New Jersey State Bar Association - The voluntary Bar Association of New Jersey, serving members since 1899.

Capitol Report

August 27, 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.

 

Special Edition

This special edition of the Capitol Report is the fourth of a series of reports summarizing the progress of NJSBA priority legislation since the beginning of the current legislative session.

 

S-832 (PDF) (Vitale)/A-368 (PDF) (Wolfe) (NJSBA opposes) Allows adopted persons and certain others access to an adopted person’s original birth certificate and other related information, and appropriates $90,000. Historically, the NJSBA has supported mutual consent adoption registries and supported adult adoptee access to the original birth certificate, if made prospective in its application. However, this bill conflicts with the Safe Haven Infant Protection Act, may encourage abortions or dissuade women from seeking adoptions that are in the best interest of the child, and invades the birth mother’s privacy, among other things.

Status:
Both bills are pending review in the Senate Health, Human Services and Senior Citizens Committee and Assembly Human Services Committee, respectively.

S-1029 (PDF) (Greenstein) (NJSBA opposes) Establishes the Domestic Violence Victim Protection Pilot Program. The NJSBA opposes this legislation, which appears to unfairly prejudice a person charged with domestic violence before the matter is properly adjudicated as part of a final hearing. A person who is subject to a temporary restraining order, that is later dismissed, could be subject to satellite-based monitoring. Additionally, ankle monitoring should not start based upon an arrest, but rather after conviction.

Status: The bill is pending review in the Senate Judiciary Committee.

S-1031 (PDF) (Greenstein) (NJSBA opposes) Creates the offense of impairing communications, which would constitute domestic violence in certain circumstances. New Jersey’s existing domestic violence statute contains 14 enumerated forms of prohibited conduct. Each was carefully borrowed from the existing criminal code, rather than creating new definitions of inappropriate human conduct; these standards have been subject to intense legal and constitutional scrutiny, and are additionally well understood and effective in carrying out the protective intent of the domestic violence laws. Further, the language in the bill is too vague and may be unconstitutional. Finally, creating a new form of prohibited conduct would likely require a concurrent amendment to the substantive criminal code.

Status:
The bill is pending review in the Senate Judiciary Committee.

S-1151 (PDF) (Weinberg)/A-1281 (PDF) (Giblin) (NJSBA opposes) Establishes Monica's Law concerning a domestic violence risk assessment pilot program. The NJSBA opposes this well-intended legislation due to concern that it would remove discretion from the court, and that the proposed risk assessments may be too expensive and time consuming. Permitting the court to operate with discretion is vital to achieving a just result in these types of cases.

Status:
Both bills are pending review in the Senate Judiciary Committee and Assembly Judiciary Committees, respectively.

S-1388 (PDF) (Scutari)/A-685 (PDF) (Kean) (NJSBA opposes) Provides for modification of child support and certain alimony payments due to changed circumstances. The NJSBA opposes this legislation because it would permit a modification based upon temporary disability. This six-month timeframe is too short. People entering into agreements would know they could try to modify their obligations after six months. The NJSBA is also concerned that the bill would change the law concerning limited duration alimony, and is unclear regarding whether or not the “unusual circumstances” standard required to convert a term alimony award to permanent alimony still applies, as set forth in Gordon v. Rozenwald, 380 N.J. Super. 55 (App. Div 2005).

Status:
S-1388 is pending review in the Senate Budget and Appropriations Committee and A-685 is awaiting Assembly vote.

S-1567 (PDF) (Turner) (NJSBA opposes) Clarifies factors used to determine when child support orders can be terminated. The NJSBA opposes this legislation because it is believed that public policy is best served when applications for termination orders are made by the parties involved, directly to the court, in a public, adversarial forum. The right to apply for such orders should not be delegated.

Status:
The bill is pending review in the Senate Judiciary Committee.

SJR-34 (PDF) (Singer)/AJR-32 and 36 (PDF) (Singleton/Kean) (NJSBA supports) Creates the Blue Ribbon Commission to Study Alimony Reform. The NJSBA supports this joint resolution as amended because it importantly provides for a survey of New Jersey’s present alimony statutes, a charge that is not predisposed to a set final outcome, and a more balanced commission membership to achieve these goals.


Status:
AJR-32 and AJR-36 were combined on June 18, and on June 25 the combined bills passed in the Assembly (79-0). Both bills are now pending review in the Senate Environment and Energy Committee; SJR-34 is pending review in the Senate Judiciary Committee.

 

A-1018 (PDF) (Mainor) (NJSBA opposes) Provides for the termination of child support obligation upon certain conditions. The NJSBA has serious concerns about this bill: First, it may lead to the termination of child support for children who remain unemancipated. The NJSBA would rather err on the side of the child, rather than the payor, who can come to court seeking to terminate the support obligation. The NJSBA is also concerned that, as New Jersey is in the minority of states requiring divorced parents to support children through college, this might turn into a reduction of that obligation. The NJSBA fears this could lead to errors in terminating support when younger children of the relationship remain. The NJSBA viewed this issue as an administrative one, where probation would come up with ways of following up with payors whose children were well beyond reasonable support ages, rather than creating a burden on the children or the payee to "defend" an automatic termination of support.

Status:
The bill is pending review in the Assembly Judiciary Committee.

A-1105 (PDF) (Fuentes) (NJSBA opposes) Requires prosecution of domestic violence-related cases in superior court; removes jurisdiction from municipal court. The NJSBA opposes this legislation, believing it would pose an overwhelming burden on the already taxed superior court judicial system.

Status:
The bill is pending review in the Assembly Judiciary Committee.