Below is the text of the letter sent to Gov. Murphy this morning urging law firms and lawyers be deemed essential and remain open under his executive order.
A copy of the letter can also be found here.
Dear Governor Murphy:
We appreciate the heroic efforts that you and your administration are undertaking in these unprecedented times. We also acknowledge that each of us will be required to sacrifice to ensure that we limit the damage, both human and economic, that will be caused by this pandemic.
We understand that you are poised to issue a statewide directive today, to supersede the numerous local directives, to provide uniformity in how we as residents and business owners of our great state prepare to move forward and contain the spread of COVID-19.
While the Courts remain open, as they must, to preserve the rights of our citizens and enforce the laws and Executive Orders as necessary, lawyers and law firms are an integral part of ensuring that people have access to justice, especially in these critical and uncertain times. In just a few short weeks, we are being inundated with client needs that range from domestic violence, child custody and matrimonial issues; to landlord and tenant matters; to employment issues from both employers and employees; to credit and financial issues; to contract issues that include medical and life insurance questions to business insurance disputes, to name only a few.
We are prepared to engage our mass disaster program, a statewide effort that has been called in to action for other statewide emergencies, like Superstorm Sandy and 9/11, to help ensure that victims of this pandemic have access to a lawyer. As officers of the Court, however, we have the ethical and professional responsibility to provide representation using all means necessary to help people achieve critical results and have access to justice. The reality is more than two-thirds of New Jersey's legal community operate in solo or small firm practices of under 10 attorneys, and most are not set up for their offices to be completely operating remotely. For most firms, some critical staff are still needed in the office in order to provide effective representation.
As they need access to banks and insurance representatives, people will also need effective counsel prepared to assist them, with every tool they have available, as they navigate through these unchartered waters.
While we recognize that Pennsylvania's Executive Order did not include law firms as essential businesses, and New York's Executive Order is pending, we encourage you to look to what California and Illinois have already put in place as a model, and deem lawyers and law firms as essential businesses.
Very truly yours,
Evelyn Padin, Esq.
President, New Jersey State Bar Association