Oklahoma and Utah House bills would make examinations of judicial branch; OK version is open ended, has no trial judges but 4 prosecutors

February 25th, 2014 by Bill Raftery Leave a reply »

Two bills to review the organization and structure of their respective state judiciaries are up for debate in Oklahoma and Utah, however the two bills take vastly different tacks on what is to be examined and are composed of vastly different groups of people.

Oklahoma HB 3169 which is up for a hearing in the House Judiciary Committee this week would create a Oklahoma Court System Task Force made of 13 members only 2 of whom would be judges and both of those appellate: the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court and the head of the state’s other court of last resort, the Presiding Judge of the Court of Criminal Appeals. Most of the other members would be prosecutors (Attorney General, 3 members of District Attorneys Council) or members of the legislature (Chair and Vice-Chair Senate Judiciary Committee, Chair and Vice-Chair House Judiciary Committee).

The Task Force’s research would be open ended; they would be allowed to examine

  1. The problems of the current state court system;
  2. How to rewrite the statutes to ensure the state court system operates more efficiently ; and
  3. Any other relevant issues related to the state court system

A final report would be due in December 2015.

Utah HB 336, as approved by the House Judiciary Committee last week, is made up of 19 members

  • 6 legislators (2 Senate, 4 House)
  • Chief Justice
  • Attorney General
  • Executive director of the Commission on Criminal and Juvenile Justice
  • 3 Representatives from state’s trial courts (justice, district, juvenile)
  • Member of Judicial Performance Evaluation Commission
  • 2 criminal defense attorneys (Association of Public Attorneys & Association of Criminal Defense Attorneys)
  • 2 representatives of localities (League of Cities and Towns & Association of Counties)
  • Member of Utah Bar who does not practice criminal law
  • Member of public

The task for would be responsible for reporting by June 2015 recommendations on

  • the structure of the current court system, including justice courts, appellate courts, juvenile courts, and district courts;
  • whether adding specialized divisions or modifying existing divisions would enhance efficiency or due process within the system;
  • court commissioners;
  • the jurisdictional limits of the different levels of courts;
  • options for promoting other avenues of dispute resolution

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