Three New Grants of Review by the Supreme Court

The Supreme Court announced yesterday that it has granted review in two new cases.  The first is Willner v. Vertical Reality, Inc.  The question presented there, as phrased by the Supreme Court Clerk’s Office, is “Among other issues, was plaintiff entitled to attorney’s fees and costs from defendant ASCO Numatics, Inc. under the offer of judgment rule, R. 4:58-2, where the liability apportioned to ASCO Numatics, Inc. did not exceed the offer of judgment?”  In an unpublished per curiam opinion, the Appellate Division affirmed the Law Division’s grant of fees and costs under the offer of judgment rule.  That rule is often confusing, so Supreme Court review of this appeal may help clarify the law in an area that can be muddled.

The second appeal is a criminal case, State v. Bartlom.  There, the question presented is “Was defendant deprived of a meaningful opportunity to present a complete defense when the trial court denied her motion to reopen her case (to provide testimony from a prior co-defendant who had been acquitted) and her subsequent motion for a new trial?”  Applying abuse of discretion review, the Appellate Division, in an unpublished per curiam decision, affirmed the ruling against defendant.

The third grant of review was announced nearly two weeks ago, but since I’ve been out for a number of days in the recent period I’m only now catching up.  That appeal is In re Joint Letter Decision on ACPE Docket No. 29-2016, UPL Docket No. 12-2016, and CAA Docket No. 65-2016.  As its title implies, this case involves a joint ruling by multiple bodies, the Advisory Committee on Professional Ethics, the Committee on Unauthorized Practice of Law, and the Committee on Attorney Advertising.

The question presented is “If JAMS, an independent alternative dispute resolution and third-party neutral services provider, opens an office in New Jersey, must it comply with the Rules of Court and the Rules of Professional Conduct applicable to attorneys engaged in the private practice of law, including RPC 7.5 (governing law firm names), RPC 5.4 (prohibiting shared ownership or fees with non-attorneys), and Rule 1:21-6 (establishing trust and business bank accounts and recordkeeping requirements)?”  This is a type of case that the Court rarely encounters.  It should be an interesting one.