August 20, 2012
This is a status report on recently passed and pending legislation, regulations, gubernatorial nominations and/or appointments of interest to lawyers. The report may also include information about appearances of NJSBA representatives before legislative committees, and the involvement of the NJSBA as amicus in appellate court matters. The government affairs department of the association compiles the report. Following each bill number is the sponsor’s name, the NJSBA position, if any, bill description and status. Full and previous versions of the Capitol Report with links to related text are available online at www.njsba.com.
This special edition of the Capitol Report is the third of a series of reports summarizing the progress of NJSBA priority legislation since the beginning of the current legislative session.
CIVIL TRIAL BAR
S-747 (PDF) (Scutari)/A-952 (PDF) (Oliver) (NJSBA supports) Amends New Jersey’s wrongful death statute. This legislation seeks to rectify this problem and move New Jersey toward the majority of jurisdictions in the United States that more equitably compensate victims of wrongful death victims by statute or case law.
Status: Both bills are pending review in the Senate Judiciary Committee and Assembly Judiciary Committee, respectively.
A-2894 (PDF) (Burzichelli) (NJSBA opposes) Strengthens public entities' immunity for damages against claims of injury occurring on public beaches and boardwalks. The NJSBA opposes this legislation because it is an unreasonable expansion of immunity. The current law, N.J.S.A. 59:4-2, as presently written, strikes a fair balance when read in conjunction with the other provisions of the Tort Claims Act. It is the NJSBA’s position that there is no need for a specific amendment referencing boardwalks.
Status: The bill is pending review in the Assembly Judiciary Committee.
S-410 (PDF) and S-1807 (PDF) (Van Drew)/A-1515 (PDF) (Burzichelli) (NJSBA supports w/amendments) Creates the New Jersey Fair Debt Collection Practices Act. The NJSBA recommends that references to attorneys be deleted from the bill.
Status: S-410 and S-1807 are both pending review in the Senate Commerce Committee, and A-1515 is pending review in the Assembly Consumer Affairs Committee.
A-756 (PDF) (Barnes) (NJSBA supports) Limits the forum of consumer contract disputes to New Jersey. This bill promotes fairness to all parties involved in a consumer contract. As noted in the statement accompanying the bill, it has become common practice for "forum selection clauses" to be inserted in consumer contracts. The New Jersey Franchise Act (56:10-1) has been interpreted by the New Jersey Supreme Court to bar enforcement of forum selection clauses in franchise agreements (Kubis & Perszyk Associates Inc. v. Sun Microsystems Computer Corp., 146 N.J. 176, 680 A.2d 618 (1996)). This bill simply provides protections to consumers that some businesses already enjoy.
Status: The bill is pending review in the Assembly Consumer Affairs Committee.
S-436 (PDF) (Sacco)/A-468 (PDF) (Jimenez) (NJSBA opposes) Expands the DNA database to include samples from disorderly persons and certain violent arrestees. The NJSBA opposes this legislation because it may be unconstitutionally broad and intrusive of individual First Amendment rights. While the NJSBA supports efforts to protect the health and safety of New Jerseyans, it is believed that this bill falls short.
Status: Both bills are pending review in the Senate Budget and Appropriations Committee and Assembly Law and Public Safety Committee, respectively.
S-443 (PDF) (Sacco)/S-861 (PDF) (Cunningham) (NJSBA opposes) Modifies laws concerning inmate income and complaints; creates uniform identification cards for attorneys to enter state correctional facilities. The NJSBA opposes this legislation due to Section 4 of the bill, which amends the statute to require attorneys to obtain from the commissioner of corrections and the executive director of the Juvenile Justice Commission a uniform identification card for attorneys who visit state correctional facilities and require attorneys to bear the cost of the identification card. The existing attorney identification cards, issued by various departments/agencies of the state of New Jersey, county sheriff's departments, the attorney general, county prosecutors and the Office of the Public Defender, are sufficient to insure the security interests of the Department of Corrections and the Juvenile Justice Commission, while at the same time not unduly interfering with an attorney’s access to his or her clients. Thus, Section 4 of the bill is unnecessary. At a minimum, the section should be amended to allow for the use of the aforementioned cards, and only make a provision for a separate card if, and only if, an attorney has not already obtained one of the aforementioned attorney identification cards.
Status: Both bills are pending review in the Senate Law and Public Safety Committee.
S-1835 (PDF) (Bucco)/A-1609 (PDF) (Bramnick) (NJSBA opposes) Grants immunity from civil liability to persons reporting information concerning crimes related to terrorism. The NJSBA opposes this legislation because it does not define "good faith reports," which may lead to vagueness and over breadth, and constitutional defects, as well as a severe impingement upon an individual's privacy rights.
Status: Both bill are pending review in the Senate Judiciary Committee and Assembly Homeland Security and State Preparedness Committee, respectively.
A-2712 (PDF) (Barnes) (NJSBA opposes) Upgrades the crime of manslaughter to aggravated manslaughter under certain circumstances. The NJSBA opposes this bill because if passed, it will effectively eliminate the crime of passion/provocation manslaughter, an offense the courts and Legislature have recognized for over four decades as a necessary mitigation from the more serious offense of first-degree murder.
Status: The bill is pending review in the Senate Judiciary Committee
S-858 (PDF) (Cunningham)/A-596 (PDF) (Spencer) (NJSBA supports) Allows persons on parole and probation to vote; provides registration assistance to persons on probation, parolees, and persons completing sentences. The NJSBA supports this legislation because it may promote the rehabilitation of offenders by integrating them into the usual responsibilities associated with good citizenship, and because it is in the interests of justice. Although often overlooked, the suspension of an offender's right of suffrage is a severe penalty, and should be restored as soon as practicable.
Status: Both bills are pending review in the Senate Law and Public Safety Committee and Assembly State Government Committee, respectively.