Virginia: Senate bill could open courthouses to carrying of firearms; latest in national trend

I’ve written on this blog and elsewhere (such as here) about the ongoing press in state legislatures to opening courthouses to the carrying of firearms. Now Virginia’s legislature looks to enter this area.

Current law generally prohibits courthouses carry. SB 338 as filed would provide a major exemption

However, nothing in this section shall prohibit a person who may lawfully possess a firearm or ammunition for a firearm from possessing in or transporting into any area within a courthouse that is being used outside of the courthouse’s normal hours of operation exclusively for purposes other than judicial proceedings a firearm or ammunition for a firearm.

As the official impact statement indicates “Essentially, the proposal would narrow the number of individuals who may be prosecuted for possessing or transporting a firearm into a courthouse.”

SB 338 has been filed in the Senate Courts of Justice Committee.

Oklahoma: Senate bill requires retention election ballots include age of judge, years of service, and appointing governor

Oklahoma’s appellate courts use a retention system where voters are given the name of the judge and asked (per the state’s constitution): “Shall (Here insert name of Justice or Judge) of (Here insert the title of the court) be retained in Office?” Said question shall be followed by the words “YES” and “NO”.”

A member of the Oklahoma Senate, however, wants more information to be placed on the ballot. Per SB 971 as introduced below the “shall…be retained in Office?” language would appear.

  • The age of the justice or judge as of the date of the General Election
  • The number of years served in the position as justice or judge
  • The name of the Governor who originally appointed the justice or judge to the court

SB 971 has bee prefiled for the 2018 session set to start in February.

Mississippi: Bill to drug test judges and other elected officials filed; latest in 3 decades of bills debated/enacted on this subject

Over the last several decades there has been a push to drug test those who are on any kind of public assistance and, in response, efforts by state legislators to put the same sort of drug testing requirements on public officials, including in many instances judges (I discussed this phenomena at length here and here and here and here).

This year’s version comes from Mississippi HB 490. The bill requires annual drug testing of all elected officials, including specifically judges, to determine eligibility to receive their compensation. The language of HB 490 is effectively verbatim that of HB 472 which would require drug testing for all recipients of state or local funded benefits.

If enacted, HB 490 is likely to face a court challenge. In 1997, the same year Louisiana mandated drug testing for certain adult recipients of public assistance (HB 2435), the state enacted a process for random drug testing of all “elected officials” (HB 646). The elected officials plan was struck down in 1998 by the Federal courts when Justice of the Peace Phillip O’Neill and other elected officials challenged the law. (O’Neill v. Louisiana., E.D. La. 1998, 61 F.Supp.2d 485, affirmed 197 F.3d 1169, cert. denied 120 S.Ct. 2740, 530 U.S. 1274, 147 L.Ed.2d 2005).

Gavel to Gavel named ABA Journal Web 100 winner for 2017; inducted into Blawg Hall of Fame

 

I just received word that for the fifth time in six years Gavel to Gavel the blog has been named one of the ABA Journal top blaws (law blogs).

In addition, Gavel to Gavel has been inducted into the ABA Journal’s Blawg Hall of Fame.

It is an incredible honor and it (literally) could not have happened without the support of you, the readers. Thanks!

I also want to thank Thomson Reuters, which provides the access to the legislative database that is the backbone of Gavel to Gavel.

North Carolina: Legislature wants to redraw all judicial districts, votes not to hold judicial primaries next year, governor vetoes, legislature overrides

Since at least 2015 North Carolina’s legislature has taken a particular interest in redrawing the maps for the state’s judicial districts (see here). Having switched to partisan judicial races in the last 12 months, the anticipation was that NC judges would run in primaries in the existing districts in the 2018. Now, however, it appears there will be no primaries at all.

SB 656, entitled the Electoral Freedom Act of 2017, includes various changes to election laws in the state. Most critically for the judiciary, however, was Section 4, which eliminates the 2019 primaries for judges and district attorneys.

North Carolina’s governor vetoed the bill, claiming in part that this denied people the right to vote on their judges and was a first step to transfer the power to select judges away from the people and to the legislature. News reports indicate a “assisted appointment” selection plan has been discussed in the North Carolina General Assembly that would effective give the legislature control over initial selection/appointment to judicial office.

The legislature then proceeded to override the veto.

Meanwhile, the effort to redraw judicial districts (HB 717) was approved by the House in October and is in the Senate.

Michigan: new laws require state court administrative office certify all veterans, drug, DWI, and mental health courts

A set of bills previously discussed here, that require Michigan judges/courts that want to operate special problem solving dockets be certified by the state court administrator’s office has been signed by that state’s governor (press release here).

SB 435 (drug courts), SB 436 (DWI/sobriety courts), SB 437 (mental health courts), and SB 438 (veterans courts) provide that existing or new problem solving courts/dockets must be certified (“The state court administrative office shall establish the procedure for certification.”) or will be shut down starting January 1, 2018.

Publication note: my chapter in The Book of the States 2017 – Chief Justices as Leaders: Roles & Challenges

I have this in The Book of the States 2017.

Chief Justices as Leaders: Roles & Challenges

State chief justices are not only the leaders of an individual appellate court, but often exercise leadership and administrative authority over an entire state’s judicial branch. How far that authority goes and how individual chief justices exercise that leadership varies and may change depending on whether the chief justice is addressing leadership of their individual appellate court or as a leader in the justice system as a whole.