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Jul 022015
 

The Civil Rape Shield Law – Protecting Sex Abuse, Assault Victims in Civil Lawsuits

For over a year, New Jersey legislators have been considering the Civil Rape Shield Law. This law would mirror a rule of evidence in criminal cases which prevents a victim’s past sexual history from being admitted as evidence at trial.

More: Evidence of Sexual Abuse & Assault in Civil Sex Abuse Lawsuits

The bill would create a new evidentiary rule in civil lawsuits and prevent discovery of the plaintiff’s (victim) past sexual history. A defendant seeking such information would have to apply for special court permission and show that the evidence sought is relevant and is not overly prejudicial to the plaintiff. This proposed rule would apply in a variety of civil sex abuse or assault cases, such as cases where sex abuse is perpetrated by a medical professional. The bill is similar to rape shield laws in NJ which apply to civil lawsuits brought by survivors of child sex abuse. (Scroll below for the current text of Senate Bill 1751)

The Civil Rape Shield Law was introduced in 2014 by Diane Allen, a Republican senator for the 7th District of New Jersey. This district encompasses much of Burlington County (Burlington Township, Cinnaminson, Mount Laurel, etc.). The bill passed the Assembly unanimously last year and has since stalled, sitting in the Senate Judiciary Committee.

Below is a list of a few NJ Senate Judiciary Committee members:

  • Nicholas Scutari, Chair,
  • Nia Gill, Vice-Chair,
  • Michael Doherty,
  • Kevin O’Toole, and
  • Loretta Weinberg.

Click here for the state legislative committee members and contact info. Contact them and ask them to move on the Civil Rape Shield Law.

Related: Sex Abuse Education in New Jersey Schools – Erin’s Law

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SENATE, No. 1751

An Act concerning certain evidence in civil matters alleging sexual assault or sexual harassment 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. In a civil action alleging conduct which would constitute sexual assault or sexual harassment:

a. A party seeking discovery of information concerning the victim-plaintiff’s sexual conduct with persons other than the defendant shall establish specific facts showing good cause for that discovery, and that the information sought is relevant to the subject matter of the action and reasonably calculated to lead to the discovery of admissible evidence.

b.(1) Evidence of the victim’s previous sexual conduct shall not be admitted nor reference made to it in the presence of a jury except as provided in this section.  When the defendant seeks to admit such evidence for any purpose, the defendant must apply for an order of the court before the trial or preliminary hearing, except that the court may allow the motion to be made during the trial if the court determines that the evidence is newly discovered and could not have been obtained earlier through the exercise of due diligence. After the application is made, the court shall conduct a hearing in camera to determine the admissibility of the evidence.  If the court finds that evidence offered by the defendant regarding the sexual conduct of the victim is relevant and that the probative value of the evidence offered is not outweighed by its collateral nature or by the probability that its admission will create undue prejudice, confusion of the issues, or unwarranted invasion of the privacy of the victim, the court shall enter an order setting forth with specificity what evidence may be introduced and the nature of the questions which shall be permitted, and the reasons why the court finds that such evidence satisfies the standards contained in this section.  The defendant may then offer evidence under the order of the court.

(2) In the absence of clear and convincing proof to the contrary, evidence of the victim’s sexual conduct occurring more than one year before the date of the alleged act that is the basis of the civil action is presumed to be inadmissible under this section.

For the purposes of this section, “sexual conduct” shall mean any conduct or behavior relating to sexual activities of the victim, including but not limited to previous or subsequent experience of sexual penetration or sexual contact, use of contraceptives, living arrangement and life style.

2. This act shall take effect immediately.

 

 

 Posted by on July 2, 2015 Civil Justice System, Latest News