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WHAT DOES IT MEAN TO BE CERTIFIED BY THE NEW JERSEY SUPREME COURT AS A MUNICIPAL COURT TRIAL ATTORNEY?

Before I had the privilege to sit for, and pass, a lengthy written examination to become a Certified Municipal Court Trial Attorney, I had to complete an exhaustively detailed application designed to demonstrate, not only that I have devoted a substantial portion of my practice to municipal court law, but that I also enjoy a reputation amongst Judges and Attorneys for my ethical conduct and effective client advocacy.

Of the more 93,000 attorneys licensed to practice law in New Jersey, only about 2 in every 10,000 are experts, certified by the Supreme Court of New Jersey in Municipal Court Law. Hundreds of Municipal Courts throughout the State have the responsibility to adjudicate DWI-DUI, as well as non-indictable drug offenses, simple assaults and other petty offenses proscribed by the State Criminal Code. Although the Municipal Courts also adjudicate violations of local ordinances, the largest class of violations adjudicated in the Municipal Court –by far –are for alleged violations proscribed by our Motor Vehicle (Traffic) Statutes.  Many municipal court defendants can, if convicted, be sentenced to serve a jail term for up to 180 days, can lose their driving privileges for several years, and pay hundreds, if not thousands of dollars in fines and surcharges.

HERE IS WHAT WAS REQUIRED OF ME IN THE INITIAL CERTIFICATION APPLICATION PROCESS:

203:4  Municipal Court Law Requirements.  The applicant must establish that he or she:

(a) Has devoted a significant portion of his or her professional time to the area municipal court practice.

(b) Has devoted a substantial portion of his or her professional time to the preparation of a minimum of thirty litigated  matters per year venued in municipal courts of New Jersey, for the three years immediately preceding the filing of the application;

(c) Has had primary responsibility, since plenary admission to the bar, for a minimum of ten contested actions in New Jersey municipal courts that were, in the opinion of the Board, substantially submitted to the trier of fact; and

(d) The ten contested actions must include a minimum of six municipal court trials resolving allegations related to driving while intoxicated or refusal.

(e) Definitions.  For the purpose of meeting the requirements of this Regulation, the following definitions apply:

(1) Contested actions.  To qualify as a “contested action,” a matter must be one in which the trier of fact can only decide the issue or issues presented and is adversarial in nature, involving charges, claims, issues, or consequences related to the prosecution of a municipal court summons, complaint, and/or citation.

(i) The types of matters that will qualify as contested actions are those that are adjudicable in municipal court, which include: motor vehicle and traffic violations; disorderly persons, petty disorderly persons, or other non-indictable offenses; local ordinance violations; fish, game, and boating violations; penalty collection proceedings; trial-type hearings in municipal court, including plenary motions, motions to suppress, and Alcotest; and other matters authorized by statute or Court Rule to be under the subject matter jurisdiction of the municipal court.

(2) Litigated matters.  Litigated matters include contested actions as defined in this Regulation but need not have been tried to conclusion before the trier of fact. The Board will consider matters that were resolved prior to trial when the applicant completely prepared the case for trial through motion practice, discovery, client interview, and plea negotiations. Municipal court appeals also may be considered as litigated matters.  Any litigated matters listed may not be the  same case as listed as a contested action.

(3) Submission to trier of fact.  A substantial number of the ten cases required by this Regulation must have been tried to conclusion as to the applicant’s clients.  In addition, the Board may consider cases that were settled or resolved prior to judgment or verdict, but only when the applicant completely prepared the case for trial by motion practice and extensive discovery.

(f) Time limitations.  The ten contested actions may be cases that have been handled and concluded at any time between the date of the applicant’s plenary admission to the practice of law and the date of the application for certification.

(g) Required information.  The applicant shall submit the following information on a form adopted by the Board:

(1) Substantial involvement in litigation/litigated matters.  The applicant shall present a brief summary of each of the 90 matters prepared for trial or tried within the three years immediately preceding the application, listing 30 matters in each of those three years.  The matters submitted shall fairly reflect the type of cases for which the applicant was responsible.  The summary shall include the following:

  1. i)  caption and docket/summons number of the case;
  2. ii) date of disposition;

iii)  nature of action or proceeding;

  1. iv)  names and addresses of all counsel;
  2. v)   name of judge;
  3. vi)  number of trial days;

vii)  point at which the proceedings were terminated; and

viii) any additional information the applicant may deem to be relevant.

(2) Applicant’s ten contested actions.  The applicant shall present the following details on the ten contested actions submitted pursuant to this Regulation:

  1. i)   caption and docket/summons number of the case;
  2. ii)  date of disposition;

iii)  name of judge;

  1. iv)  nature of action or proceeding;
  2. v)   principal issues involved;
  3. vi)  significant pretrial or post-trial motions or appeals;

vii)  significant discovery and/or trial issues or techniques;

viii)  status at which matter terminated;

  1. ix)  number of trial days;
  2. x)   role in proceedings;
  3. xi)  outcome of proceedings;

xii)  names and addresses of all counsel; and

xiii) any additional information the applicant may deem to be relevant.

 

AN ATTORNEY CERTIFIED BY THE NEW JERSEY SUPREME COURT AS A MUNICIPAL COURT TRIAL ATTORNEY MUST FIRST DEMONSTRATE POSSESSING A HIGH DEGREE OF COMPETENCE IN THIS SPECIALIZED AREA OF THE LAW IN THE OPINIONS OF JUDGES AND FELLOW ATTORNEYS.

 

REGULATION 204. Professional Reputation

204:1  Applicant’s submission; … Municipal Court Law.

(a)  Each applicant shall submit as references the names and addresses of eight members of the bench or bar of this State who can attest to the applicant’s competence as an attorney in the area of practice in which certification is being sought.  Members of the bar whose names are submitted for such purpose must be substantially engaged in that area of practice.  Three references shall be from judges who have observed the applicant’s skills in the three years preceding the filing of the application. Five references shall be from members of the bar who have been an adversary or co-counsel with the applicant in trial.

(1) in the case of municipal court practice applications, “members of the bench” refer to judges of the municipal court.

(b)  At least two references shall be from attorneys who represented opposing parties, one of whom shall have represented an opposing party in a “contested action” or a “contested matrimonial law trial” as defined in these Regulations, and another of whom shall have represented an opposing party in a “litigated matter” or a “contested matrimonial law hearing” within the three years immediately preceding the filing of the application.

(c)  An applicant may not submit as a reference the name of any member of the bench or bar with whom the applicant has or had been formally associated in the practice of law.

(d)  Justices of the Supreme Court and members of the Board and the Certification Committees are not eligible as references for an applicant.

204:2  Reference letters.  The Secretary shall forward forms of reference letters to each member of the bench or bar or other professional listed on the application as a reference with the request that the reference complete and return the letter directly to the Board.  All replies shall be held confidential by the Board.

204:3 Board and Certification Committee inquiries.  The Board and the appropriate Certification Committee may, in their discretion, make any inquiry deemed advisable in respect of the applicant’s professional qualifications and reputation.

 

IT WAS NECESSARY, PRIOR TO OBTAINING MY CERTIFICATION IN MUNICIPAL COURT LAW, TO DEMONSTRATE MY EDUCATIONAL EXPERIENCE IN THIS AREA OF PRACTICE AND MANDATORY CONTINUING LEGAL EDUCATION WHICH MUST FOCUS ON MUNICIPAL COURT LAW AND ETHICS:

REGULATION 205.  Educational Experience

 

205:1  General Requirements.  An applicant shall submit information demonstrating a completion of a specified number of hours of continuing legal education, approved and accredited for continuing legal education credits by the Board on Continuing Legal Education, specifically in the area of certification applied for or in ethics and professionalism within the three years immediately preceding the application.

The Board and/or Certification Committees shall review an applicant’s submitted continuing education courses to ensure that the applicant has limited the credits required for certification to the area of specialty sought, exclusive of the credits obtained toward fulfillment of ethics/professional responsibility and professionalism credits as required under the mandatory continuing legal education program.  The Board reserves the right to review and approve, on a case by case basis, other forms of educational activities that may not have been accredited under the mandatory continuing legal education program.

 

 

205:5  Municipal Court Law Requirements.  In addition to the general requirements of this Regulation, those seeking certification in Municipal Court Law must demonstrate in the three years preceding the application a minimum of thirty-six hours of continuing legal education courses in municipal court practice, at least twelve credits of their education requirement having been devoted to DWI and refusal issues.  Those courses taken in ethics/professional responsibility and professionalism in fulfillment of the mandatory continuing legal education requirement can be included in the thirty-six credits required under this Regulation

205:6  Evaluation Criteria.  The Board shall apply the following criteria in establishing the substance of any listed educational experience:

(a)  Programs given prior approval by the Board on Continuing Legal Education shall automatically qualify towards establishing an applicant’s substantial educational involvement, so long as they are in the area of certification applied for or are approved for accreditation in ethics/professional responsibility and professionalism;

(b)  Programs that advance the education and expertise of the attorney in the area of specialty certification sought will qualify as meeting the educational requirements of this regulation.

(c)  The Board reserves the right to require an applicant to submit additional information on any program, including but not limited to, copies of the written materials and a list of the instructors, to determine its applicability to the area of specialty certification sought.

(d)  The Board will review and may approve, on a case by case basis, educational activities that have not been accredited under the mandatory continuing legal education program that relate to the applicant’s practice and specialty.

205:7  Continuing Legal Education Obligations of Certified Attorneys.

(a)  General Requirements.  Certified attorneys shall satisfy their continuing legal education obligation required under this Regulation by completing a minimum of sixty credits of CLE programs that are directly related to the designated area of practice covered by the attorney’s certification and that have been approved for accreditation by the Board on Continuing Legal Education for CLE credits.    Attorneys who are certified in more than one area of practice must fulfill a minimum of 90 credits of continuing legal education in their area of specialty certification. Those courses taken in ethics/professional responsibility and professionalism in fulfillment of the mandatory continuing legal education requirement can be included in the sixty credits required under this Regulation.

(b)  The Board shall evaluate attorney involvement on a case-by-case basis. The Board will review and may approve, on a case by case basis, educational activities that have not been accredited under the mandatory continuing legal education program that relate to the applicant’s practice and specialty. The Board reserves the right to require an applicant to submit additional information on any program, including but not limited to, copies of the written materials and a list of the instructors, to determine its applicability to the area of specialty certification sought. Failure to comply with this Regulation is grounds for revocation of the attorney’s certification or for a refusal to recertify that attorney.

(c)  Matrimonial Law Requirements.  The certified attorney must demonstrate that he or she has completed no fewer than 75 hours of continuing legal education programs, which must include satisfying the following:

(1)  Not less than thirty (30) of the required credits must be satisfied by completion of approved educational programs in the areas of dissolution of marriage, child support, spousal support, or modification of support, contempt or enforcement, equitable distribution or property division, or taxation issues incident to dissolution of marriage or matters addressed by the Prevention of Domestic Violence Act.

(2)  Not less than twelve (12) of the required credits must be satisfied by completion of approved educational programs in the area of custody of children.

(3)  Not less than six (6) of the required credits must be satisfied by completion of approved educational programs in the area of evidence.

(4)  Not less than six (6) of the required credits must be satisfied by completion of approved educational programs in the area of mediation, complimentary dispute resolution, psychological and counseling aspects of dissolution of marriage.

(5)  Those courses taken in ethics/professional responsibility and professionalism in fulfillment of the mandatory continuing legal education requirement can be included in the 75 credits required under this Regulation.

 

THE APPLICATION IS SCRUTINIZED, AND IF IT IS ACCURATE AND COMPLETE, ONLY THEN WAS I PERMITTED TO SIT FOR THE WRITTEN EXAMINATION, THAT REQUIRES KNOWLEDGE OF BOTH PROCEDURAL AND SUBSTANTIVE MUNICIPAL COURT LAW, PARTICULARLY DWI LAW, TRIAL PRACTICE AND THE RULES OF EVIDENCE:

REGULATION 207.   

Review of Application; Determination of Eligibility for Examination.

207:1  Perfection of Application.  After the filing of an attorney’s application and reference forms, the appropriate Certification Committee shall determine whether additional inquiries are necessary.  Any further information requested of the applicant must be submitted forthwith.  On satisfaction that the application is complete, the Certification Committee shall determine whether the attorney is eligible to take the certification examination.

207:2  Notification.  The Secretary shall notify each applicant in writing of the Certification Committee’s determination regarding eligibility for the examination.

207:3  Eligibility; duration. An applicant found eligible must successfully complete the examination requirements within eighteen months of the date of the Secretary’s notification.  If eligibility expires, the applicant must file a new application for certification.

207:4  Ineligibility; review by Board.  An applicant who is found ineligible to sit for the examination shall be notified of those areas in which he or she did not meet the program’s requirements.  Any applicant may supplement his or her application to correct deficiencies, but such supplemental materials must be submitted within fourteen days of the date of the Secretary’s notification.  An applicant who has been notified that he or she is ineligible to take the examination shall have fourteen days within which to petition the Board for review of the Committee’s determination.  The applicant shall submit twelve copies of his or her petition to the Secretary who shall present it to the Board for its consideration.  The Board may seek such additional information as it may, in its discretion, determine is necessary for an appropriate disposition of the application.

 

PART THREE – EXAMINATIONS

REGULATION 301.  Written Examination

301:1  General Requirements.  Each applicant shall be required to complete successfully a written examination that is drafted by the appropriate Certification Committee and approved by the Board.  Only applicants who have complied with the requirements of Part Two of these Regulations shall be eligible to take the written examination in a designated area of practice.

301:2  Application Form.  An applicant notified of eligibility for examination pursuant to this Regulation shall be contemporaneously forwarded an application for admission to the written examination. The applicant shall be required to state an intention to sit for the examination.

301:3  Examination Fee.  The returned application for admission to the written examination shall be accompanied by a non-refundable check or money order in an amount determined by the Board, made payable to the Secretary, Board on Attorney Certification.

301:4  Time and Place.  The written examinations shall be prepared by the appropriate Certification Committee and shall be administered once each year by the Board.  The time and location shall be set by the Board, and notification of the time and location shall be sent in writing to each applicant.

301:5  Examination Format.  The examination may be in one or more of the following formats:  videotaped scenarios requiring essay answers, written essay questions, short answer questions,

shall inform the applicants of the format of each examination.

301:6  Scope of Examination.  The examination shall include general practice and litigation skill questions in the designated area of practice.  Areas covered in the examinations may include the following:

 

[PLEASE NOTE THAT THE LIST IS NOT INTENDED TO BE MORE THAN A GUIDE AND IS NOT ALL-INCLUSIVE.]

 

  1.  MUNICIPAL COURT LAW

 

  • Driving While Intoxicated and refusal Statutes and Case Law.
  • Other Title 39 offenses.
  • Alcotest and Breathalyzer Issues.
  • Rules of Evidence and Procedure.
  • Jurisdiction, Service of Process, and Procedure.
  • Pre-trial Procedure.
  • Pre- and Post-trial Motions.
  • Bail, Search Warrants and Suppression.
  • Municipal Court Appeals.
  • Arraignments, Pleas, Sentencing, and Judgment.
  • Pre-trial Discovery.
  • Ordinance Violations
  • Disorderly Persons, Petty Disorderly Persons and Other Non-Indictable Laws and Offenses.
  • Fish, Gaming, and Boating Laws and Offenses.
  • Traffic offense legal issues.
  • Civil Penalties; other collateral consequences of pleas/convictions.
  • Rules Governing Practice in Municipal Court, Rule 7:1 to 7:14.
  • All other substantive, evidential and procedural areas of law within the jurisdiction of the municipal court.
  • Rules of Professional Conduct.

 

 

I PASSED!!!

I AM NOW A CHARTER MEMBER OF A SELECT FEW ATTORNEYS WHO HAVE BEEN CERTIFIED BY THE SUPREME COURT OF NEW JERSEY AS A MUNICIPAL COURT TRIAL ATTORNEY