An Overview of Recent Amendments to the New Jersey Court Rules
Joseph M. Aronds
A number of significant amendments to the New Jersey Court Rules took effect as of September 1, 2010 (or, in some instances, July 1, 2010). This article briefly summarizes some of the most significant amendments to the civil practice rules. For the sake of brevity, not every civil rule amendment is discussed below. Various non-substantive or “housekeeping” type amendments are not discussed. In addition, this article simply summarizes some aspects of the amendments. I suggest that you consult the actual Rules for their specific requirements and not rely solely upon this summary, which is for informational purposes only. Finally, this article does not discuss the amendments to the rules governing criminal practice or the New Jersey Tax Court.
Amendments to Part I – Rules of General Application:
R. 1:6-2(c) (“Form of Motion; Hearing” “Civil and Family Part Discovery and Calendar Motions”) was amended to require that any motion to extend discovery must have annexed thereto copies of all previous orders granting or denying an extension of the discovery period. See also amendment to R. 4:24-1, discussed below.
R. 1:13-7(c) (“Dismissal of Civil Cases for Lack of Prosecution”) was amended to clearly indicate its applicability to general equity cases.
Extensive changes were made to R. 1:13-9 (“Amicus Curiae; Motion; Grounds for Relief”) and may be of particular interest to our members or law firms who represent them. The former text of the rule was reallocated as paragraphs (a) and (b), paragraph (a) was amended, and entirely new paragraphs (c) through (f) were added. The newly added subsections specify when amicus briefs may be filed and other requirements, the ostensible purpose of which is to provide for greater uniformity in such filings.
R. 1:21-1(c) (“Practice of Law”) was amended to specify that any entity must be represented in court by an attorney, notwithstanding and regardless of the entity’s purpose or organization, except in certain circumstances identified in the rule.
R. 1:42-1 through -3 (“Continuing Legal Education”): These rules set forth the mandatory requirement for New Jersey licensed attorneys to obtain 24 hours of continuing legal education (“CLE”) credits every 2 years.
Please note that for the benefit of its members, the NJCCA applied for and was granted the status of accredited New Jersey CLE provider. NJCCA is also an accredited CLE provider for purposes of New York CLE. We hope that you will consider obtaining all or the majority of your CLE credits from programs presented by the NJCCA. Multiple opportunities exist to obtain your CLE credits through the NJCCA, including the Annual Full-Day Conference, held every September, CLE provided before the annual dinner and spring cocktail party, and numerous stand-alone programs throughout the year.
A number of amendments were made to R. 1:38 (“Public Access to Court Records and Administrative Records”) to include or exclude certain categories of documents that are available to the public as court records, and, at R. 1:38-11 (“Sealing of Court Records”), revised the procedures for obtaining a court order to seal documents that are not otherwise exempt from public access under the Rule.
Amendments also were made to Rules 1:5-2, 1:18B-1, 1:20-1(b) and (c), 1:26 (deleted), 1:28, 1:28B-1, and 1:36-3. Summary discussions of these Rule amendments may be found in the Publisher’s Preface to the 2011 edition of the “Rules Governing the Courts of the State of New Jersey” (Gann 2010).
Amendments to Part II – Appellate Practice
R. 2:2-3(a)(3) (“Appeals to the Appellate Division from Final Judgments, Decisions, Actions and from Rules; Tax Court”) was amended to provide that an order compelling arbitration, whether the action is dismissed or stayed, constitutes a final judgment for purposes of appeal.
R. 2:5-6(c) (“Appeals from Interlocutory Orders, Decisions and Actions” “Notice to the Trial Judge or Officer; Findings”) was amended to more specifically state the various grounds upon which a trial court or agency may comment upon whether a motion for leave to appeal should be granted.
Amendments to Part IV – Civil Practice: Law and Chancery Divisions
R. 4:6-2 was amended to clarify that certain defenses, as provided in R. 4:6-3, must be asserted in an answer before they can be raised by motion.
R. 4:18-1 (“Discovery and Inspection of Documents and Property, Copies of Documents”) was extensively revised. These amendments may be the most significant of all of the newly-adopted changes to the Court Rules and I strongly suggest that anyone whose company is involved in litigation in New Jersey Superior Court study these amendments and become fully familiar with them. Most significantly, an entirely new provision, subsection (c), was added, requiring the person responding to a document request to provide a “Certification or Affidavit of Completeness” whereby the responding party certifies or avers that the response is complete and accurate based on personal knowledge and/or information provided by others, whose identities and source of knowledge shall be disclosed. This is a major deviation from the prior rule and document production practice which did not require such a certification or affidavit. Additionally, the Rule now specifies, at newly-created subpart (b)(2) (“Procedure for Response”) that the written response must be made by the party (if an individual) or an officer or agent of a party (if a governmental, commercial, or charitable entity); this replaces the prior practice whereby the party’s attorney could sign the written document response. The Rule amendment also clarifies the parties’ continuing obligation to supplement their responses, as appropriate, upon obtaining additional responsive documents, and disallows “general objections to the request as a whole…”
R. 4-24-1(c) (“Time for Completion of Discovery” “Extensions of Time”) was amended to mandate that the proposed form of order submitted with a motion to extend discovery describe the discovery to be completed and the proposed dates for completion, and whether the adverse parties consent (previously, the rule did not require that this information be included within the proposed form of order).
R. 4:36-3(c) (“Trial Calendar” “Adjournments, Expert Unavailability”) was amended to more clearly provide that a party cannot make a subsequent request for an adjournment of a trial if the stated reason for a prior adjournment was the expert’s unavailability.
The Offer of Judgment Rule (R. 4:58) was significantly amended through the inclusion of an entirely new Rule 4:58-5 (the prior R. 4:58-5 was re-designated as R. 4:58-6); the new R. 4:58-5, entitled “New Trial,” sets forth the procedures for renewal of a previously-served offer of judgment in the event that the action is required to be retried.
Several amendments were made to R. 4:59-1(c)(“Execution” “Order of Property Subject to Execution; Required Motion”), including new subsection (c)(1) (“Execution First Made Out of Personal Property; Motion”), which sets forth the procedure for a judgment creditor to file a motion for execution upon real property if the debtor’s personal property is insufficient to satisfy the judgment or cannot be located (note: former paragraph (c) was recast as (c)(2)). Subsection (g) of the Rule was amended to make clear that notice of levy must be sent to the debtor at the debtor’s last known address. With regard to exemptions from levy, the amendment clarifies that the notice needs to set forth only with respect to “qualified persons” how exemptions from levy may be claimed.
A significant change was made to residential foreclosure procedures, pursuant to R. 4:64-1 (“Uncontested Judgment; Foreclosures Other Than In Rem Tax Foreclosures”) at subpart (d) (“Procedure to Enter Judgment”). Among other things, a motion for entry of judgment must be served on each tenant with a “Notice of Tenants’ Rights During Foreclosure” attached thereto in the form prescribed by Appendix XII-K of the Rules. Note that R. 4:65-2 (“Notice of Sale; Posting and Mailing”) was amended to require that a notice of sale of residential property also have the Notice of Tenants’ Rights During Foreclosure attached to it.
Amendments were also made to Rules 4:4-2, 4:4-4(b)(1), 4:4-5, 4:4-7, 4:5-1, 4:11(b), 4:21A-4(f), 4:26-5(c), 4:23-5(a)(1) and (3), 4:32-2(h), 4:42-9(a)(5) and (8), 4:42-11(a), 4:57-3, 4:64-1(f), 4:64-9, 4:74-3, 4:80-3(b), and 4:89-3. Summary discussions of these Rule amendments may be found in the Publisher’s Preface to the 2011 edition of the “Rules Governing the Courts of the State of New Jersey” (Gann 2010).
Amendments to Part VI – Special Civil Part
R. 6:2-3(b) (“Service of Process” “Manner of Service”) was amended with respect to the procedures for substituted service of process in summary actions for recovery of premises.
A new subpart (b) was added to R. 6:7-1 (entitled “Contents of Writs of Execution and Other Process for the Enforcement of Judgments”) to provide protection to exempt funds deposited into the account of the judgment debtor. In addition, subpart (c) (“Notice to Debtor”) was amended to eliminate the requirement that an officer file a copy of the notice to debtor with the court when executing upon a bank levy.
A non-substantive amendment was also made to R. 6:4-3, expressing in affirmative language the discovery allowed in the small claims section.
Amendments to the Civil Case Information Statement
Finally, it should be noted that the prescribed form of Civil Case Information Statement was amended. The amended form may be obtained from the judiciary’s web site, www.judiciary.state.nj.us under “Legal Practice Forms.”
Mr. Aronds is President-Elect of the NJCCA.