Justia Legal Ethics Opinion SummariesArticles Posted in New Jersey Supreme Court
In re Subpoena Duces Tecum on Custodian of Records
Defendant was indicted for financial crimes. He applied for public defender representation and provided information about his financial status that was collected by court staff on a UDIR form. Defendant's application was granted. Because the State's investigation suggested that defendant owned substantial assets, it issued a trial subpoena to the Morris County Superior Court's custodian of records demanding the production of financial data provided to court staff, including defendant's UDIR form. Although it used a trial subpoena, the State represented that it did not intend to use defendant's UDIR form at his pending trial; instead, it would be used to determine whether the State should separately indict defendant for making intentional false statements to obtain free counsel and to determine whether to apply for the removal of defendant's appointed counsel. The trial court quashed the subpoena on its own motion pursuant to the attorney-client privilege. The trial court denied the State's motion for reconsideration, reaffirming its view that the attorney-client privilege protected disclosure of defendant's financial information. The Appellate Division affirmed, holding that the attorney-client privilege protected the information sought. Upon review of the matter, the Supreme Court concluded that the subpoena was properly quashed because defendant was "entitled to the benefit of the long-standing practice embodied in Directive 1-06 - that 'information on the intake form may not be used in grand jury proceedings or at trial.'" View "In re Subpoena Duces Tecum on Custodian of Records" on Justia Law
D.D. v. Univer. of Med. & Dentistry of New Jersey
During a meeting with staff members of defendants Rutgers University and the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey (UMDNJ), plaintiff D.D. disclosed private health information that she requested be kept confidential. D.D. later discovered press releases issued by defendants that disclosed her private health information. Plaintiff immediately sent a letter directing defendants to cease and desist from communicating her personal information. Shortly thereafter, plaintiff, accompanied by counsel, met with representatives of defendants, accompanied by counsel. According to plaintiff, based on apologies and assurances made during the meeting, she believed that the matter could be handled privately. Plaintiff’s attorney subsequently asked plaintiff for additional information, which she promptly provided. Although her attorney assured her that he would "take care of everything," he was thereafter unresponsive to her efforts to contact him, which included at least ten telephone calls. Because she was unable to reach him, plaintiff retained new counsel in April 2010. The issue before the Supreme Court in this matter was: (1) whether the inattention of plaintiff’s counsel or her medical conditions constituted the "extraordinary circumstances" needed to excuse an untimely notice of tort claim under the New Jersey Tort Claims Act (TCA); and (2) whether a timely oral notice of tort claim could be permitted under the doctrine of substantial compliance. Upon review, the Supreme Court concluded that neither attorney inattention nor incompetence constituted an extraordinary circumstance sufficient to excuse failure to comply with the ninety-day filing deadline under the TCA; plaintiff's medical proofs were insufficient to meet the extraordinary circumstances standard; and the doctrine of substantial compliance could not serve to relieve a claimant of the TCA's written-notice requirement. View "D.D. v. Univer. of Med. & Dentistry of New Jersey" on Justia Law
In the Matter of Advisory Letter No. 7-11 of the Supreme Court Advisory Committee on Extrajudicial Activities
In this appeal, the issue before the Supreme Court centered on whether a chief municipal court judge whose son became a member of the police department in the same municipality could hear cases involving that police department. The Supreme Court held that, "consistent with the canons of the Code of Judicial Conduct, a municipal court judge whose child becomes a police officer in the same municipality may not hear any cases involving that police department. The judge also may not supervise other judges who hear those cases." View "In the Matter of Advisory Letter No. 7-11 of the Supreme Court Advisory Committee on Extrajudicial Activities" on Justia Law
Twenty-FirstCentury Rail Corp. v. New Jersey Transit Corp.
This dispute arose in the context of a large construction project known as the Hudson-Bergen Light Rail Transit System. Plaintiff Twenty-First Century Rail Corporation served as the prime contractor for the Project. In January 2002, Twenty-First Century, acting through its contracting affiliate, Washington Group, entered into a contract with Frontier-Kemper/Shea/Bemo, Joint Venture (FKSB). Pursuant to that contract, FKSB was responsible for construction of “the civil, electrical, mechanical and emergency system portions of the tunnel, station, plaza, and elevators” for the (N30) Project. In 2004, FKSB retained Bruce Meller and his law firm, Peckar & Abramson, in connection with the work that FKSB was performing on the N30 Project. In particular, Richard Raab, who was an officer of FKSB and who served as its representative, first telephoned Meller in February 2004 and arranged to meet with him at the Peckar & Abramson offices. Raab signed a retainer agreement on behalf of FKSB, pursuant to which the lawyers were asked to provide FKSB with certain legal advice. The law firm provided its opinion on the issues about which it had been consulted in the form of a letter. A year later, Meller received a phone call from Paul Killian, Esquire. Killian told Meller that he was representing FKSB and wanted Meller’s impressions of Washington Group because FKSB was considering whether to enter into an agreement with it. Thereafter, the lawsuit at issue in this appeal was filed. Twenty-First Century, for which Washington Group was the contracting affiliate, and FKSB alleged that PB Americas was responsible for the N30 Project delays and the resulting costs due to defective project designs and slow responses to requests for corrections. Meller’s law firm, Peckar & Abramson, represented PB Americas. PKSB filed a motion to disqualify Peckar & Abramson based on the prior representation. The trial court denied the motion, concluding that many of the documents that would have been provided to the law firm for its use in preparing the opinion letter were publicly available, the representation there was insignificant and immaterial, and the matters were not substantially related. The Appellate Division affirmed. Upon review, the Supreme Court concluded that disqualification of the attorney for PB Americas was warranted in this case because details relating to the construction project, the relationship among the parties, and the attorney’s prior representation of an adverse party, FKSB, demonstrate that the subsequent representation was prohibited by RPC 1.9(a). View "Twenty-FirstCentury Rail Corp. v. New Jersey Transit Corp." on Justia Law
Rogers v. Cape May County Office of the Public Defender
The issue before the court was whether Defendant John Rogers was "exonerated" when his conviction was reversed and his case remanded for trial, or on the day his indictment was dismissed. Defendant sued the Cape May Public Defender's office for malpractice. The date the case was reversed would subject Defendant's claim to a one-year time bar, but a dismissal would not. One year later, his attorney filed a motion for leave to file a late notice of tort claim, which was denied. The trial judge determined that Defendant's claim accrued in 2007, and because he filed his notice more than one year later, the court concluded it lacked jurisdiction to hear his case. The appellate court affirmed, finding that the late notice must be filed within one year after accrual of a claim; "exoneration" (and therefore accrual) occurred in 2007. Upon review, the Supreme Court found that Defendant was not "exonerated" until the indictment was dismissed with prejudice in 2008. His claim was thus not barred by the one year filing limitation. Nevertheless, because the claim was filed ten days beyond the ninety-day limit, the Court remanded the case for further proceedings to determine whether the "extraordinary circumstances" as defined by the governing statute was satisfied. View "Rogers v. Cape May County Office of the Public Defender" on Justia Law
In the Matter of Steven P. Perskie, a Former Judge
Disciplinary proceedings against Respondent Steven Perskie (who retired from the judiciary in 2010) began with the filing of grievances with the Advisory Committee in July 2008 by Alan Rosefielde, a party to a civil action over which respondent presided between February 2005 and October 2006. The litigation was a business dispute involving issues that arose from Rosefielde's employment with and eventual termination from a business based in Atlantic City. Rosefielde contended that his termination was due to his recommendation that his employer end its business relationship with an insurance broker named Frank Siracusa, whom Rosefielde alleged had engaged in improper and questionable business practices. Siracusa was a central witness to Rosefielde’s counterclaim. Respondent had a longstanding business, social, political, and personal relationship with Siracusa, but informed the parties to the litigation several times that notwithstanding his relationship with Siracusa, he was not uncomfortable presiding over the case and evaluating Siracusa's credibility if Siracusa were to appear as a witness. The Advisory Committee recommended that respondent be censured for violating multiple Canons of the Code of Judicial Conduct. Upon review, the Supreme Court held that Respondent violated Canons 1, 2A, 2B, and 3C(1) of the Code of Judicial Conduct and R. 1:12-1(f). The Court censured Respondent.