Legislature(1995 - 1996)

02/06/1995 01:08 PM JUD

Audio Topic
* first hearing in first committee of referral
+ teleconferenced
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
txt
 HJUD - 02/06/95                                                               
 HB 18 - STATUTE OF LIMITATIONS: POLICE/CORONERS                             
                                                                               
 Number 760                                                                    
                                                                               
 WILDA WHITAKER, AIDE TO REPRESENTATIVE GENE THERRIAULT came forward           
 to answer questions about HB 18.  She described this to be an Act             
 amending the statute of limitations for civil actions brought                 
 against peace officers and coroners; bringing them into conformity            
 with the statute of limitations for general civil actions.  It                
 proposes to reduce from three years to two years, the period in               
 which civil actions may be brought against peace officers and                 
 coroners, based on an act performed in an official capacity, or on            
 failure to perform an official duty.  The three year statute                  
 relating to peace officers was enacted for Alaska by Congress in              
 1900.  Congress took the statutes from Oregon which, in turn, took            
 them from New York.  New York's peace officer statute was enacted             
 in 1829.  Its purpose was to benefit peace officers by providing a            
 period of limitations shorter than the general statute, which was             
 six years.  In future years, the statute of limitations for general           
 tort claims has been reduced to two years, with no corresponding              
 change in the peace officer statute.  What started as a protective            
 measure for police officers is no longer serving that purpose.                
 This legislation would serve a twofold purpose of affording police            
 officers the same protection as is provided to the general public,            
 in bringing an antiquated statute into conformity with more recent            
 law.  The statute of limitations would remain for three years, for            
 civil actions currently in progress.  Basically, what started out             
 as a protection for police officers has since become a detriment,             
 and we wanted to bring the statute up to date.                                
                                                                               
 REPRESENTATIVE VEZEY thought if there was a special statute for               
 peace officers and coroners, why not just repeal it, to make them             
 equal to everybody else?                                                      
                                                                               
 MS. WHITAKER said they did repeal AS 09.10.060(a), and then they              
 put it back in, and another one, AS 09.10.070, but it just adds it            
 as a section.  We repealed a section that pertains to peace                   
 officers, and we put it back in another section, so it would still            
 specifically refer to peace officers.                                         
                                                                               
 Number 795                                                                    
                                                                               
 REPRESENTATIVE VEZEY asked why not just be silent on it.  Why do              
 you have to add another paragraph?                                            
                                                                               
 Number 797                                                                    
                                                                               
 MS. WHITAKER did not know.  She guessed they could.                           
                                                                               
 Number 799                                                                    
                                                                               
 CHAIRMAN PORTER asked Anne Carpeneti, Committee Counsel if there              
 was a further answer to that.                                                 
                                                                               
 Number 800                                                                    
                                                                               
 ANNE CARPENETI, COUNSEL, HOUSE JUDICIARY COMMITTEE, said,                     
 subsection (a), which we are moving from one statute to another,              
 specifically applies to an act done in an official capacity, or by            
 the omission of an official duty.  Repealing the statute in hopes             
 that it is covered by another statute, is not very safe.                      
                                                                               
 Number 810                                                                    
                                                                               
 CHARLES FROBENIUS, a private individual from the Matanuska-Susitna            
 Borough testified against HB 18, via teleconference.  He felt there           
 was no reason to change the statute as it is right now, for                   
 specific reasons.  The statutes for criminal proceedings against              
 private individuals will be three to five years.  Peace officers              
 are no longer second class people when they violate laws, or use              
 their position (indisc.).   They should not be treated any                    
 differently.  Their ability to obtain legal assistance and                    
 financial support is quite extensive, if they are in the wrong and            
 someone brings suit against them.  A private individual is nearly             
 hamstrung trying to find legal counsel to support his claim.  How             
 many lawyers do you think you are going to find that are going to             
 go to City Hall?  I have tried; there are few.  It is hard to find            
 witnesses who will testify against an officer.  They do not want to           
 do it for fear of retribution against them, and for good reason.              
 He feels there is no reason to change this law as it stands right             
 now.                                                                          
                                                                               
 Number 850                                                                    
                                                                               
 CHAIRMAN PORTER clarified this bill, saying it would not, in any              
 way, affect an allegation of a criminal act by a police officer or            
 coroner, only the standard civil allegations that come along.                 
                                                                               
 REPRESENTATIVE BUNDE understood that this reduces peace officer               
 protection from three years to two years; so it is, in fact, a                
 disadvantage to the peace officers.                                           
                                                                               
 Number 859                                                                    
                                                                               
 CHAIRMAN PORTER said the statute of limitations for bringing civil            
 actions, is basically two years; which we will be hearing a lot               
 about when we get to another bill.  From the time the act bringing            
 about the problem occurred, or when the person who is harmed                  
 discovers or should have discovered; two years from that time on,             
 a person may bring suit against the person for that act.  Right               
 now, for cops, it is three years.  For everybody else it is two               
 years.                                                                        
                                                                               
 Number 870                                                                    
                                                                               
 MS. WHITAKER pointed out to Mr. Frobenius that they are not making            
 an exception for police officers, it just brings them into                    
 conformity.  They do not get off any easier than anyone else.                 
                                                                               
 Number 872                                                                    
                                                                               
 CHAIRMAN PORTER said Ms. Whitaker's testimony implied that, while             
 police officers were given three years, everyone else had some                
 longer period of time.                                                        
                                                                               
 MS. WHITAKER replied that it used to be three years for police                
 officers, and six years for everyone else.  The reason behind                 
 giving the police officers a shorter statute of limitations, is               
 because they wanted to protect them.  Now that six year period has            
 been shortened to two years, yet the three year limit still applies           
 to police officers, giving them the advantage.                                
                                                                               
 TAPE 95-7, SIDE B                                                             
 Number 000                                                                    
                                                                               
 REPRESENTATIVE TOOHEY made a motion to move the bill with                     
 individual recommendations and attached fiscal notes.                         
                                                                               
 There was no objection, and the bill moved out of committee.                  

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