Capitol Report

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February 24, 2020

Diversionary program advances in Assembly

A bill that would reduce court-ordered fines owed by drug- or alcohol-dependent individuals upon completion of a treatment program was voted out of the Assembly Judiciary Committee last week. A-275 (Armato)/S-1112(Vitale) is supported by the New Jersey State Bar Association (NJSBA) because it incentivizes participants to succeed in their rehabilitative efforts.

“Someone living with a substance use disorder needs help and guidance rather than punishment, even if they have broken the law because of their struggle with drugs or alcohol,” said Assemblyman John Armato. “Reducing fines for the completion of a treatment program provides further motivation for an individual’s successful participation, which will help them on a healthier and more promising path.”

The bill emanates from a recommendation of the Report of the Supreme Court Committee on Municipal Court Operations, Fines and Fees issued in June 2018. Members of that committee include NJSBA Past President Miles Winder III and Treasurer Timothy F. McGoughran. The bill was second-referenced to the Assembly Appropriations Committee and is pending in the Senate Judiciary Committee.

Bias-based false threats bill gets committee approval

The Assembly Judiciary Committee advanced a bill that would strengthen penalties for creating a false public alarm to intimidate an individual or group of individuals because of race, color, religion, gender, disability, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, national origin or ethnicity. A-724 (Johnson)/S-1265 (Beach) is supported by the NJSBA because of its efforts to expand prohibitions on bias crimes.

In recent years, New Jersey communities were targeted with bomb threats and bias intimidation, drawing concerns from the sponsors who drafted the legislation. “This [legislation] sends a strong message that hate-based intimidation will not be tolerated,” said Assemblyman Gordon Johnson.

“False threats like these are psychologically damaging and also have the potential to cause physical harm if they incite panic,” said Assemblywoman Valerie Vainieri Huttle, a co-sponsor of the legislation.

The bill heightens the penalties for creating a false public alarm if it is found to be part of bias intimidation. It faces a full vote in the Assembly. The Senate bill is pending in the Senate Judiciary Committee.

Volunteer attorneys need for Camden and Elizabeth law programs

The NJSBA is seeking volunteers for Law Day clinics on March 18 in Elizabeth and March 25 in Camden. Attorneys are needed to provide brief consultations on topics including immigration, guardianship, landlord-tenant concerns, family matters, and criminal issues. To volunteer, please email [email protected]

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.