Omnibus bill week 2011: Iowa SB 326

I mentioned back in January that a 2010 omnibus bill to overhaul numerous provisions of law related to the Iowa judiciary was partially vetoed, but reintroduced this year (see here).

The bill, now known as SB 326 of 2011, has been the subject of some substantial legislative ping-pong between the two chambers.


Originally, SB 326’s provisions included:

Filling vacancies – Grants authority to the chief justice to delay the nomination of a Supreme Court justice, court of appeals judge, district judge, district associate judge, associate juvenile judge, or associate probate judge magistrate for budgetary reasons. Grants authority to delay nomination for magistrates with certain limits.

Judicial allocation – Authorizes chief justice to apportion a trial judge vacancy to another judicial election district upon finding a substantial disparity exists in the allocation of judgeships and judicial workload between judicial election districts and a majority of the judicial council approves the apportionment. Requires state court administrator apportion magistrates throughout the state using a case-related workload formula in addition to the other criteria already listed in statute. Permits the chief judge to assign a magistrate to hold court outside of the magistrate’s county of appointment for the orderly administration of justice.

Residence – Requires district associate judge reside in the judicial election district in which he or she serves (currently must reside in county). Allows a magistrate to be a resident of a county contiguous to the county of appointment during the magistrate’s term of office.

Terms – Specifies that a senior judge, upon attaining the age of 78, may serve a one-year term and a succeeding one-year term at the discretion of the Supreme Court. Currently, a senior judge, upon attaining the age of 78, may serve a two-year term at the discretion of the Supreme Court.

Senate amendments deleted the requirement that the state court administrator apportion magistrates throughout the state using a case-related workload formula but added a provision limiting the chief justice’s power to delay filling vacancies to 1 year per vacancy and no more than 8 delayed vacancies at any given time. The Senate adopted the entire bill on a 50-0 vote.


Several House members who had earlier vowed to impeach members of the Supreme Court and end merit selection for the Court of Appeals, attempted to add an amendment to SB 326 that would have also ended merit selection for the Court of Appeals. Unlike in Kansas, where such an attempt to add an amendment ending merit selection was ruled germane to an unrelated bill, this effort was ruled not germane by the House Speaker. Undaunted, the sponsor asked for unanimous consent to allow the amendment. When that failed, he moved to suspend the rules and allow for the adoption of the amendment. That effort failed on a 6-89 vote. For additional details, check out this post from Gavel Grab.

The House did, however, adopt two amendments.

  • The first matched HB 242 and would require the state’s governor appoint at least one district judicial nominating commission member from each county unless there are fewer counties than commissioners. Given that the commissions are five member panels, and only Judicial District 7 is a 5-county district, this has the effect of prohibiting any district nominating commission from having more than two members from the same county.
  • The second requires all commission members chosen by the governor to serve staggered terms.

The House approved its version, with the House amendments, 93-2. The two House members voting against (Reps. Alons & Shaw) were among the four leaders of the effort to impeach the Supreme Court justices and had put forth the amendment to end merit selection for the Court of Appeals noted above.

Back to Senate

The Senate accepted the House amendments on April 11, but added one of its own. Under existing law, “no more than a simple majority” of district judicial nominating commission members appointed “shall be of the same gender.” The latest senate amendment would change the wording to “A simple majority of the commissioners appointed shall be of the same gender.”

Back to House

This latest version of SB 326 was sent back to the House on April 11.

Bans on court use of sharia/international law advance in Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Florida, Kansas, Missouri, and Oklahoma

Welcome New York Times readers!

This post has been updated. Click here.

In the March update (located here) there were 42 bills introduced in 2011 in 20 states seeking to ban court use of sharia/international law. That number is now up to 44 bills in 21 states.

  • Arizona’s “new” bill was really a strike-all amendment to a completely unrelated bill HB 2064. The resulting bill was approved April 7 and is currently sitting on Governor Jan Brewer’s desk.
  • North Carolina HB 640 was introduced April 5 and is currently pending in the House Committee on Judiciary, Subcommittee C.

In addition to Arizona, bills in 6 other states advanced out of their committees or chambers, including Alabama SB 61 and SB 62, Alaska HB 88,  Florida SB 1294, Kansas HB 2087, Missouri HB 708, and Oklahoma HB 1552. Additionally, hearings were conducted in Texas and Missouri. All 2011 activity is in bold below the fold.

Continue reading Bans on court use of sharia/international law advance in Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Florida, Kansas, Missouri, and Oklahoma

Omnibus bill week 2011: Florida HJR 7111

I noted that April 7 was a big day in the Florida House Judiciary Committee, with 9 separate bills affecting a wide range of elements of the judiciary. Elements of the nine, and some other bills that were not on the calendar that day, were consolidated and passed as a Committee Substitute to HJR 7111 on a party line 12-6 vote. For a news account and other details, check out this Gavel Grab post.

Structure Changes

HJR 7111 was originally going to divide the state’s Supreme Court into two entirely different courts: a Supreme Court of Civil Appeals and a Supreme Court of Criminal Appeals (see here for details). Instead, the committee substitute:

  • expands the existing 7 member court to 10
  • divides them into two panels of five (civil and criminal) each with its own chief justice, each requiring 4 justices for a quorum.
  • The three most senior justices of the existing Supreme Court would initially be assigned to the criminal division.
  • The new 10 member Court would be required to inventory all cases active at the time the court is divided and assign them to their respective divisions.
  • The justices are expressly prohibited from meeting en banc, with specific exceptions discussed below.
  • The “legislature may, by general law, otherwise provide for the administrative transfer of employees, property, duties, and functions between the divisions.”

The Chief Justice of the State of Florida

  • would alternate every four years between the two divisions
  • be chosen by the Governor with Senate confirmation (currently, the Supreme Court selects its own chief justice); however the chief justice of the civil division would be the initial Chief Justice.
  • Divisional chief justices would serve for 8 years, but to remain as a justice of the supreme court they must be re-elected to the court every 6 years.


HJR 7111 would keep the state’s judicial nomination commissions, but require for Supreme Court justices only, nominees selected by the governor be subject to senate confirmation. There is a time limit: if the Senate fails to confirm within 90 days the individual is deemed confirmed. The Yes/No retention election system for all judges would remain (there had been efforts to increase the requirement to 60% Yes vote for retention).

Rule Making

  • The justices of both divisions (7 needed for a quorum) would meet jointly to set court rules, provide administrative supervision of the courts, and handle disciplinary cases.
  • The divisions would meet jointly regarding rules or may assign categories of the rules to the divisions.
  • Rules of the judicial nominating commissions would need to be approved by a majority vote of the justices of both divisions.
  • Rules of the judicial qualifications commission would need the affirmative vote of 7 of the 10 justices.
  • Except for these rule making/administrative functions, the justices would otherwise expressly prohibited from meeting en banc.

The legislature would be able to repeal any rule adopted by the Supreme Court

  • by a majority vote (currently, requires two-thirds of legislature)
  • The court could readopt the rule, so long as it was in conformance with the expressed policy expressed in the repeal bill or resolution.
  • If the rule was repealed a second time, the Supreme Court could not readopted it
  • “The legislature shall be the final authority to determine whether an adopted rule is again repealed.”


The biggest and most obvious jurisdiction change would be the civil/criminal distinction. There is an entire section of HJR 7111 dedicated to defining the difference between a criminal and civil case for divisional purposes.

  • The civil division would expressly be prohibited from hearing any cases that had any had anything, directly or indirectly, to do with the death penalty
  • Where there was a conflict between the divisions as to whether a case was civil or criminal, the current Chief Justice of Florida would decide.
  • The legislature would be able to “further define” the cases heard by each division.
  • Only a justice in the criminal division would be allowed to issue a writ of corpus in a criminal case.
  • The divisions of the new Supreme Court would be able to take any case up from the intermediate appellate court (district courts of appeal) that is found by to be “of great public importance.”

Salary & Budget

  • Commencing in FY 2013-2014, the state’s judiciary would be given a constitutional guarantee of a “total appropriation of all fund sources to the judicial branch [] equal [to] no less than 2.25 percent of the total general revenue funds appropriated in the general appropriation bill referred to in Section 19(b) of Article III.”
  • Any adjustments via a special appropriations act would be equal to no more than the percent of total general revenue appropriations adjusted in such special appropriations act.


  • The bill removes the power of the Supreme Court and District Courts of Appeal to name its Clerks and Marshals.
  • Removes the Governor’s power to ask the judicial qualifications commission for all information investigations/complaints against judges.
  • The commission would still be obligated to turn such information over, on request, to the House of Representatives. All information so turned over would remain confidential during any investigation and until such information is used in the pursuit of any impeachment.

Omnibus bills affecting the courts week: 2011

With the notable exception of budget/appropriations bills, most legislation affecting the courts are handled in single subject bills that affect only selection or court jurisdiction or salary, etc. Several states have in the recent past, however, consolidated numerous other bills into one omnibus bill that affects a variety of aspects of the judiciary. This year is no exception, with such bills be introduced in at least 4 states. This week I’ll be looking at each one individually and the various and sundry elements in each.

Virginia Chief Justice Names Judicial Boundary Realignment Study Committee, will make recommendations to legislature

I mentioned in Gavel to Gavel 5:8 that Virginia appeared to be on its way to a legislative redistricting of the state’s judicial districts/circuits. That effort (HB 1990 and SB 1240) was short circuited at the last minute with the legislature instead sending a letter to the state’s supreme court asking its assistance on the matter.

The result, according to the Virginia Lawyer’s Weekly blog, is a  22-member committee set to study the issue of realignment. (click here for Chief Justice Cynthia Kinser’s letter to the Virginia State Bar on the subject)

According to the VLW blog, “The committee includes Virginia Court of Appeals Chief Judge Walter S. Felton Jr.; eight circuit judges; six general district or J&DR judges; a circuit, a J&DR and a general district clerk; a chief magistrate; and representatives from the Virginia State Bar, the Virginia Bar Association and the Virginia Trial Lawyers Association.”

The committee is expected to meet throughout the state and finalize its report by November 1.


Louisiana’s legislature scrambling to rewrite laws related to courts due to population shifts and declines in state

A variety of states grant certain areas or the judges/clerks/employees of certain courts options or authorities based on the population they serve. For example, in South Carolina, each county with a population over 130,000 in the latest census is required to have a master-in-equity court. (Sec. 14-11-10)

Several states have, however, started to move away from specifications based on population and identification of counties, localities, or municipalities by name. Louisiana’s legislature, as part of its special redistricting session, is doing so with respect to numerous courts in the state, in particular focusing on the changing population in the city of New Orleans and Orleans Parish post-Hurricane Katrina. In the past, references to the power of traffic courts in “parishes with a population in excess of four hundred seventy-five thousand” could only mean Orleans Parish with a population of 484,674 in the 2000 Census. As of 2010, however, no parishes in the state have a population over 441,000. Similar references to courts in areas having a population between X and Y became confused, no longer applicable, or possibly applicable to courts not originally intended.

As a result, the following pieces of legislation have been introduced to address just some of the changes to the Louisiana Revised Statutes of 1950, or other codified law collections separate from the R.S. (such as the Code of Criminal Procedure).

HB 13A Title 49 (State Administration)

HB 15A Title 32 (Motor Vehicles and Traffic Regulation)

HB 21A Title 11 (Consolidated Public Retirement Systems)

HB 22A Code of Criminal Procedure

HB 24A Title 15 (Criminal Procedure)

HB 26A Title 33 (Municipalities and Parishes)

HB 28A Titles 11 (Consolidated Public Retirement Systems), 18 (Election Code), 25 (Libraries, Museums, & Cultural Affairs), 33 (Municipalities and Parishes), and 42 (Public Officers and Employees)

SB 7A Children’s Code

SB 8A Code of Civil Procedure

SB 9A Title 9 (Civil Code – Ancillaries)

SB 15A Title 43 (Public Printing and Advertisements)

SB 17A Title 13 (Courts and Judicial Procedure)