NEW JERSEY LAWYER

DAILY BRIEFING      04/15/2005


News Briefs

LIMIT URGED ON DRIVER LICENSE SUSPENSION FOR DRUG OFFENDERS
The state Criminal Sentencing Review Commission is pressing the legislature to pass A-878, which would allow judges to grant exemptions to the mandated six- to 24-month driver license suspension for drug offenders. There are more than 20,000 such suspensions annually. In a letter to the bill’s sponsor, Assemblyman Peter J. Barnes Jr. (D-Middlesex), the commission notes the state’s hands aren’t necessarily tied by a federal mandate that allows such exceptions for “compelling circumstances.” Former Middlesex County Judge Barnett E. Hoffman, commission chairman, contends such suspensions “have no nexus to the safe operation of a motor vehicle” and can keep offenders and parolees from getting to drug treatment or job training programs, as well as limit their ability to find work. The bill has cleared the Assembly Judiciary Committee, but isn’t yet scheduled for a full lower house vote. 4-14-05

LAW FIRMS HOLD LINE ON EMPLOYEES’ INSURANCE COSTS
Bucking a state trend, New Jersey’s largest law firms generally are holding the line on health insurance cost increases passed onto their employees. A spot survey found that while their total costs for health insurance rose between 10 percent and 17 percent the past year, the firms are holding the line on employees’ cost for coverage, as well as their deductibles and co-payments. By contrast, the New Jersey Business and Industry Association in Trenton reports many small businesses are eliminating health insurance because of rising costs. A full story is in the April 18 New Jersey Lawyer. 4-14-05

LAWYERS FACE JAIL, $100,000 FINE FOR AMULANCE-CHASING
Two West Orange attorneys indicted for violating the state’s ambulance-chasing law each face more than $100,000 in fines and five years in prison. Irwin B. Seligsohn and Allen S. Goldberger from 1998 to 2002 used “runners” who scoured police reports and visited accident scenes to identify victims for personal injury suits the lawyers filed, according to the indictment handed down by a state grand jury in Trenton. The lawyers and their firm, Goldberger, Seligsohn & Axelrod, were indicted for violating a six-year-old law prohibiting such solicitations, and for several counts of conspiracy and tax fraud for not reporting income generated by the alleged scheme. A third partner, Edward Shinrod, was not implicated. 4-14-05

JUDGES ENCOURAGED TO CARRY PEPPER SPRAY, INSTALL ALARMS
Mercer County Sheriff’s Office investigators have advised Superior Court judges there to carry pepper spray, install alarm systems in their homes and vary their driving routes. In a training seminar inspired by the murder of a judge and three others in an Atlanta courtroom last month, the investigators also advised judges to lock guns used as evidence so they can’t be grabbed and loaded. They also said threats are real in all court divisions. But investigator Edward Natale noted, “We have more fights in family court than in any other court.” 4-14-05

DISBARRED ATTORNEY ADMITS TO $500,000 THEFT OF CLIENT FUNDS
Disbarred attorney Richard A. Pizzi faces up to nine years in prison after pleading guilty in Union County Superior Court to stealing more than $500,000 in client funds, according to the county prosecutor’s office. Pizzi, who had practiced in Bedminster, is “destitute” so his bilked clients could qualify for at least part of their losses from the Lawyers’ Fund for Client Protection, said Robert P. O’Leary, an assistant county prosecutor. The county began investigating Pizzi last June after receiving information from the Office of Attorney Ethics, which reports Pizzi has agreed to disbarment. 4-14-05



Today's Decision Summaries

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FROM THE NEW JERSEY SUPREME COURT, THURSDAY, APRIL 14, 2005
NO OPINIONS WERE RELEASED BY THE NEW JERSEY SUPREME COURT ON THURSDAY, APRIL 14, 2005, AND NO OPINIONS ARE SCHEDULED FOR RELEASE ON FRIDAY, APRIL 15.


APPROVED FOR PUBLICATION
STATUTORY CONSTRUCTION
GEROFSKY v. PASSAIC COUNTY SOCIETY FOR THE PREVENTION OF CRUELTY TO ANIMALS
Appellate Division, A-5040-03T5, approved for publication April 14, 2005. (21 pages). Facts-on-Call Order No. 92415

A county prosecutor’s constitutional and statutory authority to supervise all law enforcement in the county includes the authority to supervise and control the members of a Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals who exercise law enforcement powers.

STATUTORY CONSTRUCTION
STATE v. DUNCAN
Appellate Division, A-6705-03T3, approved for publication April 14, 2005. (14 pages). Facts-on-Call Order No. 92416

The defendant’s venting of his frustration to a 911 police dispatcher in crude terms over what he regarded as an improper roadblock, though constituting impolite and rude behavior, did not evidence “a purpose of harass another” within the meaning of N.J.S.A. 2C:33-4.

NOT APPROVED FOR PUBLICATION
EDUCATION
MONMOUTH UNIVERSITY v. TALLERICO
Appellate Division, A-5347-03T5, April 14, 2005, not approved for publication. (10 pages). Facts-on-Call Order No. 17829

Summary judgment for the defendant reversed and remanded; the plaintiff university hired the defendant as a police trainee, and the parties’ contract provided that, if the defendant resigned before three years had expired, he was required to reimburse the plaintiff for the cost of hiring and training him as a police officer; the defendant did not complete his three years of service, and the plaintiff sought reimbursement; at the time that the parties entered into their contract, N.J.S.A. 18A:6-4.12 provided for the reimbursement of training costs for police officers who resign within two years and then are hired by a municipality; however, there was nothing within 18A:6-4.12 that would limit the right of two private parties to agree on the consequences of the defendant’s failure to fulfill his three-year commitment to the plaintiff; enforcing the contract would not conflict with the legislature purpose of 18A:6-4.12 or subvert its policy.

SETTLEMENTS
CONLEY v. BINDER
Appellate Division, A-4805-03T5, April 14, 2005, not approved for publication. (8 pages). Facts-on-Call Order No. 17830

Jury verdict concluding that the plaintiff sister and the defendant brother had entered into a contract under which the defendant agreed to pay 20 percent of the remaining balance of the private annuity established by the parties’ mother and to pay 5 percent to each of the plaintiff’s children in exchange for the plaintiff signing “release and refunding bonds” and forbearing from filing any exception against the mother’s estate and denial of the defendant’s motion to dismiss and for a new trial affirmed; the trial court rejected the defendant’s argument in his motion for a new trial that his payment was a gift and was not a contractual obligation; on appeal, the defendant argued that the alleged contract in this case was unenforceable because it violated public policy; the settlement of litigation “ranks high in our public policy,” especially in family disputes such as this one, and the settlement agreement was not an illegal contract.

LAW AGAINST DISCRIMINATION
LIDDANE v. FEDDERS CORP.
Appellate Division, A-5045-03T1, April 14, 2005, not approved for publication. (7 pages). Facts-on-Call Order No. 17831

Summary judgment for the defendant employer in a Law Against Discrimination action affirmed; the plaintiff employee reported to the defendant in August 1999 that her co-worker had frequently treated her in a verbally and emotionally abusive manner, had picked his nose in front of her, and had touched his genitals through his pants; the defendant investigated and determined that there was insufficient evidence to terminate the co-worker, who resigned in September 1999; while the plaintiff was on disability leave in January 2001, the defendant eliminated her position to reduce costs, terminated her, and transferred her work to other employees; the plaintiff sued for discriminatory discharge, retaliation, hostile work environment sexual harassment, breach of the implied covenant of good faith, and intentional infliction of emotional distress; the trial court properly granted summary judgment to the defendant because the evidence was so one-sided that the defendant had to prevail as a matter of law.

LANDLORD AND TENANT
YOUNG CHEN v. GREENWAY VILLAGE APARTMENTS
Appellate Division, A-4886-03T2, April 14, 2005, not approved for publication. (7 pages). Facts-on-Call Order No. 17832

Order directing the defendant purchaser of an apartment complex to return a security deposit to the plaintiff former tenants reversed; the plaintiffs paid a $700 security deposit to the complex’s previous owner when they leased an apartment on October 20, 2000; the defendant bought the complex on June 3, 2002, and on October 1, 2002 the plaintiffs signed their final lease, which provided that no security deposit was paid; the defendant declined to return the plaintiffs’ security deposit after they moved out because it had not received their security deposit when it bought the complex; the trial court erred by retroactively applying the amendment to N.J.S.A. 46:8-21, which became effective on January 1, 2004, to hold the defendant responsible for repayment of the security deposit; the defendant reasonably relied on the statute that was in effect when it bought the complex, which did not obligate the defendant to obtain security deposits from the previous owner.


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