The DCPP (formerly DYFS) Central Registry is a database that the State maintains as a record of adults who have abused or neglected children in New Jersey. DCPP practitioners have long had concerns about how the Central Registry works. In response to some of those concerns, DCPP formulated new regulations about governing investigation findings and the Central Registry. Please consult our “DCPP Investigations and Litigation” section for a series of new articles on the new regulations.
In 2012, the Division of Youth and Family Services, commonly known by its acronym “D.Y.F.S.”, changed its name to the Division of Child Protection and Permanency. D.C.P.P., as it is now known, appears to be nothing more than the same organization with a new name. The personnel, the tactics and the results are the same, especially where “low-risk families” are concerned.
In recent years, DCPP has used the “Order to Show Cause for Investigation” to obtain restraints on parenting time, and to obtain court ordered evaluations. DCPP’s attorneys recently conceded to the Appellate Division that this practice is not supported by New Jersey law. Only time will tell whether the Division will reform this practice.
The law requires a fact-finding hearing in every child protective lawsuit. The purpose of a fact-finding hearing is for the court to determine whether there was abuse or neglect of a child or children under New Jersey law. At that posture, a parent accused of abuse or neglect is entitled to a full evidential hearing (a trial). If the trial court finds against the parent, the parent then may appeal. This past week a parent was vindicated in the Appellate Division case of DYFS vs. FM and LM.
Howes & Howes is a small law firm located in the heart of New Jersey. We are in the twentieth year of service to clients in New Jersey. With two experienced lawyers and two top-notch legal assistants, we will continue to provide the same level of service to clients as we have for the past two decades, with some small changes due to the appointment of H&H partner Katherine Howes as Judge of the Bound Brook Municipal Court.
On January 1, 2011, Howes & Howes rang in the new year with a big accomplishment. Bound Brook Mayor Carey Pilato nominated H&H partner Katherine Howes to be the Judge of the Bound Brook Municipal Court. The borough council unanimously confirmed her. This is a part-time job. It will not cause any major changes in the practice or operation of Howes & Howes. We will still serve our clients here in New Jersey, just as we have since 1991.
Howes & Howes represents parents statewide. In a recent Hudson County case, the Division accused our client of perpetrating domestic violence, and the client’s spouse of failing to protect the children from the alleged domestic violence. The case was based almost entirely on the suspicions and hunches of the Division case worker. The case culminated in a fact-finding hearing. After two sessions of testimony, the trial court found no child abuse or neglect, and dismissed the case.
For years, DYFS has argued that the mere act of leaving a child unattended in a car means that a parent or guardian has committed child neglect. A recent decision of the New Jersey Appellate Division tells DYFS to wait just one minute. Leaving a child alone in a car is not in-and-of-itself grossly negligent, and therefore, is not neglect. Howes & Howes is involved in several such cases, and is prepared to defend a parent or guardian from allegations of neglect.
Howes & Howes has become one of the most active and respected election law firms in the State of New Jersey. We have been involved in many of the close elections and interesting legal issues in New Jersey in the past decade. And those that we are not directly involved in, we follow closely. In our new feature - NJ Election Law Blog - we will publish commentary on current cases and on developments in the law.
Online social networking has taken off in recent years. As more and more people establish Facebook accounts, society learns more about the advantages and disadvantages of online social networking. In New Jersey, the Division of Youth and Family Services has taken to monitoring Facebook pages. If you are involved with DYFS, what you say on Facebook can and will be used against you.
On March 25, 2011, the Somerset County Commission on the Status of Women will recognize Howes & Howes founder Kathy Howes as Somerset County’s Outstanding Woman in the Law for 2011. During her two decades in private practice in Somerset County, Kathy has given back in many ways to the county that has been so good to her. She has been an outstanding attorney and outstanding volunteer. Congratulations to Kathy Howes.
The Sayreville Republican Municipal Committee is an energetic group that has had success in a county dominated by the Democrats. When they needed legal assistance to replace a candidate on the ballot one month before the election, they contacted Howes & Howes. Within a week, the Sayreville GOP declared victory in the courtroom.
My first job after law school was in the Union County Prosecutor’s Office in Elizabeth NJ. It was a great job. I was on my feet in court before the end of my first week on the job. I started prosecuting juvenile crimes in the juvenile section after six months. Not long after that I was handling jury trials on the adult trial team. I gained a lot of trial experience as well as experience working with the local media. One of the cases that I remember as a little different was a robbery of a suburban grocery store by an ex-convict. He insisted that he was shoplifting, but we proved that he was committing a robbery. (Union County Courthouse pictured below.)
Howes & Howes offers families and small businesses top-notch trial practice. Our ability to try cases goes back to law school. My earliest participation in a substantial trial was in the matter of State vs. G.G. in Tangipahoa Parish Louisiana in the mid-1980s. I was one of several law students who assisted a law professor in defending G.G. against the charge that he murdered an on-duty Sheriff’s Officer. State v. G.G. matter introduced me to the nitty-gritty of trial practice. Photo: Historic Tangipahoa Parish Courthouse
Bayonne Mayor Mark Smith holds two public offices in the CIty of Bayonne. He simultaneously holds the office of Mayor and the subordinate office of Deputy Police Chief. New Jersey law has long prohibited this sort of dual office holding. Despite recent public outcry for Mr. Smith to choose between these two offices, he has refused to do so. The City of Bayonne has taken no action, so 31st District Assemblyman Anthony Chiappone (pictured below) has filed suit in Hudson County Superior Court.
Most New Jersey motorists know the basics about drinking and driving. That is, most people know that if you are convicted of drunk driving or refusal, that you will pay a fine, lose your driving privilege as well as pay surcharges and greatly increased auto insurance premiums. In some instances, however, New Jersey law sanctions a drunk driver as a felon or a child abuser. Please read this article before you drink and drive.
At Howes & Howes, we believe in giving back to the community that has supported us so well. Last year, Howes & Howes partner Kathy Howes ran in a contested election for a seat on the Peapack-Gladstone Borough Council, an election that she won. On Tuesday, January 5, 2010, Kathy will be sworn-in as the Twin Borough’s newest Borough Council member.
At Howes & Howes, we believe in giving back to the community that has supported us so well over the past seventeen years. By giving service we are giving thanks. At the same time, we are gaining insight and experience that will help up better serve you. This week, I was honored as I was chosen to serve as a member of the Transition Team for New Jersey Governor-elect Chris Christie. The photo depicts the Gold Dome of the New Jersey State Capitol.
I have been preparing to handle your legal matter for twenty-five years. Knowing the law and knowing how to find the law is only one part of the lawyer’s stock in trade. The law must be tempered by experience. From my work in a law firm while still in college to my time as a prosecutor to my years in private practice, I have accumulated different experiences and insights that help my clients. At decade’s end, we are taking stock of the successes - and disappointments - that have brought our firm to the new decade. (The photo depicts the Point-a-la-Hache ferry across the Mississippi River in Louisiana’s Plaquemines Parish.)
Assemblyman Anthony Chiappone represents New Jersey’s 31st Legislative District. He is a first rate public servant who has fought for fiscal accountability and teen driver safety, and against costly P.S.L.s. Tony’s political opponents have recycled some old allegations against Tony. Has now been indicted by a state grand jury. Assemblyman Chiappone has done nothing wrong. He has asked Howes & Howes to defend him against these allegations. On this website, we will provide regular updates on the status of this very important case.
On July 1, the Appellate Division ruled that “no entiendo” is no defense to the charge of refusing to take a breath test. A motorist who clearly did not speak English stated that he did not understand the standard DWI rights form. He did not take the breath test, then was tried and convicted for refusing to take a breath test. The court held that New Jersey law does not require the state to publish or the police to use a foreign language rights form when investigating a case of driving while intoxicated, and upheld the conviction.
The State of New Jersey is on the precipice. Tax revenues are down due to the effects of the recession. The Division of Youth and Family Services seems oblivious to the hard fact of declining resources. DYFS continues to increase the number of families that it supervises or seeks to supervise. Something has to give. What will be cut, and how will that effect your parental rights if you are involved with DYFS?
There is no doubt that both New Jersey and the nation are in a full-fledged recession. The need for legal services is blind to the economic realities of the day. Howes & Howes was born in a recession. We know how to provide effective and efficient legal services without taking the client’s last dollar. We know how to settle cases when it is in the client’s best interest. And if a legal matter must go to trial, we know how to do that too.
The Appellate Division of the Superior Court has rejected Maria Fernandes’s bid for an appeal the Law Division’s denial of her motion to dismiss the Sea Bright election challenge. The voters of Sea Bright will now get their day in court. Former Mayor Jo Ann Kalaka-Adams’ challenge will now proceed to trial.
Hoboken’s Frank “Pupie” Raia is a colorful local figure and a dedicated public servant. When he ran for the Democratic nomination for Hudson County Freeholder this year, a funny thing happened: The voting machine in his polling place was taken out of service after only one vote was cast. With fingers pointing in every direction, Mr. Raia is still trying to find out what happened to the paper ballots that were used in place of the machine.
When people under the age of 18 are charged with a serious offense, their case is heard by a Family Court judge. Juvenile court is supposed to be a kinder, gentler court, one more focused on rehabilitation than its adult counterpart. For that reason, juvenile cases are tried before a judge, not a jury. A recent ruling of the Kansas Supreme Court raises the question of whether juveniles have a right to a jury trial.
Howes & Howes client Debbie Ferrante-Rivera is the ideal candidate for Little Ferry Borough Council. She is bright, experienced, independent and energetic. Perhaps that is why the local political machine is afraid of her. The Little Ferry Democrats challenged her petition to run as an independent. After a full hearing, Ms. Ferrnate-Rivera’s petition was upheld. She will be on the ballot in November.
Former Mayor Jo-Ann Kalaka-Adams’ challenge to the result of the 2007 general election will proceed to trial. The opponent had filed a motion to dismiss Mayor Adams’ petition due to a perceived procedural technicality. The Superior Court judge hearing the case ruled that the case will continue forward. The voters of Sea Bright will now have a chance to see justice done.
Howes & Howes partner Katherine Howes offers a new service, one founded on nearly two decades matrimonial experience. As a professional divorce mediator, Ms. Howes will help separating couples settle their divorce in a confidential setting without expensive litigation. Watch for updates to this website for informative articles on mediation.
The New Jersey Supreme Court has made a ruling in State v. Chun. The Alcotest breath testing device used in New Jersey has been deemed to be reliable. All cases that were previously stayed (placed on hold) while the Supreme Court decided the Chun case must now be heard promptly in the municipal courts, and those special cases must follow a certain procedure outlined by the Administrative Office of the Courts.
Many times parents face two parts of the legal system simultaneously when they face DYFS litigation and criminal prosecution for the same actions. Often parents will choose to use the same attorney for both the criminal matter and the family court matter. DYFS has objected to the practice of dual representation in parallel or companion proceedings, and courts in different counties have made different rulings. A recent trial court decision out of Bergen County is the latest installment.
On February 11, 2008, the New Jersey Supreme Court decided the case of State v. Sloane. The high court’s decision expanded police powers to run background checks on the passengers of vehicles involved in a routine motor vehicle stop. The high court ruled that police do not need a reasonable suspicion to access the NCIC database to check the criminal background of passengers. This decision has the potential to change how New Jersey police conduct motor vehicle stops. How will New Jersey police use this new authority?
One of the many clients that Howes & Howes represented over the past year was a young man who was facing his third DWI as well as a summons for refusing to take a breat test. At trial, the municipal court found the client not guilty of driving while intoxicated, but found him guilty of refusing to provide a breath sample. We appealed. The Law Division granted the appeal, and found the client not guilty of refusal.
A number of New Jersey municipalities have passed ordinances restricting where convicted sex offenders may live in town. One such town, Cherry Hill,passed an ordinance banning offenders from living within 2,500 feet of any school, park, religious institution or place where children might gather. In March, a Superior Court Judge invalidated the ordinance, casting a shadow over the future of such ordinances.
Over the past few years, there has been complex and intense litigation in New Jersey over the use of the Alcotest 7110, which is the machine chosen by New Jersey for breath testing. Howes & Howes have been monitoring the litigation very closely. On February 13, 2007, a landmark 268-page report was published making recommendations for the final ruling by the New Jersey Supreme Court.
H&H client Julie Luster came one step closer to becoming a member of the Flemington Borough Council this week. The Hunterdon County Board of Elections completed the recount required by law. The results of the election did not change. Not yet, anyway. The next step would be an election contest in the Superior Court requesting that the court allow three previously disallowed votes from registered voters. Links for press coverage are below.
When the dust settled on Election Day, it appeared that Flemington Borough Council Candidate Julie Luster had lost her race by one vote. Ms. Lester wanted to make sure that every borough voter who went to the polls and cast a legal ballot has that vote counted. As such, she asked Howes & Howes to file a recount petition.
It is not perfect, but New Jersey Bill S-1259 is a good start. If passed and signed into law, it would create a special drivers license for use for work and school only. State Senator Shirley Turner sponsored the bill, and should be applauded for her support for motorists rights, but proposal of a bill is only the beginning.
Hundreds of millions of New Jersey public dollars and thousands of well-meaning police officers are invested in enforcing the Parking Offenses Adjudication Act (POAA), which is nothing more than a boondoggle for the inner cities. Those resources would be better directed at finding criminals and terrorists.
After hearing the State’s case in its entirety, a Warren County Superior Court Judge dismissed one count of first degree Possession with Intent to Distribute Marijuana against a Howes & Howes client. The client was exposed to a maximum of twenty years in State Prison on the dismissed charge.
At least four New Jersey towns ban sex offenders from living near schools, parks and playgrounds and others are considering these restrictions. Some sex offenders who have served their sentences are questioning the effectiveness and the legality of these bans.
In recent years, the New Jersey Legislature has made drunk driving law increasingly tougher, removing discretion from the prosecutor and from the judge. In a recent case, the Appellate Division has made it clear that police officers must comply with the constitution even when it turns out that the motorist was driving while intoxicated.
Despite the fact that she had collected more than enough signatures to qualify for the May 10, mayoral election, the City Clerk of Jersey City kept former City Councilwoman Melissa Holloway off of the ballot. The New Jersey Supreme Court did not let the City Clerk get away with it, and ordered him to place Ms. Holloway on the ballot.
While the media has focused on the political and moral issues raised by the Schiavo case, there is a very practical lesson for all of us: Make sure you have an enforceable living will.
The United States Supreme Court eroded our freedoms yesterday when it ruled that the police can use a canine sniff at the scene of a routine stop of a motor vehicle for a traffic violation. There is hope, however, because the New Jersey Constitution provides for individual protections that go beyond those that the United States Constitution provides.
The settlement in Nicholson v. Scoppetta ended the pitiless double abuse of removing children from the custody of mothers who were the victims of domestic violence in New York. This landmark case is likely to have implications here in New Jersey as DYFS struggles with domestic violence in custody, visitation, and abuse and neglect.
As the powers-that-be press municipal courts to increase collection of the Unsafe Driver Surcharge, motorists and the municipal court bar will react by taking more cases to trial.
There is a proposal working its way through the New Jersey legislature that would legalize the possession of hypodermic needles without a prescription. Supporters of the bill say it would protect public health. Opponents say that this is the first step toward drug legalization.
In order to balance the Fiscal Year 2005 Budget, the state government imposed a surcharge of $250 for every conviction for “unsafe driving”. This new surcharge is nothing more than a new tax on ordinary motorists.
The law that penalizes New Jersey motorists for driving without liability insurance violate the Equal Protection Clause of the United States Constitution, and should be struck down by the courts. Anyone charged with this offense should consider raising this issue in their defense.
The politicians in Trenton will never again be able to use long-term borrowing to pay for current operating expenses, thanks in part to Howes & Howes.