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August 6, 2013

Re:      S-2340, Expands Ability of Court Order Attorney Fees and Types of Filings
            Considered Frivolous

Dear Mayor:

The League strongly supports S-2340, sponsored by Senator Rice, which would expand the ability of the court to order attorney fees, and also expands the types of filings that could be considered frivolous.

Municipalities deal with numerous lawsuits as a matter of course.  Unfortunately some of these suits have little or no merit, and are filed as part of a political vendetta or as an attempt to access what some assume are the public body’s “deep pockets”.  These suits cost time and taxpayer money and force towns to devote resources to defend them that could better be directed elsewhere.

This bill would alleviate some of those issues.  S-2340 expands what constitutes a “frivolous filing”.  This would include any pleading which was commenced, used or continued for the purpose of retaliation against the assertion of a legitimate claim against individuals or organizations who in good faith communicate information to any public entity on any issue that is reasonably of concern to the individual, to the public or the organization.  Currently, the law only covers complaints, counterclaims, cross-claims, and defenses.  The new definition of frivolous filings also includes claims, motions, pre-trial affidavits or other pleadings, or portions thereof.  

S-2340 also clarifies the definition of reasonable attorney fees to include litigation cost, including expenses for experts and counsel fees, prejudgment interest and any consequential damages that are proximately related to the frivolous action.  In addition to assessing reasonable attorneys’ fee and cost the court may issue directives of non-monetary nature which are intended to deter repetition of the conduct that resulted in the violation.

Finally, S-2340 would permit a party or attorney to be sanctioned for frivolous pleadings not just the non-prevailing party. 

We thank Senator Rice for sponsoring this bill, which waits consideration by the Senate Judiciary Committee, as it would help municipalities save money and resources by tamping down the number of frivolous lawsuits they are forced to defend.

If you have any questions or need additional information please do not hesitate to contact League Staff Attorney Ed Purcell at 609-695-3481 x137 or epurcell@njslom.org.

Very truly yours,

William G. Dressel, Jr.
Executive Director

 

 

 

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