December 15, 2014
This is a status report provided by the New Jersey State Bar Association on recently passed and pending legislation, regulations, gubernatorial nominations and/or appointments of interest to lawyers, as well as the involvement of the NJSBA as amicus in appellate court matters. To learn more, visit njsba.com.
Birth Certificates for Transgendered Approved
Legislation that would make it easier for transgendered individuals to obtain birth certificates that accurately reflect their gender identity was released last week by the Senate Health, Human Services and Senior Citizens Committee. The bill was vetoed by Gov. Chris Christie last legislative session, but was reintroduced in January by Sen. Joseph Vitale as S-1195. Currently, a person is required to undergo sexual reassignment surgery in order to amend the sex on their birth certificate; however, this bill revises those procedures to permit a birth certificate to be amended based on an individual’s name change request approved by the court, and proof from a licensed healthcare provider that the person has undergone, or is in the process of undergoing, gender transition treatment. The New Jersey State Bar Association supports the measure. The association believes a birth certificate is one of the most important documents a person possesses, and yet transgendered individuals are unable to obtain one that accurately reflects their identity without undergoing expensive and medically risky surgery. The association believes the bill achieves the right balance in adequately limiting the availability of amended birth certificates to those people who should rightfully have them. The bill now heads to the full Senate for a vote.
OTHER LEGISLATIVE ACTION
Hit & Run + Evidence Tampering = Harsher Penalties
A bill enhancing penalties for tampering with evidence after fleeing the scene of an accident that resulted in a person’s death was released from the Assembly Law and Public Safety Committee with amendments. A-984, sponsored by Assemblyman Bob Andrzeiczak, makes such action a third-degree crime, with penalties imposed that would be in addition to the second-degree penalties already associated with just leaving the scene of an accident that resulted in death. The amendments clarify that an individual convicted under the statute would be required to serve a mandatory minimum term. The NJSBA has concerns with this measure, specifically the mandatory minimum term that requires an offender to serve 85 percent of the term of imprisonment imposed, despite the fact that the accident is not intentionally violent conduct. Thus, the association believes the bill seeks to punish the consequences instead of the conduct. The bill is now awaiting Assembly vote.
Juveniles’ Legal Rights
Last week, A-2208, sponsored by Assemblywoman Valerie Vainieri Huttle, was released from the Assembly Law and Public Safety Committee and referred to the Assembly Appropriations Committee for review. This measure clarifies a juvenile’s right to attorney representation for every court appearance, including hearings, interrogations, identification procedures and other investigative processes. In addition, the bill requires the court to conduct annual placement hearings for the duration of any out-of-home placement ordered by the court. These hearings are meant to ensure the juvenile is appropriately placed and is receiving proper treatment and care.
PTI Ban Proposed for Domestic Violence Offenders
Another measure sponsored by Assemblywoman Vainieri Huttle, A-3939, was recently introduced and referred to the Assembly Judiciary Committee. The bill bars domestic violence defendants from participating in pretrial interventions (PTI). PTI is a supervisory treatment program provided to first-time offenders to avoid ordinary prosecution. Some of the criteria used in determining whether an individual is eligible for PTI include whether a crime is assaultive or violent in nature and whether supervisory treatment would be more valuable to the public interest than prosecution. As such, the sponsor believes the nature of domestic violence actions do not warrant PTI consideration.
A bill adding cyber harassment to the domestic violence statutes was introduced and referred to the Senate Judiciary Committee last week. S-2581, sponsored by Sen. Joseph F. Vitale, permits a temporary and permanent restraining order under the current Prevention of Domestic Violence Act of 1999 to be issued on grounds that the person seeking the order is a victim of cyber harassment. Presently under this act, there are 14 predicate offenses that constitute domestic violence. Cyber harassment would be the 15th.
Fair Foreclosure Act
Last week, legislation sponsored by Sen. Richard J. Codey, was released from the Senate Commerce Committee. S-2085 attempts to codify aspects of New Jersey Court Rule 4:64-1 by supplementing the Fair Foreclosure Act to require a certification of diligent inquiry in residential mortgage foreclosures to be filed by an attorney. An attorney would be required to certify that certain actions have occurred to ensure the accuracy of the complaint, and that the attorney believes, to the best of his or her knowledge, that there is a reasonable basis for the action. If a court finds a plaintiff has failed to comply with these provisions, the complaint may be dismissed and the accrual of any fees in connection with the mortgage debt denied. The bill now heads to the Senate for a vote.
MEETINGS IN TRENTON
The Legislature has various committee meetings and voting sessions scheduled this week. For details, visit njleg.state.nj.us.
The New Jersey Law Revision Commission is meeting on Thursday, Dec. 18 at 4:30 p.m. in the commission offices, located at 153 Halsey Street, 7th Floor, Newark. As specified on the commission’s website, and pursuant to N.J.S. 1:12A-8, the New Jersey Law Revision Commission “promotes and encourages the clarification and simplification of the law, and its better adaptation to present social needs, secure the better administration of justice and carry on scholarly legal research and work.”
The agenda for Thursday includes consideration of a number of proposals, including a Uniform Interstate Family Support Act, a Franchise Practices Act and a Uniform Voidable Transactions Act. For information on the agenda items, or the commission itself, visit the Law Revision Commission’s website at www.lawrev.state.nj.us.