Court-bashing is nothing new. As far back as the 1800s, New Hampshire’s legislature disbanded the state’s Supreme Court five times, said Bill Raftery, a senior analyst at the National Center for State Courts in Williamsburg, Va., who has tracked legislation affecting the judicial system for years.
But political attempts to reshape or constrain state courts have risen sharply in the last 10 years, Mr. Raftery said, propelled by polarization and a fading of the civics-book notion of governmental checks and balances. That became especially true, he said, during the Great Recession that began in 2007, when legislators slashed spending for state judicial systems in the name of balancing budgets — but also, sometimes, in the cause of punishing courts for rulings they disliked.
“It ultimately boils down to this,” he said. “The courts are not looked on by some legislators as being an independent branch of government. For some, they’re looked on as an agency that needs to be brought to heel.”
That said, impeachment — or at least, impeachment threats and attempts — have become a common tool to pressure courts in recent years, said Mr. Raftery of the National Center for State Courts.
During the 2011 to 2012 legislative session, he said, lawmakers filed 14 bills in seven states seeking to remove judges, including an effort by Republicans in the State House to remove the entire New Hampshire Superior Court over its handling of custody and domestic relations cases.
I just received word that for the fifth time in six years Gavel to Gavel the blog has been named one of the ABA Journal top blaws (law blogs).
In addition, Gavel to Gavel has been inducted into the ABA Journal’s Blawg Hall of Fame.
It is an incredible honor and it (literally) could not have happened without the support of you, the readers. Thanks!
I also want to thank Thomson Reuters, which provides the access to the legislative database that is the backbone of Gavel to Gavel.
I have this in The Book of the States 2017.
State chief justices are not only the leaders of an individual appellate court, but often exercise leadership and administrative authority over an entire state’s judicial branch. How far that authority goes and how individual chief justices exercise that leadership varies and may change depending on whether the chief justice is addressing leadership of their individual appellate court or as a leader in the justice system as a whole.
Given the current hurricane season, I recently wrote and published in Trends in State Courts a review of recent efforts, mostly by legislatures, to give courts more power to handle disasters.
What happens when a courthouse is rendered unusable following a man-made or natural disaster? Many states have started to grant special powers to chief justices and court leadership to help courts meet these challenges.
Trends in State Courts is an annual, peer-reviewed publication that highlights innovative practices in critical areas that are of interest to courts, and often serves as a guide for developing new initiatives and programs, and informing and supporting policy decisions.
Trends in State Courts is the only publication of its kind and enjoys a wide circulation among the state court community. It is distributed in hard copy and electronically.
Submissions for the 2018 edition are now being accepted. Please email abstracts of no more than 500 words by October 13, 2017 to Deborah Smith at firstname.lastname@example.org. Abstracts received after this date are welcome and will be considered for later editions or for our monthly online version.
In addition to the Trends 2018 publication, we have monthly articles on our Trends website with a rolling submission process.
Suggested topics might include:
- Opioid Crisis
- Security (Judicial, Cybersecurity)
- Rural Courts
- Safety (Children, Elders, Community)
- Human Trafficking
- Pretrial Risk Assessment
- Problem Solving Courts
- Well Being
Visit the Trends in State Courts website at www.ncsc.org/trends .
Thanks to your support Gavel to Gavel the blog has been named one of the ABA Journal Top 100 Blawgs (law blogs) four of the last five years!
The ABA Journal is seeking nominations again this year starting today and running through Sunday, July 30, 2017.
If you enjoy Gavel to Gavel and would like to show your support, visit the ABA Journal Web 100 Amici page and suggest Gavel to Gavel.
I have this in the latest edition of Judicature.
The article looks at location bans (“courthouse”, “exclusive use”, etc.) and personnel exemptions (e.g. judges, law enforcement in general, law enforcement assigned to court security). It also examines the legislative efforts to expand courthouse/courtroom carry.
Part of Gavel to Gavel is searching and using the legislative bill tracking pages/systems for each state legislature. I recently came across this as the error page for the Massachusetts legislature.
One of the topics that has gained national attention in the last several years has been the issue of court fees, fines, and costs associated with low level criminal offenses as well as civil violations. The Conference of Chief Justices (CCJ) and the Conference of State Court Administrators (COSCA) formed a National Task Force on Fines, Fees and Bail Practices to address the ongoing impact that these legal financial obligations (LFOs) have on economically disadvantaged communities and to draft model statutes and court rules for setting, collecting, and waiving court-imposed payments.
Over the course of the next several days, I’m going to be looking at how state legislatures are attempting to address the issue. Over 100 pieces of legislation have been filed in over 20 states to examine this topic, and I’ll be looking at them state-by-state.
Overall, there are several themes coming out of statehouses this year
Judges must make determinations of inability vs. unwillingness to pay: Several bills address the unwilling/unable to pay dynamic and require judges to make the determination at time the fee/fine/cost is assessed or to hold a hearing before a determination is made that the failure to pay is willful.
Making automatic presumptions for inability to pay: Several states are considering creating standards that certain individuals, for example those on any sort of means-tested welfare, are automatically assumed unable to pay (vs. unwilling to pay).
Allow judges to waive or reduce fees/fines/costs: Reducing the number, or amount, of mandatory fees/fines/costs to a level that the individual is capable of paying.
Ending use of driver’s license suspensions for failure to pay: the subject of litigation in several states, these bills would end or curtail the automatic suspension of a license for non-payment.
The need for more study: several states have introduced legislation to ask the judiciary or to create legislative study commissions to look at this issue and either report back recommendations (in general) or to review the myriad of existing fees/fines/costs.