Services & Areas of Practice
An appeal in litigation cases is often taken to challenge an adverse ruling on appeal or to preserve a favorable ruling from a lower court or regulatory agency. The success of an appeal starts with the initial development of a comprehensive litigation strategy to position a case for successful resolution in trial proceedings.
Our appellate lawyers are highly experienced in providing concise and forceful appeal briefs and delivering persuasive oral arguments. We are able to identify and argue critical legal issues in light of the applicable standard of review and we have a solid track record of favorable appellate results, up to and including the New Jersey Supreme Court.
Our appellate clients include companies, individuals and governmental entities. Our firm has handled appeals across a wide range of subject areas, including:
- Commercial litigation
- Business transactions
- Construction and contract disputes
- Local public contracts law
- Criminal matters
- Municipal appeals
- Appeals of administrative and agency decisions
Having appellate experience brings significant benefits early in the trial process, especially in venues where error preservation is critical to pursuing an argument on appeal. As a result, our litigators can handle time sensitive tasks that can arise both before and during trial. Examples include:
- Handling temporary injunctions and the appeal from the court’s ruling granting or denying such relief
- Preparing motions to certify issues (in federal court)
- Developing legal strategies and identifying strengths of weaknesses of claims and defenses
- Preparing or responding to discovery and evidentiary motions
- Preparing or responding to motions for summary judgment and other dispositive motions
- Preparing and responding to trial briefs and post-trial motions
- Preparing and responding to proposed jury instructions
- Monitoring trial to assist in preserving appellate arguments, particularly when the case poses a high risk of an adverse jury verdict
- Handling mandamus actions or interlocutory appeals prior to trial
Alternative Dispute Resolution
State and Federal litigation court cases involve time and money that not everyone has to devote to such an arduous and lengthy procedure. Luckily, New Jersey’s judiciary and attorneys recognize that it is not always necessary for a dispute to wind up in court.
Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) has become very common in all areas of legal practice. Family attorneys use mediation and negotiation, forms of ADR, to negotiate terms of a divorce or child custody agreements. Businesses use mediation and arbitration as mechanisms to resolve disputes. Many business and union contracts specify the use of ADR procedures.
ADR is very effective in employment law disputes involving public, private employers and the armed services. Many clients enjoy the advantages of mediation, through a court appointed mediator in State Court, or through private mediation, where parties select a retired judge or attorney to serve as a neutral mediator. The parties agree to exchange information through a mediator, who goes back and forth between the parties, discussing the strengths and weaknesses of each parties’ position, in an attempt to reach an amicable resolution and settlement.
Arbitration is more formal. An arbitrator acts more like a judge, reviewing the information submitted by both sides and making an actual determination.
In either ADR setting, clients report that they enjoy the flexibility of the process, its cost savings (parties split the mediator’s fees), and the informal atmosphere. Moreover, cases that might take a year to two years to resolve through the Court system can be resolved in as little as two or three days.
Even where an ultimate resolution cannot be reached, the process itself assists attorneys and clients to streamline a case scheduled for trial, hashing out the strengths and weaknesses of particular causes of action, and enabling attorneys to benefit from the informal discovery ADR affords.
Our attorneys are trained negotiators, familiar with ADR procedures and have participated in ADR at the federal, state and local levels in a variety of cases, as well as mediating employment actions involving the Army and Navy.
Business & Commercial Law
Whether you are starting a business, have a thriving firm or want to expand your business through a merger, acquisition or franchise, our lawyers can help you with practical advice and strategic planning. We can help your business grow profitably while avoiding legal pitfalls, disputes and litigation. Our comprehensive business and commercial law services include counselling and representation regarding:
- Business planning and choice of entity: traditional corporate structure, such as a Subchapter C or S corporations, or alternative entities or vehicles, such as limited liability companies, partnerships, joint ventures, associations or business trusts.
- Employment law counselling and training, policies and agreements
- Business financing: working seamlessly with financial advisors, we can help your business attain the financing necessary for growth
- Corporate and business transactions, including purchases and sales of business and business assets, mergers and acquisitions, employment and severance agreements, agency contracts, licenses and concession agreements, franchise agreements and other sophisticated business transactions
- Real estate contracts
- Negotiation of business disputes, including alternative dispute resolution methods, and, if necessary, the prosecution or defense of litigation
Public Contracts and Construction Contracts
Bell & Shivas, P.C. focuses on all aspects of construction and public contracts law. Both of these areas of practice are inherently complicated by a plethora of broad and interrelated bodies of law. Construction law itself contemplates familiarity with labor unions, employment disputes, contracts, local and state governments and more. The New Jersey Public Contracts Law, N.J.S.A. 40A:11-1, et al. is one of the most litigated issues in New Jersey.
The inherent uncertainties and sheer monetary value of these matters require any person searching for any attorney in this area to ensure that they retain a firm with experience in these areas of practice.
Whether you are a contractor, bid solictee, small business, corporate entity, or state or local government, Bell & Shivas, P.C. offers clients experienced professionals familiar with all aspects of this type of litigation. Contrary to other firms, who serve solely as defense or plaintiff counsel in these type of matters, Bell & Shivas, P.C. is able to offer the invaluable experience that comes with having represented each side, as well as state and local governments.
Content for this section is being revised and updated to reflect service improvements. Bell & Shivas, P. C. asks visitors to check back on or around June 30, 2020.
If you have been charged with a crime, Bell & Shivas, P.C. can help. Whether charged with serious crime or a minor offense, a criminal charge has a devastating impact on your life and future employment. To protect yourself, you need to have a skilled attorney in your corner to protect your rights. We have successfully represented clients in all types of criminal cases.
In order to protect yourself, it is important to have a skilled criminal lawyer in your corner to protect your rights. Our firm handles all types of criminal cases, including drug crimes, such as drug possession, prescription drug offenses, theft crimes, shoplifting, auto theft, stolen property, assault, aggravated assault, sexual assaults, battery, aggravated battery, harassment, stalking, domestic assault, restraining orders, violation of restraining orders, juvenile offenses, white collar crimes, including all types of fraud, weapon and gun charges, parole violations, disorderly conduct, arrest warrants, bench warrants, sealing and expunging criminal records, and more.
Experienced Defense Attorneys
Members of our firm have an exceptional knowledge in the area of criminal law and are constantly educating themselves to better serve our clients. Our attorneys have many years of experience in criminal practice and boast resumes and backgrounds from both sides of the aisle, as well as having served in the judicial chambers as law clerks, an invaluable training ground.
We have found unique and effective defenses: failure to give Miranda rights, establishing a client’s alibi, challenging competency or credibility of witnesses, informants or the alleged victim, and excluding evidence seized in violation of your 4th Amendment Rights. We explore all grounds to dismiss the case, preclude grand jury indictment, exclude evidence or reduce the number of charges. Our knowledge of the courts and prosecutors enables us to negotiate a favorable plea bargain in the event that we are unable to have the charges dismissed. If you plead guilty or are found guilty at trial, we work every angle to mitigate the severity of the sentence. We have been very successful in convincing judges to exercise their discretion to dispense with jail or prison sentences, permit our clients to serve probation, allow entry into the drug court, serve a SLAP sentence in lieu of jail or complete a term in a rehabilitation facility.
Employment and Labor Law
Business owners and managers face employment and labor law issues on a daily basis over the broad array of Federal and State laws and regulations. The stakes in New Jersey Employment Law cases are high. Adverse employment actions can cost you your business, your livelihood and affect your future.
Our lawyers offer a wealth of experience and are uniquely positioned to act as your ‘outside general counsel’ to guide you on employment and labor issues because we have represented all potential parties to a dispute: individual plaintiffs, municipal and state governmental entities, along with businesses, corporations and labor unions. We have successfully represented our clients in State Superior Court, the Appellate Division, the New Jersey Supreme Court, Federal District Court and before administrative agencies, such as the National Labor Relations Board, the Social Security Administration, Unemployment, the Civil Service Commission and more.
Employment and labor law concerns any number of issues like:
- Employment contracts
- New Jersey Family Leave Act (NJFLA) and Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA)
- Minimum wage
- Health and safety issues in the workplace
- Employee benefits
- Harassment and/or discrimination based on race or color, ethnicity or national origin, sex or gender, pregnancy, religion or creed, political affiliation, language abilities, citizenship, disability or medical condition, age, sexual orientation or gender identity
Proactive Policy Development and Discrimination Lawsuit Defense
When an employee claims discrimination or harassment, employer liability may hinge on what policies were in place to discourage it, and how management responded to initial complaints.
Our firm provides both employment law consulting and litigation defense to employers in New Jersey. With experience on both sides of discrimination lawsuits, our lawyers provide astute legal counsel to help businesses protect themselves from future liability or vigorously defend a pending claim.
Employment Law Consulting
Our firm offers proactive solutions to avoid litigation and to make sure that employees’ workplace rights are protected and respected, including:
- Establishing company policies (e.g., hiring, termination, layoff procedures, FMLA and disability leave)
- Implementing response procedures and documentation protocols for employee complaints
- Policy manual/employee handbook drafting
- Training seminars for management or employees on sexual harassment and other topics
Litigation Defense counseling before an occurrence
Our attorneys have proven trial experience and extensive energy in preparation for settlement or trial to limit clients’ exposure to large damage awards. Because we have also handled plaintiff litigation, we can gauge the merits of the claim and prepare viable defenses for management. We go over every piece of internal documentation and interview supervisors or executives named in the suit. We have successfully countered claims of sexual harassment, hiring discrimination or wrongful termination at trial, or discreetly negotiated settlements that minimize the financial, internal and public relations impact.
Whatever your situation, our New Jersey employment and labor lawyers have the knowledge and abilities to help you seek an effective solution. The firm has been successful in assisting countless clients throughout the area.
Bell & Shivas, P.C. will help to protect your family, finances and future in an expedited manner. For most people involved in family legal disputes, it is their first encounter with the judicial system. The stakes in family court are high, and you should feel confident that you are retaining an attorney with the experience and credentials necessary to protect your rights. Our attorneys are experienced in all aspects of family law including:
- Domestic violence
Our approach is always to balance zealous representation with the sensitivity and compassion germane to family issues.
Business disputes can make or break your business. All of our attorneys are responsive and pragmatic in handling disputes, regardless of the size of the matter. Most importantly, our strategy begins with risk management, which includes a comprehensive understanding of your specific goals, including your financial considerations. While we are highly experienced litigators in all courts, some cases are more efficiently handled through negotiation or mediation or arbitration. We have appeared for business and governmental clients in state and federal courts in bench and jury trials and before administrative agencies.
Commercial and Business Litigation
- Shareholder and partnership disputes
- Business divorce
- Contract disputes
- Unfair competition and business interference
- Violation of restrictive covenants and injunctions
- Employment litigation
- Business and consumer fraud
- Regulatory actions including FINRA, FATCA
- Fraudulent transfer actions
Real Estate Litigation
- Contract disputes
- Construction litigation
- Land use and zoning litigation
- Landlord and tenant
- Fiduciary accounting
- Fraud and undue influence
Federal and state litigation, regulatory enforcement, and administrative action
White Collar Defense
- Federal and state criminal investigations and prosecutions
- Internal and regulatory investigations and prosecutions
- Strategies for compliance with federal and state regulations
- Representation of plaintiffs in cases involving significant injuries and complex liability issues (excluding products liability)
- Representation of defendants in high exposure cases
- Representation of parties seeking or opposing equitable relief including restraining orders and injunctions, and actions for specific performance
Alternative Dispute Resolution
- Mediation and arbitration as both advocates and neutrals
- Discovery master and special master services
Municipal Law & Local Government Affairs Law
Bell & Shivas, P.C. has extensive experience in the area of governmental law. Our firm has represented governmental entities for almost thirty (30) years. We presently serve as Warren County Counsel and municipal counsel for the Borough of Chatham, and the Borough of Florham Park. We also serve as Assistant Morris County Counsel, Rockaway Township Special Labor Counsel and more.
Our governmental law litigation representation covers the entire spectrum of claims from prosecution and defense of claims against or on behalf of a public entity. Our attorneys have extensive experience in this area and have appeared before State and Federal Courts, as well as before administrative agencies such as the Civil Service Commission, the NLRB and more.
In the broad field of governmental law, our experience and reputation are unrivaled. Joseph J. Bell has been selected to the list of NJ Super Lawyers on four (4) occasions in this area of the law and carries the distinction of having litigated these particular matters in almost every forum in the greater New Jersey Area.
Nonprofit & Tax Exempt Organizations
Content for this section is being revised and updated to reflect service improvements. Bell & Shivas, P. C. asks visitors to check back on or around June 30, 2020.
Personal Injury & Products Liability Law
Our attorneys help accident victims with personal injury cases, including slip and fall or premises liability, wrongful death, negligence and assault and battery. We also pursue claims of wrongful death and catastrophic injury from products that are defective, such as cases involving automobiles, motor vehicle component parts, motorcycles, all-terrain vehicles, consumer products and industrial equipment.
Being injured in an accident can have a devastating impact on your life, whether it is an auto accident, slip and fall, or some other type of mishap. You may need short or long-term medical care, including physical therapy, rehabilitative treatment, or even extended nursing care or physical assistance while you recover. You may lose days, weeks, or months at work, risking your job and causing financial hardship on yourself and your family. You also may face extensive, staggering medical bills. All of this difficulty may come at a time when you are in physical pain, suffering emotional trauma, and worried about your ability to recover both physically and financially.
If you are in this situation and your personal injuries were caused by another’s negligence, wrongdoing, drunk or drug-impaired driving, recklessness, aggressiveness, or some other misconduct, you may have grounds for a personal injury case. It is important that you consult with an attorney as soon as possible because there are time limitations t. Personal injury law exists to help you recover financial compensation for the damages you have suffered due to another’s negligent actions or inactions. Under personal injury law, the responsible party becomes liable for these damages, which can be pursued through a personal injury claim or lawsuit.
Our attorneys can review the facts and circumstances, advise you on your legal rights and options, and initia legal action on your behalf to recover damages that you may have sustained as a result of their negligence. Damages you may obtain will be based on the nature and extent of your injuries and may include past and future medical expenses, lost wages, pain and suffering, disability, and more.
By discussing your situation with an attorney at our firm, you can place all of the legal details of your accident and injuries into the hands of someone who knows how to negotiate or litigate on your behalf in order to obtain the maximum compensation to which you may be entitled.
We Care and We Work Harder
It’s important to us that our clients receive every dime they deserve for their medical expenses and lost earnings, as well as compensation for permanent disability, pain and suffering, or lost quality of life. We don’t just take the insurance company’s first offer. We hold fast and do the extra legwork to secure your full compensation.
If fault is not clear, we send investigators to the scene while the evidence is fresh and witnesses are willing to talk. In one case of contested liability, our extra efforts to uncover how a crash occurred resulted in a settlement offer for the full policy limits before we had even submitted the claim. In another accident case with catastrophic injuries, we settled for $900,000 by locating additional insurance coverage.
If you were seriously injured or a family member was killed, call us immediately at 973-442-7900 to start an investigation. We offer a free initial consultation, including home or hospital visits and weekend appointments.
Real Estate Law
We regularly represent individuals and businesses in purchasing and selling real estate.
We assist clients with drafting and reviewing leases and purchase agreements.
Land Use and Zoning
Our attorneys regularly appear before zoning and planning boards and other governing bodies and authorities on behalf of landowners and developers to get variances from zoning and subdivision approval for site plans. If necessary, aggressively litigate real estate and land use issues in the trial and appellate courts.
Real Estate Tax Appeals
In today’s economy, every dollar is important and the amount you pay on property taxes can have a huge impact on your finances. Property value is measured by the true value or market value. In other words, property taxes are assessed by what a knowledgeable buyer would pay a willing, knowledgeable seller on the open market at a bona fide sale as of the statutory October 1 pretax year assessment date. When the real estate market took a dive a few years ago property values dramatically decreased, but local governments are of course reluctant to voluntarily decrease the amount of taxes levied on a particular property.
The manner and means for assessing property taxes in New Jersey is governed by Article VIII, Section 1, paragraph 1 of the New Jersey Constitution and the implementing legislation found in N.J.S.A. 54:4-1 et seq. New Jersey tax payers have a right to file a property tax appeal on the assessment of their residential or commercial real estate.
For New Jersey Property Tax Appeals to be processed forms, valuations and other pivotal evidence must be presented before the County Board of Taxation for evaluation. Many tax payers become disenfranchised and give up the fight, but our attorneys are experienced in property tax appeals and get the job done.
Bell & Shivas, P.C. has also represented municipal governments for nearly thirty years. Our attorneys have advocated countless tax appeals on behalf of New Jersey Municipalities and understand what it takes to prevail on these matters. Accordingly, we are able to offer our clients unparalleled experience and the potential to obtain the benefit of tremendous annual tax savings.
Veterans Affairs Law
Bell & Shivas, P. C. is proud to assist those heroes that have given their service, and in many instances their lives, protecting our country and its most precious assets, our children and our families.
Veterans’ Law encompasses a variety of topics – health care and disability, benefits and pension, burials and memorials, survivor benefits, personnel matters, mediation and other ADR procedures.
In addition, New Jersey attorneys have been instrumental in furthering the quest for more veteran’s courts. A veteran’s court is a court where the judge and attorneys are familiar with the problems our veteran’s, and especially returning veteran’s, face, including depression, PTSD and other mental health issues.
As a result, a veteran who has been charged with violating a law can appear before a compassionate court, and if possible, rather than incarcerate these individuals who have given their service to protect us, they are placed in the hands of hospitals, physicians and other service providers who can assist in their treatment, rehabilitation and transition back into their communities and families.
Basic questions can be answered by visiting the Veteran’s Affairs website. Benefits claims appeals can only be handled before the VA by an accredited VA attorney, which Bell & Shivas, PC has on staff. In addition, our attorneys have mediated a variety of employment related personnel issues with the various branches of the service, including mediations involving Picattinny Arsenal, NJ and Tobyhanna Army Depot, PA.
Wills, Trusts & Estates; Probate Litigation
If a loved one has died, we can assist in the efficient settling of the estate or represent your interests in litigation. Our experienced attorneys also can help if you need court intervention to establish a guardianship or conservatorship for an elderly parent or family member.
Based in Rockaway, New Jersey, Bell & Shivas, P.C. serves clients throughout New Jersey. Our experienced attorneys provide almost thirty years of experience in all probate matters. We invite you to arrange an appointment at 973-442-7900.
Probate and Estate Administration
We provide close assistance to the executor (if a will exists) or administrator (no will) in the duties of settling an estate under New Jersey probate law. Our goal is to close the estate with the least time, expense and administrative hassle:
- Opening the estate through Probate Court
- Gathering assets and identifying heirs
- Liquidating assets and paying debts
- Distributing remaining assets to heirs
- Filing tax returns
We can represent the estate and named heirs, suspiciously excluded heirs, or administrators in challenges to the will or allegations of misconduct due to:
- Undue influence
- Testamentary capacity
- Breach of fiduciary duty
If a parent or incapacitated loved one can no longer manage his or her own affairs, we represent concerned family members seeking to establish guardianship (legal responsibility for care and decisions) or conservatorship (legal control of finances) to protect the ward’s physical, medical and financial well-being. Understanding that these are delicate, emotional situations, we offer sensitive representation for the Probate Court hearing, and careful drafting of documents to cover all considerations.
Making Provisions for Death or Incapacity
Have you taken the steps necessary to protect your loved ones in the event that you die or become seriously injured? Have you made clear decisions regarding your care and your estate to guide your family in an already difficult time? Our firm provides detailed and affordable estate planning that anticipates all scenarios relating to death or incapacity.
Our firm provides unusual personalized attention, including emergency visits, to clients throughout New Jersey. Our attorneys will walk you through your estate planning options regarding:
- A simple will that states who will inherit what they will inherit
- Trusts to minimize taxes and pass assets directly to heirs
- Trusts to provide for minor children or an adult with special needs
- Durable power of attorney to manage your affairs if you cannot
- Power of attorney for medical decisions
- A living will stating your life support wishes
- Appointing guardians for minor children
- Nursing home care planning
We recognize that these are delicate issues and often tough decisions. At Bell & Shivas, P.C., we take the time to explore your wishes and carefully draft the documents so that your provisions will be honored and easy for your family to understand.
We also handle all probate matters, such as establishing guardianships, settling a family member’s estate, or will contests.
Need Urgent Help?
If you or an elderly parent has not made provisions and a suddenly illness or tragedy strikes, we can respond quickly in your time of need. We were recently summoned late in the evening to a hospital two hours away to draft a will, living will and powers of attorney for two people in the same family hospitalized with a serious illness. The couple had neglected their estate planning, and we were able to get their affairs in order in a short span.
Of course, preparing in advance provides peace of mind that these important considerations are squared away. We provide flexible appointments. Contact our Rockaway office at 973-442-7900 to arrange a consultation with an attorney or tell us about your case