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.

Michigan: Senate unanimously approves bills requiring 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 cleared that state’s Senate (news report 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.

The bills are “tie-barred”, meaning for one to pass, they must all pass.

The bills have now been assigned to the House Law and Justice Committee.

California: bill would no longer allow candidates for judicial office to put “disingenuous and histrionic” words next to their names on the ballot

California law (Elec Code § 13107) allows for those seeking judicial office to designate their current principal professions, vocations, or occupation with up to a 3 word description plus the word or phrase “appointed incumbent” or “incumbent” if the person is a currently serving as a judge.

The result has been in several recent judicial races candidates currently serving as Deputy District Attorneys using the 3-word description of their current position not as Deputy District Attorney but as “Child Molestation Prosecutor”, “Hardcore Gang Prosecutor”, or “Sexual Predator Prosecutor”  or other similar phrases (see page 12 here for the 2016 Los Angeles County ballot). This hyperbole isn’t limited to prosecutors, with other attorneys adding words like “virtuous” or “eminent” or “leading” to their descriptions.

The author of the bill called these descriptors “disingenuous and histrionic.”

SB 235 as approved by the Senate earlier this year 34-1 and up for a vote possibly as early as this week would limit the 3 word descriptors.

  1. Prosecutors and others who are in government jobs would be limited to using their actual job title as defined by statute or local charter (e.g. Deputy District Attorney) + the geographic location OR “Attorney,” “Attorney at Law,” “Lawyer,” or “Counselor at Law.”
  2. Private practice attorneys would be limited to “Attorney,” “Attorney at Law,” “Lawyer,” or “Counselor at Law.”
  3. For both types of lawyers, “Attorney” and “Lawyer” could be used in combination with other words, but only words describing the profession or vocation: “Family Lawyer” would appear to be OK but “Eminent Family Lawyer” apparently wouldn’t.

Publication Note: my article in Trends in State Courts on Maintaining Court Operations When Disaster Strikes: Emergency Powers

Given the current hurricane season, I recently wrote and published in Trends in State Courts a review of recent efforts, mostly by legislatures, to give courts more power to handle disasters.

Maintaining Court Operations When Disaster Strikes: Emergency Powers

What happens when a courthouse is rendered unusable following a man-made or natural disaster? Many states have started to grant special powers to chief justices and court leadership to help courts meet these challenges.

Call for Submissions: Trends in State Courts

Trends in State Courts is an annual, peer-reviewed publication that highlights innovative practices in critical areas that are of interest to courts, and often serves as a guide for developing new initiatives and programs, and informing and supporting policy decisions.

Trends in State Courts is the only publication of its kind and enjoys a wide circulation among the state court community. It is distributed in hard copy and electronically.

Submissions for the 2018 edition are now being accepted. Please email abstracts of no more than 500 words by October 13, 2017 to Deborah Smith at dsmith@ncsc.org. Abstracts received after this date are welcome and will be considered for later editions or for our monthly online version.

In addition to the Trends 2018 publication, we have monthly articles on our Trends website with a rolling submission process.

Suggested topics might include:

  • Opioid Crisis
  • Security (Judicial, Cybersecurity)
  • Rural Courts
  • Safety (Children, Elders, Community)
  • Human Trafficking
  • Pretrial Risk Assessment
  • Problem Solving Courts
  • Well Being
  • Other

Visit the Trends in State Courts website at www.ncsc.org/trends .

Illinois: new law requires posting in public areas of courthouses detailing how to file disciplinary complaints against trial judges

A bill in the Illinois House discussed here and here that would require courthouses have postings of how to file a disciplinary complaint against trial judges has been signed into law.

HB 3054 as filed contained 3 elements

  1. All Circuit Judges must announce that a person can file a complaint against him or her with the state’s Judicial Inquiry Board prior to calling the first case of the day.
  2. The Clerk of the Circuit Court must make a Judicial Inquiry Board complaint form with instructions available.
  3. The Clerk must also post within each courtroom a notice that a person may file a complaint against the judge and that instructions for filing a complaint may be obtained from the clerk.

HB 3054 as amended and enacted removes Item 1 entirely and heavily modifies Items 2 and 3. The new bill provides

The clerk shall post in the common areas of the courthouse a notice that a person may file a complaint against the judge that includes contact information for the Judicial Inquiry Board. The Judicial Inquiry Board shall develop a uniform statewide notice and provide the format of the notice to each clerk.

HB 3054 has an effective date of January 1, 2018.