trial lawyers to insist that the only way Medicaid recipients can receive more efficient care is to make sure the lawyers’ thirst for uncapped noneconomic medical damages remains quenched.   

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Governor’s budget address today at 2 p.m. EST

You can listen to Governor Christie’s budget address live via NJN

Friday, February 18, 2011

A-3333 gains support

Assemblywoman Alison Littell McHose (R-Sussex) signed on as a cosponsor of A-3333, increasing the total number of sponsors and cosponsors to seven.  She joins primary sponsors Assemblymen John McKeon (D-Essex), Ralph Caputo (D-Essex), and Domenick DiCicco (R-Glouster), and cosponsors Assemblywomen Amy Handlin (R-Monmouth), Mila Jasey (D-Essex), and Elease Evans (D-Passaic). 

A-3333 calls for reforms to New Jersey’s oft-abused Consumer Fraud Act (CFA).  If enacted, A-3333 would do the following:

  • The individual cause of action provided for under the CFA would be available only to a “consumer,” who is defined as an individual and specifically excludes businesses;
  • Require that a plaintiff relied to his detriment on the use or employment of the unlawful method, act, or practice;
  •  Give the court the discretion to award damages appropriately, not to exceed three times the amount of actual damages sustained by the consumer;
  • Provide that the CFA applies only to transactions which occur in New Jersey.

More information about New Jersey’s CFA is available on NJLRA’s website

Monday, January 31, 2011

Good reading: Tort reformers have momentum in NJ

Sherman “Tiger” Joyce, president of the American Tort Reform Association (ATRA), had the following to say about New Jersey’s prospects for civil justice reform in The Metropolitan Corporate Council publication:

“Of course, the litigation industry also remains strong throughout New Jersey, home to once-and-future judicial hellholes, and ATRA expects it to again push an expansion of wrongful death liability while actively opposing consumer fraud reform. But tort reformers, backed by Governor Chris Christie, have some momentum. They support three affirmative reform bills already filed during the current legislative session. One seeks to limit appeal bonds to the total value of the monetary judgment or $50 million, whichever is less. Another would revise the individual's cause of action under the Consumer Fraud Act and make other revisions regarding applicability (see trial lawyers' opposition noted earlier). The third pertains to liability, standards of care and insurance coverage for medical malpractice actions.”

Monday, January 10, 2011

SR – 100 – Non-binding resolution encouraging Justice Rivera-Soto to resign – will be heard in Senate Judiciary this morning

SR – 100 – Non-binding resolution encouraging Justice Rivera-Soto to resign – is being heard in Senate Judiciary this morning.

The measure is sponsored by Senators Gill, Lesniak, and Scutari.  The Assembly could also impeach the embattled Justice, who has announced his decision not to seek reappointment when his term ends in the fall, and vows to abstain from court decisions until then. 

Tuesday, January 04, 2011

Justice Roberto Rivera-Soto Won’t Seek Reappointment

New Jersey Supreme Court Justice Roberto Rivera-Soto, who infamously declared last month that he would abstain from rulings while a temporary justice fills the vacant seat of former Justice John Wallace Jr., announced to Governor Christie that he will not pursue his own renomination.   

Justice Rivera-Soto’s term ends in September.  Senate President Steve Sweeney has vowed not to hold a confirmation hearing on Anne Patterson, whom Governor Christie nominated to succeed Justice Wallace, until 2012, when Justice Wallace would have reached New Jersey’s mandatory retirement age.  Governor Christie, for his part, has vowed not to nominate a replacement for Justice Rivera-Soto until a hearing on Patterson is held. 

It remains to be seen whether the Governor will appoint Anne Patterson to fill Justice Rivera-Soto’s anticipated vacancy, or if New Jersey will have two vacancies on its Supreme Court instead. 

Supreme Court Justices serve a 7-year term and are then eligible for tenure until the mandatory retirement age of 70.  The Star-Ledger published the following New Jersey Supreme Court timeline in today’s edition:

Supreme-court-justices-timelinejpg-bc77902f15d07fe9

Friday, December 17, 2010

Texas pursues the Holy Grail of Tort Reform

Twenty-three counties lacked an E.R. doctor.  Ten counties lacked an OB-GYN.  No, this is not a third world country: it was Texas, prior to tort reform. 

The Wall Street Journal calls the pre-reformed Texas a “holy place on the tort bar pilgrimage,” that has now morphed into a “Mecca for doctors.”  Incentives didn’t hurt, either, and Texas now leads the country in job creation.  Product liability, class-action certification, and noneconomic damage caps were reformed in 2003 and 2005.  Now, according to the Journal, Texas Governor Rick Perry wants to extend his state’s tort reform successes – British style.  It’s a thinly-veiled deterrent to filing frivolous lawsuits, which drive up business costs and drive down economic growth. 

The “loser pays” concept isn’t a new one.  The purest-form version of “loser pays” is that the losing party picks up the attorney’s tab.  The proposed caveat would impose a penalty on the losing firm which files the case, forcing trial lawyers to think twice before filing questionable claims. 

Governor Perry is also calling for “new legal channels” to expedite claims below $100,000, but details about this proposal aren’t readily available. 

It sounds like Texas might be headed in the right direction.  It begs the question: if Texas can entice doctors, why can’t New Jersey?

Monday, December 13, 2010

Labor, business leaders support civil justice reform

Njseed

 

NJLRA's executive director, Marcus Rayner (2nd from left), with NJBIA Vice-President Christine Stearns, New Jersey Petroleum Council President Jim Benton, and Scott Ross, also of the New Jersey Petroleum Council.  

 

Litigation abuse drives up business costs and inhibits job growth, according to the New Jersey Society for Environmental, Economic Development (NJ SEED).  The organization, which is a broad coalition of New Jersey’s business and labor leaders, say that a vibrant life science industry is key to growing New Jersey’s economy. 

In its 2010-2011 State Issues Briefing book, “Mapping Our Way to Prosperity,” NJ SEED argues that preserving New Jersey’s status as the “medicine chest of the world” is critical, and tort reform – particularly cracking down on litigation tourism – is sorely needed by the $30 billion life science industry.  While New Jersey remains a key location for 24 of the world’s 30 largest pharmaceutical giants, weak civil justice laws have helped give momentum to Massachusetts, North Carolina, Texas, California, and Indiana, which threaten to outpace the Garden State’s industry growth. 

A decline in the life sciences industry would pose a significant strain on New Jersey’s economy.   According to the report, New Jersey’s life sciences currently do the following:

  • Provide more than 211,000 jobs, directly or indirectly, throughout the state;
  • Spend more than $1.5 billion annually in capital construction projects throughout New Jersey;
  • Spend nearly $8 billion annually on research and development;
  • Award over $4.6 million in vendor contracts to local businesses; and
  • Give more than $210 million in philanthropic contributions to cultural, nonprofit, and educational organizations throughout the state.

A copy of NJ SEED’s briefing book is typically shared with the Governor, members of the Legislature, and other policy leaders in New Jersey. Let’s hope they heed the call for civil justice reform on page 46. 

 Click here to read the full report and learn more about NJ SEED.  

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Legal Cost Reporting Bill on the Governor’s Desk

In previous posts, we’ve emphasized the hidden cost of lawsuit abuse to New Jersey’s taxpayers, embedded in municipal and even school budgets.  Now, legislation to expose these costs to the light of day is on the Governor’s desk. 

S-1248, sponsored by Senators Ronald Rice (D-Essex) and Jennifer Beck (R-Monmouth), would prohibit the Division of Local Government Services, which is housed in the Department of Community Affairs, from approving the budget of a municipality or local authority until the municipality reports their involvement in lawsuits in which they have spent or are expected to spend more than $50,000 in legal fees. 

Local governments’ annual budgets must be approved by the State.  However, legal fees are often added to the budget after its approval, which can sometimes mask the true state of municipality’s budget. 

S-1248 also tackles outside law firms’ billing practices, which deters potential pay-to-play activity.  It’s harder for firms to bilk the taxpayer when municipalities are required to report the names of attorneys performing work and an explanation of their billing practices. 

In addition to reporting the names of attorneys performing work and an explanation of their billing practices, the number of lawsuits settled out-of-court and the amount for which they were settled must also be included.  Outstanding lawsuits and an explanation must be included as well, unless costs are expected to be covered by a liability insurer. 

Senator Rice acknowledged that the bill is largely aimed at alerting state official to large contracts awarded to outside firms.  “New Jersey taxpayers are paying enough for local governments and authorities without over-the-top legal contracts to political cronies,” he said in a statement.  “This bill is about making sure that local officials publicly report any legal contract in which the municipality is expected to spend more than $50,000, so that State regulators, lawmakers, and the governor can step in if necessary on behalf of the local taxpayers.”

Monday, November 29, 2010

Barnes to chair Assembly Judiciary Committee

Assemblyman Peter Barnes III will replace Senator-elect Linda Greenstein as chair of the Assembly Judiciary Committee.  Assemblyman Barnes served as vice-chair of the committee during the 2008 – 2009 Legislative Session. 

Senator-elect Greenstein, who chaired the committee for nearly a decade, won a special election to fill the remaining term of Senator Bill Baroni, who left for a position with the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey earlier this year.  Barnes and Greenstein, both Democrats representing parts of Middlesex County, will assume their new roles next month.