AL: Lobbying to include efforts to obtain judicial branch contracts

Current law in Alabama, indeed in most places, defines lobbying to include efforts to promote or oppose legislation or regulatory action. In all such cases the focus is either on the legislature OR the executive branch OR an administrative agency. Alabama’s Legislature, however, is on the verge of expanding the definition of lobbying to include “promoting or attempting to influence the award of a contract or grant by the executive, legislative, or judicial branch“. According to the latest information from The Birmingham News, the Alabama Senate’s Ethics Committee passed that language as part of HB 11 (Special Session) on Monday.  Due to the addition of an amendment in the Senate, the bill would have to be readopted by the House before submission to the Governor, which could happen as early as next week.

OK: Efforts to impeach/remove trial judge already starting

Readers may recall earlier this year I noted a case involving legislative efforts to remove OK trial judge Thomas Bartheld.

Media reports of legislators planning his ouster made the news in June 2009 after Judge Bartheld sentenced a man who had pled no contest of raping and sodomizing a 5-year-old girl to 20 years in prison, 19 of which are suspended. The case made national headlines, with Bill O’Reilly mentioning the judge by name on his show seven times. Judge Bartheld, however, noted that “The district attorney, child’s family, advocates and the defendant all agreed to this [plea bargain].”

HR 1001 of 2011 asks the Trial Division of the Court on the Judiciary to assume jurisdiction and institute proceedings for the removal of Judge Bartheld from office.

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