Coming Up: Week of February 1, 2010

Session Starts
Oklahoma – February 1
Connecticut – February 3
Minnesota – February 4

Hearings/Committee Activity

Nebraska LB 727 Permits retired judge who agrees to serve a minimum number of temporary duty days per year as set by the Supreme Court may receive a stipend. In Senate Committee on Judiciary.

Maryland SB 119 (Constitutional Amendment) Increasing minimum amount of civil suit entitled to jury trial from $10,000 to $20,000. In Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee.

Judicial Councils

Judicial Councils vary from state to state, ranging from advisory bodies to formal policy makers and setters. Three states are wrestling with the possibility of eliminating these bodies.

Virginia’s HB 240 would eliminate the Council and transfer its responsibilities to the Supreme Court or the Executive Secretary of the Supreme Court (the official title for the state court administrator).

New Hampshire, on the other hand, is seeking to save its Judicial Council. In 2009, the state’s legislature passed as part of its appropriations bill a provision (144:87) automatically ending “all non-regulatory boards, commissions, councils, advisory committees, and task forces in state government created by statute or administrative rule” on June 30, 2011 unless new authorizing legislation was approved. HB 1689 would keep the Judicial Council in operation.

Tennessee’s Judicial Council is facing a similar automatic sunset. Statutorily, the Council expired June 30, 2009 and is currently in its one-year “wind down” phase. HB 1016 and SB 374 would extend it until June 2017 while HB 1102 and SB 373 would grant it only until June 2010. HB 1102 was approved on a 90-5 vote on June 3, 2009 while the Senate version was deferred until 2010.

Mississippi Judicial Selection: Which way will it go?

Mississippi has seven different types of courts. Five of these use nonpartisan elections (Supreme, Appeal, Circuit, Chancery, County), one uses a straight appointment (Municipal) and one continues to use partisan elections (Justice). Currently, the state’s legislature is considering several bills that take entirely different courses of action for these judicial races.

HB 304 and HB 409 would change Justice Court races, along with those for chancery clerk, circuit clerk,  and all other county offices, into nonpartisan races.

HB 460 and HB 494 on the other hand would convert all nonpartisan judicial elections into partisan ones.

Meanwhile, HCR 22 would change the Supreme Court into a modified appointment system. Under the constitutional amendment, justices would be nominated by the Governor and confirmed by the Senate. After serving their full term, they would be subject to a yes/no retention election.

It remains to be seen what changes, if any, the legislature opts to make.

Special Edition: Judicial Campaign Contributions and Expenditures

On January 21, the U.S. Supreme Court handed down its decision in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission. The decision may be found here.

Citizens United, along with the Caperton case from 2009, may very well alter the playing field for judicial campaigns for decades to come. While several state courts of last resort have attempted to address issues through the judicial canons, the state legislatures have not been idle. This special edition of Gavel to Gavel looks at the legislation introduced in 2009 and thus far in 2010 that contend with Judicial Campaign Contributions and Expenditures.

The Special Edition can be found here.

Issue 4:2 – January 8, 2010

Gavel to Gavel issue 4:2 features:

-Focus: Special funds for courts created in 2009 – their purposes and the sources for their revenues.

-Arizona’s Senate considers a bill making it an impeachable offense for judges to reference foreign laws or make use of sharia law, canon law, or “karma”.

-Committees of Indiana’s House and Senate approve legislation that a Circuit Court Clerk is not personally liable for acts or omissions in the performance of the clerk’s duties absent gross negligence or intentional disregard of the responsibilities of the office of clerk.

Read it all here.