Amicus Curiae, or “friend of the court,” becomes crucial in shaping the course of justice in the intricate world of legal battles. Recently, Lauren M. Law, a distinguished member of the legal community, was chosen by the New Jersey Association for Justice (NJAJ) to represent its stance before the Supreme Court of New Jersey as Amicus Curiae in the case of Savage v. Twp. of Neptune, et al.
The NJAJ’s Amicus Curiae Committee, tasked with upholding individuals’ rights and advancing its members’ objectives, plays a pivotal role in navigating the complex terrain of appellate and supreme court proceedings. With a commitment to advocacy, this committee reviews numerous requests annually, diligently selecting cases where NJAJ’s involvement can make a meaningful impact. Once identified, they petition the court for participation, recognizing the importance of timely action in the legal realm.
Savage v. Twp. of Neptune, et al., raises a certified question that probes into the intricacies of settlement agreements and their clauses. The central query revolves around whether a non-disparagement clause, which functions as a non-disclosure clause, in the settlement agreement of a Law Against Discrimination (LAD) claim is enforceable. On behalf of Amicus Curiae NJAJ, Lauren M. Law submitted to the Supreme Court that a provision that functions as a non-disclosure clause in the settlement agreement of a LAD claim should not be enforceable under the amendment to the LAD prohibiting confidentiality/non-disclosure agreements, N.J.S.A. 10:5-12.8(a).
The #MeToo movement prompted millions of survivors globally to speak out against the sexual harassment, sexual assault, and violence against women, and is now known as the most significant mobilization in the women’s movement in decades. Sexual harassment and assault haunt women of all races across the socioeconomic spectrum. The vast prevalence of sexual harassment in the workplace, which had been silenced through the use of gag provisions, was brought to light through the #MeToo movement.
On March 18, 2019, in the wake of the #MeToo movement, the New Jersey Legislature enacted amendments to the LAD, codified at N.J.S.A. 10:5-12.7 to 10:5-12.11, which included several sections that strengthened the LAD’s protections for victims of discrimination, harassment, and retaliation. The Legislature introduced the amendment at the height of the #MeToo movement, after news reports revealed that settlement agreements of high-profile cases involving well-known entertainment and media personalities accused of sexual harassment included non-disclosure provisions.
Lauren M. Law argued that Ms. Savage – or any woman who faced the types of things she faced – should not be silenced. Ms. Savage should not be gagged by the Court or a municipality. Restricting discussion about sexual harassment and discrimination in the workplace is the reason why the systematic abuse of women continued for so long. The amendments to the LAD were intended to remove the pre-existing barriers that made it difficult for survivors to report their abuse. The legislative history demonstrates its purpose was to prevent the suppression and intimidation of sexual harassment and discrimination survivors through legal clauses in settlement agreements.
Lauren M. Law, chosen by NJAJ to champion their cause, argues that such non-disclosure clauses in settlement agreements should not be enforceable under the recent New Jersey LAD amendment. NJAJ contends that transparency should prevail over confidentiality regarding claims involving discrimination, retaliation, or harassment.
The significance of this case resonates beyond its immediate parties, reaching into the broader legal landscape. NJAJ’s submission to the Supreme Court asserts that prohibiting the enforcement of non-disclosure agreements disguised as non-disclosure agreements in LAD-related settlements aligns with the spirit of justice and transparency. The outcome of Savage v. Twp. of Neptune will set a precedent, influencing future cases and shaping the landscape of settlement agreements in New Jersey.
In a society that increasingly values openness and accountability, NJAJ’s stance reflects a commitment to a legal system that prioritizes the interests of individuals and promotes justice above all. As Lauren M. Law steps into the role of Amicus Curiae, she carries not just the weight of this case but the aspirations of those who believe in a legal system that values transparency and fairness.