Recently, MSJDN members and rule change leaders Jennifer Talley and Katie McDonough have been working overtime to rally support for a military spouse bar accommodation policy in New Jersey. Most notably, two articles featured the work of the New Jersey team in responding to a state Supreme Court committee that voted against a military spouse accommodation policy drafted by its own subcommittee.

In January 2013, the New Jersey MSJDN group submitted a proposed rule to Chief Justice Stuart Rabner that would provide temporary admission of military spouse attorneys to the New Jersey bar. The Chief Justice referred MSJDN’s proposal to a Military Spouse Attorney Bar Admission Subcommittee. The Subcommittee proposed a rule allowing for temporary admission, with changes to the MSJDN rule. The full Civil Practice Committee voted 13 to 10 against the Subcommittee rule, citing the need for more information and recommending specific changes to the Subcommittee rule, should the Supreme Court choose to adopt the rule.

On March 17, Jennifer responded to the committee report in a New Jersey Bar Journal op-ed calling for support from the New Jersey bar:

“Caring for active duty service members and their families is something many Americans support, but few understand. In this case, responding to the needs of the relatively few military spouse attorneys who come through New Jersey will give them the opportunity to live with their families while minimizing the inevitable interruptions to their legal careers. Speaking out for this rule change is a significant way that the New Jersey bar can support the spouses of the men and women who defend our nation. This is not an expansion of reciprocity. Rather, it is a sound public policy choice to assist the few lawyers married to those who serve in the Garden State.”

That rallying cry was amplified by a piece featured by the Seton Hall Law Alumni Program — Katie, Jennifer and both their spouses are Seton Hall Law graduates. In the article, Katie explains why she was lucky, but not every military family is:

“Michael and I are lucky to work in the same area; we have been the exception to the rule,” said McDonough. “But relocation is a reality for military families. Fellow attorneys who are married to service members should not have to jeopardize their livelihood by living with their spouses, who are ordered to move every two to three years. Rather, it is good policy to allow qualified military spouse attorneys to practice temporarily while in New Jersey due to military orders as long as they are admitted in at least one state and in good standing there.”

Katie and Jennifer are gathering letters of support and testimonials from members of the New Jersey bar, military spouses, and interested community members to include with MSJDN’s response to the Civil Practice Committee’s report. All letters are due to MSJDN by April 9 and can be sent to njmsjdn@gmail.com or jtalley@trenklawfirm.com.

This is the time for military spouse attorneys to speak out and support a rule change accommodation in New Jersey. Please consider writing a letter of support to be submitted to the Supreme Court of New Jersey.

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