Boosting the minimum years admitted to the bar to be a judge

Several weeks ago we looked several states looking to do away with non-attorney judges. Other states are looking at increasing the minimum number of years an attorney must practice law (or at least be admitted to the bar) before becoming a judge. For example, Alabama in 2009 passed a law (SB 28) requiring a minimum number of years to serve on certain courts: 10 for the appellate courts (Supreme, Civil Appeals, Criminal Appeals), 5 for Circuit, 3 for District.

In 2010, Illinois, which currently requires only that a would-be jurist be admitted to the bar, is considering requiring (HCA 57)  a set number of years or practice before reaching certain courts: 15 years for their  Supreme Court, 12 for their Appellate Court, and 10 for their Circuit Court.

Also active this year, New Jersey is considering (SCR 83) increasing from 10 years to 15  its existing minimum  for the Supreme Court, the Appellate Division of the Superior Court (i.e. the state’s intermediate appellate court), and the Superior Court.

MN: One step closer to retention elections

Earlier today the Senate Rules Committee approved SB 70, a bill to establish retention elections for judges. The bill also expands terms of office from six to eight years and creates a judicial performance commission. the commission must issue in the year a judge seeks retention ean valuation of “well-qualified,” “qualified,” or “unqualified”. The bill now goes to the Senate Finance Committee.

FL: Courts and foreclosures

Gavel to Gavel: The Blog is designed to be more expansive, in terms of both content and contributors, than the original e-publication. Writers will be key contributors on the front lines of legislation and the courts.

This week marks the first such contribution from Cristina Alonso, an attorney with Carlton Fields and co-chair of the NCSC Young Lawyers committee.

Florida’s legislature is not yet in session, but already has several bills to contend with foreclosures and the courts. SB 1778 and HB 75 provide procedural requirements and limitations for plaintiffs, defendants, and courts in certain foreclosure actions, including a requirement for court-ordered mediation. The bills would require that the Florida Supreme Court create “the form and content notices, affidavits, certificates, liens, and other forms required” and require Circuit Clerks to “provide all forms, together with instructions in English and Spanish, to a pro se defendant seeking assistance in any foreclosure action. Such forms shall be provided at no cost to the defendant.”  Both bills are currently pending in various committees of both chambers.

HI: One step closer to increasing small claims jursidiction

HB 2784 originally increased claims jurisdiction from $3,500 to $7,000. The House Judiciary Committee cut this down to $4,500 on 2/12/10 and on 2/22/10 the House Finance Committee OK’ed the $4,500 threshold. It now goes to the full House.

For more details on the nearly dozen efforts to increase small claims throughout the U.S. this year, check out the Focus piece of Issue 4:6 here.

Emergencies and the courts

How courts operate, or don’t, post-disaster has been of considerable concern since 9/11 and all the more so after Hurricanes Katrina and Rita. Several states have tackled the matter. For example, Delaware’s SB 25 of 2009 provides for the operation of the courts in the event of an emergency and grants the Chief Justice the authority to declare a judicial emergency when there are emergency circumstances affecting one or more court facilities with such order limited to an initial duration of 30 days but renewable for 30 day periods. It allows the Chief Justice to order the conducting of courts outside their normal county, extend statutes of limitations, and similar measures.

In 2010, several states are looking at similar measures.

Georgia’s HB 185 authorizes the Chief Justice to extend the duration of a judicial emergency order when a public health emergency exists until the emergency ends (currently there is a maximum of 60 days).

Virginia’s HB 883 sets out a procedure for the Supreme Court to follow in entering an order declaring a judicial emergency when there is a disaster as defined in the Commonwealth’s Emergency Services and Disaster Law. The bill permits the judicial emergency order to suspend, toll, extend, or otherwise grant relief from time limits or filing requirements in any court affected by the order and allows designation of a neighboring jurisdiction as proper venue for civil and criminal proceedings.