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New Jersey’s Law Against Discrimination applies in a suit against out-of-state defendants for actions that could have been contemplated to cause injury within the state, a federal judge has ruled. Judge Stephen Orlofsky of the U.S. District Court for the District of New Jersey held that neither the due process clause nor the dormant commerce clause of the U.S. Constitution bars assertion of LAD claims against the Indiana-based National Collegiate Athletic Association and others for alleged discrimination based on disability by disqualifying a freshman college student from playing football. Bowers v. NCAA, 97-2600. Orlofsky said that plaintiff Michael Bowers’ residence in New Jersey was not alone a sufficient contact for exercising long-arm jurisdiction, but he found additional contacts by the NCAA, including its distribution of materials to and communications to Bowers’ high school and working with the school to decide Bowers’ eligibility. Finding that communication of the eligibility determination is “an essential part of the process” and that Bowers was notified in New Jersey, it was also “reasonable to conclude that the alleged discrimination … must have been expected or intended to cause injury in New Jersey,” said Orlofsky. He applied the same reasoning to ACT Inc. of Iowa City, and its subsidiary, the Initial Eligibility Clearinghouse, which screen athletes for the NCAA and carry out “many, if not all” of the NCAA contacts. Orlofsky found that the dormant commerce clause was not implicated because the Americans with Disabilities Act expressly permits states to enact their own laws. Bowers, 22, was disqualified from playing football or receiving an athletic scholarship during his freshman year in college because ACT/Clearinghouse determined in 1996 that the special education classes he took while a student at New Jersey’s Palmyra High School did not satisfy NCAA initial eligibility rules. As a result, three out-of-state colleges who had been recruiting Bowers — the University of Iowa, Temple University in Philadelphia and American International College in Springfield, Mass. — ceased their efforts. Orlofsky found Iowa was subject to the LAD because one of its coaches met with Bowers in New Jersey and had contact with the high school as part of its recruiting effort. The same coach also traveled there several times a year to recruit other New Jersey players.

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