Arizona: new law gives pro se litigants same electronic access and filing privileges as attorneys, but only in their own case

A bill to give Arizona pro se litigants the same right to court e-filing and e-dockets as attorneys, but only in their own cases, was signed into law last week.

HB 2220 as enacted amends the state’s existing electronic filing and access law and provides

  1. If the presiding judge of the Superior Court (Arizona’s court of general jurisdiction) provides access or filing privileges to attorneys, the privileges must also be provided to pro se litigants.
  2. Access or filing privileges provided to attorneys or pro se litigants may be limited to records of cases in which they are involved (attorney = party or attorney of record for party; pro se = pro se litigant’s own case).

HB 2220 has an effective date of December 31, 2017.

Illinois: Bill expands 2012 Judicial Privacy Law to cover retired judges as well

In 2012 the Illinois legislature enacted HB 5877, the Judicial Privacy Act, to prevent the release of personal information related to judges and their immediate families, allowing “judicial officers…to administer justice fairly without fear of personal reprisal from individuals affected by the decisions they make in the course of carrying out their public function.”

The law defined the “judicial officers” covered to include federal and state judges. Retired judges of these courts were not covered. SB 1647 of 2017, as approved unanimously by the Senate Judiciary Committee on March 8, would expand this coverage to include the “actively employed and retired” judicial officers of these courts.

SB 1647 has been placed on the Senate’s 2nd Reading Calendar.

Florida: bills grant liability exemption for clerks of court that release confidential information if filer fails to make it clear info is confidential

What happens when a document is filed with the court that contains confidential information, but the filer does not indicate it? And then the clerk of court releases that information?

Under Florida HB 441 / SB 202 the clerk would not be liable for the release.

Specifically, the bills as amended provide

The clerk of the court is not liable for the release of information that is required by the Florida Rules of Judicial Administration to be identified by the filer as confidential if the filer fails to make the required identification of the confidential information to the clerk of the court.

The bills, as originally filed, included the word “inadvertent” (“The clerk of the court is not liable for the inadvertent release…”)

HB 441 as amended is now pending in the Civil Justice and Claims Subcommittee having been initially approved 15-0 by that group. SB 202 has cleared the Senate Judiciary and Governmental Oversight and Accountability Committees and is now in the Senate Rules Committee.

Connecticut: bill to increase penalties for threatening judges, magistrates, and referees approved in committee 22-17

A Connecticut bill to increase penalties for threatening judges and judicial officials cleared the legislature’s Joint Committee on the Judiciary last week on a 22-17 vote. A similar measure cleared the same committee last year 40-1.

HB 5742 of 2017 amends the state’s existing statute against threats which provides, generally, threatening in the first degree is a class D felony and threatening in the second degree is a class A misdemeanor.

Under HB 5742 this would be elevated each one level to a class C felony or class D felony, respectively where the threat is made against “a family support magistrate, a family support referee, judge trial referee or a judge of any court, either elected or appointed, and the threat is related to the magistrate’s, referee’s or judge’s official duties.”

HB 5742 appears to be similar if not identical to HB 5495 of 2016 as amended/committee substituted. That version was approved by the Joint Committee on Judiciary 40-1.

Texas becomes 4th state to consider bill to permit/require judges give jury nullification instructions; Utah House rejected plan 29-45

Texas this week becomes the 4th state this legislative session to consider a bill to permit or require judges give a jury nullification instruction.

HB 3911 as filed would amend Government Code 23 (General Provisions for Trial Courts). The new subchapter would require a judge’s charge to a jury instruct the members of the jury of their duty to:

  1. judge the law to determine whether the law is unjust or unjustly applied to a party in a case
  2. determine the validity of the evidence and
  3. vote on the jury verdict according to the members’ consciences.

The Texas bill is similar to one filed in Utah (HB 332). That bill would have required judges inform jurors of

  1. the potential sentence for a guilty verdict and
  2. “the jury’s power to find a defendant not guilty when a guilty verdict would be manifestly unjust.”

The bill was rejected by the full Utah House on a 29-45-1 vote earlier this month.

The other two bills (Oregon 924 discussed here and New Hampshire HB 133 discussed here) have not advanced in the last several weeks.


Oklahoma: House approves 85-11 plan to expand who can carry guns into courthouses

A bill discussed here to allow Oklahoma elected officials to carry firearms into the courthouses of the county they serve in cleared the House yesterday.

HB 1104 as amended provides an elected official with a handgun license may carry a concealed handgun when acting in the performance of their duties within the courthouses of the county in which he or she was elected.

A committee amendment was added to make clear that this did not permit courtroom carry (“The provisions of this paragraph shall not allow the elected county official to carry the handgun into a courtroom.”)

The Oklahoma bill is similar to one enacted in Arkansas in 2015 (SB 159 discussed here and here).

HB 1104 now goes to the Senate.

Florida is 2nd state this year to try and repeal judge’s authority to ban guns from their own courtrooms

I mentioned earlier this week the effort in Arkansas to repeal that state’s statute that allows judges to” “determin[e] who will carry a concealed weapon into his or her courtroom.” Now Florida’s House is considering a similar measure.

Current law in Florida provides a license to carry a concealed weapon or firearm doesn’t allow for either courthouse (F.S. 790.06(12)(a)(4)) or courtroom (F.S. 790.06(12)(a)(5)) carry. It is essentially identical to Arkansas’ law.

F.S. 790.06(12)(a)(5) in particular specifies a judge “determin[e] who will carry a concealed weapon in his or her courtroom.”

HB 803 as filed repeals all location-specific bans on concealed carry found in F.S. 790.06, including the restrictions on courthouse/courtroom carry and the judge’s authority in this area.

HB 803 has been filed in the House Judiciary Committee.