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Nevada may ban gag orders in sex abuse cases

CARSON CITY – Nevada could follow California in banning civil settlements that conceal an accused sexual abuser’s offenses by demanding silence from the accuser as part of settlement terms.

Assembly Bill 248, sponsored by Speaker Jason Frierson, D-Las Vegas, and six other lawmakers, would ban blanket gag orders in civil cases involving allegations of felony sexual offenses or gender discrimination or retaliation by an employer or landlord. Landlords were included as someone who could “exercise authority” over another person, Frierson told the Assembly Judiciary Committee in presenting the bill Wednesday.

Confidentiality in civil settlements often is imposed for “reasonable business purposes,” such as to protect trade secrets, but has increasingly been used “by high profile individuals accused of assaulting women,” Frierson said.

“These type of non-disclosure agreements protect serial abusers,” he said.

The proposal would prevent a court for blocking or limiting disclosure of factual information in a settlement, such as details of the accused’s offenses. But it would still let privacy-minded claimants remain anonymous and also would allow monetary settlement figures to stay confidential.

“I think we’re talking about millionaires,” Frierson said in response to questions from the panel on the bill’s intent. “We’re talking about folks with means that are treated differently as a result of having those means.”

The bill is patterned after one passed in California last year. The California bill does not block mutually-agreed settlements and also allows plaintiffs to remain anonymous.

There was no testimony in opposition. The Nevada Equal Rights Commission and Nevada Coalition to End Domestic and Sexual Violence gave neutral testimony based on concerns over how the law could affect the commission’s negotiated settlements and privacy concerns of claimants.

Contact Bill Dentzer at bdentzer@reviewjournal.com or 775-461-0661. Follow @DentzerNews on Twitter.

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