ASSEMBLY, No. 3086

STATE OF NEW JERSEY

214th LEGISLATURE

 

INTRODUCED JULY 1, 2010

 


 

Sponsored by:

Assemblyman  PETER J. BARNES, III

District 18 (Middlesex)

Assemblywoman  LINDA R. GREENSTEIN

District 14 (Mercer and Middlesex)

Assemblywoman  L. GRACE SPENCER

District 29 (Essex and Union)

 

 

 

 

SYNOPSIS

     Establishes a civil cause of action for gender-motivated violence.

 

CURRENT VERSION OF TEXT

     As introduced.

  


An Act establishing a civil cause of action for gender-motivated violence and supplementing Title 2A of the New Jersey statutes.

 

     Be It Enacted by the Senate and General Assembly of the State of New Jersey:

 

     1.    The Legislature finds and declares:

     a.     Existing State and federal laws may not provide adequate remedies to survivors of gender-motivated violence, such as domestic violence and sexual abuse.

     b.    Sexual abuse and domestic violence harms many women, children, and families, and is often not reported to the authorities or prosecuted.

     c.     All persons have the right to be free from crimes of violence motivated by gender such as domestic violence and sexual abuse, all of which constitute a form of sexual discrimination.

     d.    In 1994 Congress enacted the “Violence Against Women Act of 1994,” 42 U.S.C.S. sec. 13981, a portion of which provides a civil cause of action for victims of gender-motivated violence.  The purpose of this provision was to protect the civil rights of victims of gender-motivated violence and to promote public safety, health and activities affecting interstate commerce.

     e.     In 2000, the United States Supreme Court in United States v. Morrison, 529 U.S. 598, ruled that Congress lacked the authority to enact the provision of the “Violence Against Women Act” (42 U.S.C.S. sec. 13981) concerning the civil cause of action and declared the provision invalid.  The Court rejected “the argument that Congress may regulate noneconomic, violent criminal conduct based solely on that conduct's aggregate effect on interstate commerce.” Id. 617-620. The Court ruled that the states have the authority to grant civil relief to the survivors of gender-motivated crimes of violence.  Id.  617-627.

     f.     It is the purpose of this act to provide protection to victims of gender-motivated violence by providing a civil cause of action for such victims.

 

     2.    a. As used in this act “gender-motivated violence” is a form of sex discrimination and means any of the following:

     (1)   One or more acts that would constitute a criminal offense under the laws of this State that has as an element the use, attempted use, or threatened use of physical force against the person or property of another, committed at least in part based on the gender of the victim, whether or not those acts have resulted in criminal complaints, charges, prosecution, or conviction; or

     (2)   A physical intrusion or physical invasion of a sexual nature under coercive conditions, whether or not those acts have resulted in criminal complaints, charges, prosecution, or conviction.

     b.    Any person who has been subjected to gender-motivated violence as defined in subsection a. of this section may bring a civil action.

     c.     In an action brought pursuant to this section, the court may award damages, injunctive relief, or any other appropriate relief. The court may award actual damages, damages for emotional distress or punitive damages. The court may also award reasonable attorney’s fees and costs.

     d.    Notwithstanding any other provision of law to the contrary, an action brought pursuant to this section shall be commenced within seven years after the cause of action accrued, except that if the person entitled to bring the action was a minor at the time the cause of action accrued, the action shall be commenced within seven years after the person reaches the age of 18.

     e.     Nothing in this section requires a prior criminal complaint, prosecution or conviction to establish a cause of action under this section.

     f.     Notwithstanding any other laws that may establish the liability of an employer for the acts of an employee, this section does not establish any civil liability of a person because of his or her status as an employer, unless the employer personally committed an act of gender violence.

 

     3.    This act shall take effect immediately and shall be applicable to all offenses committed on or after the effective date and to causes of action accruing on or after the effective date.

 

 

STATEMENT

 

     This bill creates a civil cause of action for gender-motivated violence.  The bill defines “gender-motivated violence” to mean any of the following: (1) one or more acts that would constitute a criminal offense under the laws of this State that has as an element the use, attempted use, or threatened use of physical force against the person or property of another, committed at least in part based on the gender of the victim, whether or not those acts have resulted in criminal complaints, charges, prosecution, or conviction; or (2) a physical intrusion or physical invasion of a sexual nature under coercive conditions, whether or not those acts have resulted in criminal complaints, charges, prosecution, or conviction.

     This bill was prompted by the United States Supreme Court decision in United States v. Morrison, 529 U.S. 598, wherein the Court ruled that Congress lacked the authority to enact a portion of the “Violence Against Women Act” (42 U.S.C.S. sec. 13981) establishing a civil cause of action for gender-motivated violence and declared that portion invalid.  In that opinion, the Court rejected “the argument that Congress may regulate noneconomic, violent criminal conduct based solely on that conduct's aggregate effect on interstate commerce” and ruled that the states have the authority to grant civil relief to the survivors of gender-motivated crimes of violence.  Id.  617-627.

     Under the bill the court may award actual damages, damages for emotional distress or punitive damages, injunctive relief, or any other appropriate relief. The court may also award reasonable attorney’s fees and costs.

     The bill provides that a civil action shall be commenced within seven years after the cause of action accrued, except that if the person entitled to bring the action was a minor at the time the cause of action accrued, the action must be commenced within seven years after the person reaches the age of 18.

     Nothing in this bill requires a prior criminal complaint, prosecution or conviction to establish a cause of action.

     This bill was modeled after the federal “Violence Against Women Act” (42 U.S.C.S. sec. 13981) and similar statutes in California (Cal. Civ. Code sec. 52.4) and Illinois (740 ILCS sec. 82/1) which provide for a cause of action for gender-motivated violence.