GA: Constitutional amendment would make Supreme Court decisions nonbinding

Georgia’s history with its Supreme Court is one of note. For nearly 75 years of statehood, there was no appellate review: a new trial before a new jury in the local court was the only procedure available for the correction of judicial error.

Enter HR 5 of 2011, a constitutional amendment being considered in the 2011 session that would remove the state’s constitutional provisions making state supreme court (and court of appeals) decisions binding on lower courts. The resolution’s preamble also makes it clear the decisions of the appellate courts would not be binding on any other party other than those involved in the judicial action at hand.

TX: Cost-benefit analysis for Rules of Court changes?

According to Texas Lawyer’s Blog, a piece of prefiled legislation in that state’s House would require the Texas Supreme Court conduct a cost-benefit analysis of proposed rules prior to adoption or amendment by the court. HB 352 would require the analysis for a host of rules, such as civil and criminal procedure and bar discipline.

Unlike some states which have constitutionally derived rule making authority that cannot be altered or interfered with by the state legislature, the Texas Supreme Court may  “promulgate rules of administration not inconsistent with the laws of the state as may be necessary for the efficient and uniform administration of justice in the various courts.

No word yet as to what prompted this particular piece of legislation to be introduced.

NY: Hurry up and wait for state’s new judicial compensation commission

After over a decade without a salary increase, New York’s judges are expected to get some relief, but not until 2012. The state legislature and governor reached a deal (listed in the state legislature’s database as SB 42010 and AB 42010) in late November that would establish a judicial compensation commission. The panel would meet every 4 years starting in 2011 and recommend salary levels. Those recommendations would have the force of law one year later (i.e. in 2012) unless overridden by a separately enacted statute.

Once announced, the agreement moved quickly: the bills went from introduced to passed by both houses in three days.

Out of hiatus, back in production!

Greetings all!

It has been awhile since last this blog was updated, but with the state legislatures set to come back into session, the blog is being renewed and activated yet again.

This legislative session promises to be very hectic, with all states set to come in with very changed compositions and budget woes aplenty.

Gavel to Gavel the publication will start to come out in its free weekly editions starting this Thursday (December 9).  Those interested in subscribing are encouraged to do so at gaveltogavel@ncsc.org.

Your thoughts, ideas, posts, and questions are welcome. You can reach me at wraftery@ncsc.org.

Bill Raftery
Editor, Gavel to Gavel

Judicial Retirement Plans/Pensions: Missouri

A reader alerts me to Missouri SB 714 which creates an entirely different retirement plan for any judge entering service on or after January 1, 2011.

Judges will be required to reach age sixty-seven and have at least twelve years of service or reach age sixty-two and have twenty years of service before they are eligible for normal retirement. If a judge retires at age sixty-seven with less than twelve years of service, or at sixty-two with less than twenty years service, their retirement compensation will be reduced proportionately. Judges in this retirement plan will be required to contribute four percent of their compensation to the retirement system. Judges will not be able to purchase credit in the retirement plan for their past non-federal full-time public employment or their military service. Judges under this plan who continue to work after their normal retirement date will not have cost-of-living increases added to their retirement compensation for the period of time between their eligibility for retirement and their actual retirement date. When a retired judge under this plan dies, their beneficiary will not receive an amount equal to fifty percent of the judge’s retirement compensation. Instead, judges will make a choice at retirement among the benefit payment options, that includes options for the amount received by the beneficiary. The employee contribution rate, the benefits under the judicial retirement plan, and any other provision of the judicial retirement plan may be altered, amended, increased, decreased, or repealed, but such change will only apply to service or interest credits after the effective date of the change.

This act prohibits a retired judge who becomes employed after January 1, 2011, as an employee eligible to participate in the Missouri State Employees Retirement System retirement plan from receiving their judicial retirement benefits while they are employed. Any judge who serves as a judge while he or she is receiving their judicial retirement is prohibited from receiving their judicial retirement while serving as a judge. A judge who serves as a senior judge or senior commissioner while receiving judicial retirement will continue to receive judicial retirement and additional credit and salary for their service.

Judicial Retirement Plans/Pensions: Western States

California AB 399 Requires, for the Judges’ Retirement System and the Judges’ Retirement System II, that calculations of retirement benefits and Extended Service Incentive Program benefits for any judge who voluntarily waives salary, as described above, include salary and contributions that would have been paid had the judge not done so, and that the state pay costs that result from the increased benefits and monetary credits. Signed into law by Governor 10/11/09.

California AB 590 Requires that a person who is retired under the Judges’ Retirement System who is again appointed or elected to serve as a judge reinstate from retirement and become a member of the system, as specified. Revises provisions governing the payment of accrued, unpaid allowances in both judges’ retirement systems to provide for their payment to either the estate of the deceased or the duly authorized representative of the estate when the court receives a court order appointing an executor, administrator, or personal representative. Provides if the estate does not require probate, the bill would also authorize the payment to be made to a successor trustee, or to a beneficiary of the deceased named in a valid will, as applicable. Signed into law by Governor 8/5/09.

Utah SB 130 Repeals allocation of certain small claims fees to the Judges’ Retirement Trust Fund. Signed into law by Governor 3/22/10.