Legislature(1995 - 1996)
02/06/1995 01:08 PM JUD
* first hearing in first committee of referral
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
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 We repealed a section that pertains to peace officers, and we put it back in another section, so it would still specifically refer to peace officers.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.