Domestic violence victim protection proposal clears committee

TRENTON – The Assembly Judiciary Committee released several bills, including one dealing with protections for domestic violence victims during court proceedings.

A3219: This bill, released unanimously by the panel, would permit a domestic violence victim to testify against an alleged abuser via closed circuit television. 

Under the bill, the court may, following a hearing, order the taking of the testimony out of the presence of the jury, defendant, or spectators.  Closed circuit testimony would be allowed if the court determines by clear and convincing evidence that there is a substantial likelihood that the witness would suffer severe emotional or mental distress if required to testify in open court. 

Sandy Clark of the N.J. Coalition for Battered Women supported the measure. She said the impact of the bill will be to increase willingness of victims to come forward and speak up.

Assembly members Holly Schepisi and Michael Patrick Carroll, while supportive of the goal, raised concerns over possible conflicts with the constitutional right of a defendant to “confront’’ their accuser. Schepisi said she wants to ensure they pass something that will be deemed constitutional.

A1440: This bill expands the sources from which the single juror source list is compiled annually by the assignment judge of each county to include those who receive food stamps.

At present, the law provides that the names of eligible jury candidates shall be selected from a merger of the following lists: registered voters, licensed drivers, filers of state gross income tax returns and filers of homestead rebate or credit application forms.

A700: This bill requires that a child be provided legal representation by a guardian after the parental rights have been terminated and until the child’s permanent placement has been finalized by the court.

This is  to ensure that the child’s wishes are made known to the court and the child’s interests are protected in any subsequent court hearing.

A2398/S1533: This bill would authorize a physician to report to the Motor Vehicle Commission the name, age, address, and description of the alleged disability of any person aged 16 or older diagnosed with a health problem which, in the physician’s judgment, significantly affects the person’s ability to safely operate a motor vehicle.

Under current law, physicians are required to report certain diagnoses including, but not limited to, convulsive seizures to the commission.  This bill would authorize doctors to report patients they do not feel are able to safety operate a motor vehicle even if they do not fit the current mandatory reporting criteria. 

A2398/S1533 both cleared by a vote of 4-2 along party lines.

Domestic violence victim protection proposal clears committee