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Key Developments

 
 
  • 4/20/17 - The New Jersey Administrative Office of the Courts has issued Directive #03-17 establishing a process and criteria for waivers of filing fees. A Supreme Court Order accompanying the Directive specifies that fees are waivable for indigent litigants whose household income does not exceed 150% of the federal poverty level and who have no more than $2500 in liquid assets. The Directive contains a uniform fee waiver application that is to be used for all fee waiver requests in the Supreme Court, Appellate Division, Superior Court and Tax Court.

    The Directive further specifies that Legal Services of New Jersey, its associated regional legal services programs, and other public interest organizations and programs certified pursuant to R. 1:21-11 for fee waiver status are exempt from filing fees. Accordingly, neither they nor their clients are required to file for a fee waiver in individual cases.


  • 8/9/16 - The New Jersey Supreme Court has revised the Code of Judicial Conduct, effective September 1, 2016. In a Notice to the Bar issued by the AOC, the revisions “set more clearly defined guidelines for avoiding the appearance of impropriety in both judicial and personal conduct” and “a more detailed guide for judicial disqualifications.” Of particular significance to the pro bono community is new Canon 4, Rule (D) (4) - A judge may encourage lawyers to provide pro bono legal services. There is no official commentary to this rule.


  • 7/26/16 - In the Matter of the Adoption of a Child by J.E.V. and D.G.V. - In a case of first impression in New Jersey, the N.J. Supreme Court has determined that indigent parents who face termination of parental rights in contested proceedings under the Adoption Act, N.J.S.A. 9:3-37 to -56, are entitled to counsel under Article I, Paragraph 1 of the State Constitution. The Court held that an indigent parent who faces termination of parental rights in a contested private adoption proceeding has a right to appointed counsel under the due process guarantee of the New Jersey Constitution. In so holding, the Court reaffirmed earlier decisions that the termination of one’s parental rights plainly “implicates a fundamental liberty interest” by completely and permanently severing the tie between parent and child. The Court recognized that without the assistance of counsel to prepare for and participate in the hearing, the risk of an erroneous outcome is high. Accordingly, the parties are best served when both sides present arguments with the help of able attorneys; the outcome not only protects the parent’s rights and the child’s welfare, but also helps bring finality to an adoption proceeding. The Court’s decision follows other states which have also found that an indigent parent is entitled to counsel in a private adoption matter, based on either due process principles under their state constitutions or applicable statutes. With regard to when the appointment of counsel arises, the Court said the critical event in the timeline occurs when the parent formally objects to the adoption agency’s decision to proceed toward adoption. Finally, because of the complicated nature of termination proceedings the Court emphasized the need for the appointment of attorneys with the experience to handle these matters, such as those in the Office of Parental Representation in the Public Defender’s Office. But noting that office’s current lack of funding, the Court declined to order it to take on these cases calling instead on the Legislature to address this issue. In the interim, however, the Court said it would turn to private counsel for assistance, inviting pro bono organizations to offer their services and suggesting that it “may need to assign counsel through the Madden list,” although that “is not an ideal solution.”

  • 5/27/16 - The Administrative Office of the Courts has promulgated new procedures to implement changes in the expungement law which cover Drug Court expungements and expungement of arrests that did not lead to conviction.

  • 2/3/16 - All certified pro bono service organizations must annually file a renewal certification with the New Jersey Judiciary by April 30th. For currently certified organizations, the online renewal application is now available on the pro bono portal of the Judiciary’s website. There is a link to the renewal application from the site; it can also be directly accessed at the Judiciary's Pro Bono Search Organization page. As noted, the renewal date is no later than April 30, 2016.

 
 
 
 
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