Connecticut Legislative Year in Review: advisory judicial salary commission; paying for & using e-courts; court security

New laws affecting the courts enacted by the Connecticut legislature in 2012 include the following:

HB 5290 Authorizes the Judicial Branch to lease its own facilities.

HB 5365 AS AMENDED: Makes judge trial referee evaluations available to Judiciary Committee members before a hearing on a referee’s nomination. Allows the Judicial Branch to enter into agreements with other agencies on a broader range of security matters. Allows electronic communication by computer, fax, or other technology according to procedures and technical standards set by either the chief court administrator or probate court administrator. Gives notice delivered electronically the same validity and status as if sent by mail. For Supreme Court, gives a party a right to a panel of at least five justices and requires the court to sit in panels of five, six, or seven judges under rules the court adopts. Expands the use of senior judges on Supreme Court panels by allowing them to be part of a panel when at least one justice is disabled or disqualified or the business of the court requires it. Repeals authority for judges to appoint messengers and assistant messengers and set their compensation and assignments.

HB 5388 ORIGINAL: Increases certain court filing fees and allocate sixty per cent of the funds generated to the interest earned on lawyers clients funds account to provide legal services to the poor, and allocate the remaining funds to the Judicial Data Processing Revolving Fund to fund technology projects within the Judicial Branch. AS AMENDED: Same, but sunsets the fee after 3 years.

SB 31 ORIGINAL: Creates commission on compensation to set judicial salaries every four years. Commissions recommendations go into effect automatically unless modified or abrogated by legislature. AS AMENDED: Recommendations no longer automatic.

SB 309 Specifies compensation probate judges receive for service as administrative judges for regional children’s probate courts or special assignment probate judges are included in their calculations and contributions for purposes of retirement benefits. Clarifies a surviving spouse’s entitlement to a pension when a judge or employee dies in office. Reduces the frequency of a probate court administrator reporting requirement. Makes several changes related to managing and safekeeping probate court records, including shifting certain responsibilities from the state librarian to the probate court administrator.