A very important article appeared in the December 5, 2016 New Jersey law journal dealing with Domestic Violence restraining orders in New Jersey.
In particular, the New Jersey Supreme Court made certain administrative determinations on November 29, 2016 that will significantly impact restraining order cases in New Jersey.
This post will highlight two of those determinations.
First, the Supreme Court adopted a recommendation that "the Judiciary should explore the development of Court Rules and procedures to allow domestic violence victims, in exceptional cases, to testify without being physically present in the courtroom for final restraining order hearings."
For example, a victim of domestic violence may leave the state of New Jersey to go stay with a family member for safety. Under the current rules, that person would have to come back to New Jersey to testify in court against the abuser.
While the proposed new rule does not say that testimony by telephone will become the norm, it does create the possibility of a judge taking testimony by telephone in difficult situations like this, which is likely to be a significant benefit to victims of domestic violence.
Second, the Supreme Court said that it will support action by the NJ legislature to seek to amend the Prevention of Domestic Violence Act to include the acts of cyber-harassment and invasion of privacy as predicate acts justifying a restraining order.
The use of personal computers, cell phones, iPads, and similar devices in harassment is becoming very widespread. In my view, certainly the idea of creating a "cyber harassment" offense makes a tremendous amount of sense in this environment.
This post just skims the surface of the Supreme Court determination. There are many more changes to the NJ Prevention of Domestic Violence Act that will be coming in the near future, all of which are designed to make the system fairer and more responsive to victims of domestic violence in New Jersey.