Indiana: Floor amendment to unrelated bill would require courts provide bulk data

Courts have been contending with how to handle bulk data requests for years. Recently, however, efforts in Arizona and other states have sought to bypass the courts and mandate the disbursement by legislative act. The most recent example is in Indiana.

SB 561, as introduced, dealt with corrections and sentencing. A floor amendment, added on February 21 however, requires the division of state court administration to implement a standard program for disseminating bulk court case information for a reasonable fee. Moreover, the bill requires an executive branch agency (the Indiana Office of Technology) annually certify that case management systems operated or funded by the division of state court administration comply with this program.

Finally, while the amendment allows for the charging of “a reasonable fee” it defines “reasonable” as “not [to] exceed the direct cost of operating the export program and delivering data to the recipient plus a prorated fee to recoup the direct costs of developing the export program. In any one (1) year, the aggregate prorated fees charged under this subdivision may not exceed five percent (5%) of the direct costs of developing the export program.”

The bill, as amended, was approved by the full Senate 2/22/11 and is currently in the House awaiting committee assignment.

Cross-posted to Court Technology Bulletin.

MD: Bills would require Administrative Office of the Courts keep central registry of when spouses refuse to testify against spouses in domestic violence cases

For decades, Maryland law has required that the invocation of spousal privilege in domestic violence cases be especially noted and recorded by the court clerk (Md. Courts and Judicial Proceedings 9-106)

(b) Record of assertion; expungement.-

(1) If the spouse of a person on trial for assault in any degree in which the spouse was a victim is sworn to testify at the trial and refuses to testify on the basis of the provisions of this section, the clerk of the court shall make and maintain a record of that refusal, including the name of the spouse refusing to testify.
(2) When an expungement order is presented to the clerk of the court in a case involving a charge of assault in any degree, the clerk shall check the record to determine whether the defendant’s spouse refused to testify on the basis of the provisions of this section.
(3) If the record shows such refusal, the clerk shall make and maintain a separate record of the refusal, including the defendant’s name, the spouse’s name, the case file number, a copy of the charging document, and the date of the trial in which the spouse refused to testify.
(4) The separate record specified under paragraph (3) of this subsection:

(i) Is not subject to expungement under Title 10, Subtitle 1 of the Criminal Procedure Article; and
(ii) Shall be available only to the court, a State’s Attorney’s office, and an attorney for the defendant.

Two Maryland bills (HB 1169 and SB 919) would require the record of refusal be sent to the Administrative Office of the Courts to maintain a central registry. Access to the individual record would be limited to the court, a State’s Attorney’s office, an attorney for the defendant, the spouse, and the defendant. Access to statistical data from the registry would be limited to “an organization that conducts research or provides services related to domestic violence…for research, evaluation, and statistical analysis…[and]…may not contain any unique identifying information, including names, record numbers, or case file numbers.”

HB 1169 is set for a House Judiciary Committee hearing on 3/17. No word yet on any hearings for the Senate version.

Citing Heller, Illinois legislators consider explicitly permitting judges to carry concealed firearms into courthouses

The U.S. Supreme Court decision in District of Columbia v. Heller, which specifically found an individual right to keep and bear arms, has lead to a massive review of state statutes as they pertain to firearms. Illinois is no exception: it was the case of McDonald v. Chicago that applied Heller to the states via the 14th Amendment. For judges on a more personal level, however, Heller and McDonald may mean more discretion in carrying their own firearms into their courts.

At present, Illinois law and rules of court are relatively silent on whether judges explicitly may (or may not) bring firearms into courthouses or courtroom. The only apparently relevant statute is 720 ILCS 5/24-1. Sections (a) and (b) define the offense of unlawful use of weapons and provide for sentences depending on the particular actions. (a)(4)-(9) in particular deal with the carrying of firearms.

Section 720 ILCS 5/24-1(c) however provides enhanced sentences for carrying a firearm in public places, such as parks and courthouses (defined as “any building that is used by the Circuit, Appellate, or Supreme Court of this State for the conduct of official business.”). Illinois, unlike most states, does not provide elsewhere that such courthouse restrictions do not apply to judges.

HB 1403 and SB 2150, however, would modify the restrictions. Concealed firearms permits would not allow a person to carry into “Any courthouse solely occupied by the Circuit, Appellate, or Supreme Court or a courtroom of any of those courts, or court proceeding.” However “nothing in this Section shall preclude a judge, or State’s Attorney holding a concealed firearms permit, from carrying a concealed firearm within a courthouse.” (emphasis added)

Surrounding states take slightly different tacks with respect to courthouse carrying.

Missouri (§ 571.107 R.S.Mo.) bans firearms generally (and in the same section specifically exempts judges from the ban) in “Any courthouse solely occupied by the circuit, appellate or supreme court, or any courtrooms, administrative offices, libraries or other rooms of any such court whether or not such court solely occupies the building in question…The.. supreme court… may by rule..prohibit or limit the carrying of concealed firearms by endorsement holders in that portion of a building owned, leased or controlled by that unit of government.”

Kentucky’s (KRS § 237.110) has a similar clause banning generally the carrying of a firearm  in “Any courthouse, solely occupied by the Court of Justice courtroom, or court proceeding.” but then (KRS § 237.020) exempts active, retired, and senior status justices and judges with a handgun permit. In fact, Kentucky active, retired, and senior staus judges with a permit may carry “at all times and at all locations within the Commonwealth of Kentucky” exception detention facilities, which specifically “does not include courtrooms, facilities, or other premises used by the Court of Justice or administered by the Administrative Office of the Courts.”

Illinois HB 1403 is in the House Agriculture & Conservation Committee while SB 2150 is currently in the Senate Assignments Committee awaiting designation to a subject matter committee.

Georgia House (again) considers “informing” Chief Justice Georgia is not a “democracy”

Last year in her first state of the judiciary address, Chief Justice Carol Hunstein referred to Georgia as a “democracy”. As I noted at the time, this did not sit well with some members of the Georgia House, who prepared a resolution to “inform” the Chief Justice the state was a republic, not a democracy (see post here). The resolution went nowhere, legislatively speaking.

Undaunted, Chief Justice Hunstein gave her 2011 state of the judiciary and made use of the term “democracy” five times (see post here). Equally undaunted, the Georgia House is considering “informing” her via HR 340 of 2011.

WHEREAS, most synonymous with majority rule, democracy was condemned by the Founding Fathers of the United States, who closely studied the history of both democracies and republics before drafting the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution…

WHEREAS, in 1928, the War Department of the United States defined democracy in Training Manual No. 2000-25 as a “government of the masses” which “[r]esults in mobocracy,” communistic attitudes to property rights, “demagogism,…agitation, discontent,  [and] anarchy.”

NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED BY THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES that the members of this body recognize the difference between a democracy and a republic and inform Georgia Supreme Court Chief Justice Carol W. Hunstein that the State of Georgia is a republic and not a democracy.

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that the Clerk of the House of Representatives is authorized and directed to transmit appropriate copies of this resolution to Georgia Supreme Court Chief  Justice Carol W. Hunstein, all Justices of the Georgia Supreme Court, and all Judges of the Georgia Court of Appeals.

Presumably the decision to forward the resolution (if adopted) to the justices of the supreme court and court of appeals is because they were invited to attend the state of the judiciary address (HR 19 of 2011) and heard the reference to “democracy.”

The resolution is currently pending in the House Committee on the Judiciary.

Bans on court use of sharia/international law advance in Arizona and die in Mississippi and South Dakota

Readers may recall that I have examined efforts to prohibit state courts from using or referencing sharia or international law (see here and here). Last week some of these bills began to move through the legislative process, so an update seemed in order: Continue reading Bans on court use of sharia/international law advance in Arizona and die in Mississippi and South Dakota

Montana: There’s (electronic) gold in them thar…contempt of court proceedings?!?

Over the last several months, states including Virginia and South Carolina have considered bills to allow for or require the use of gold in state transactions. In 2009, Montana considered a similar idea (HB 639). This year, Montana has turned its attention back to gold use via HB 513 and in so doing carved special provisions for the state’s courts.

Section 7 provides “the state may not require but shall allow a person to recognize, receive, pay out, deliver, promise to pay, or otherwise use or employ gold and silver coin or electronic gold currency as media of exchange.” It extends this allowance to court judgments, decrees, and orders, however:

If the court, agency, or tribunal finds that a payment of gold and silver coin or electronic gold currency is not just compensation, the court, agency, or tribunal shall require:

(a) specific performance of the contract or other agreement then before the court, agency, or tribunal by other than the payment of money;

(b) specific restitution of property other than money;

(c) payment of some medium of exchange other than gold and silver coin, pursuant to a requirement for the payment in a contract or other agreement then before the court, agency, or tribunal; or

(d) other relief, similar to the relief described in subsection (5)(a) through (5)(c).

Thus, an individual generally has the option of using gold, silver, or “electronic gold” in addition to “legal tender of the United States”.

Even more interesting for purposes of the court’s internal workings is section 12, requiring damages, awards, payments, fines, penalties and other monetary forfeitures be determined and certified by the court “in both legal tender of the United States and electronic gold currency.”

The options are even more limited in criminal cases, contempt of court cases, cases involving violation of court rules, or any case in which the state is entitled to receive payment. There “the person against whom monetary damages or an award, payment, fine, penalty, or other monetary forfeiture is assessed shall pay the amount of the monetary damages, award, payment, fine, penalty, or other monetary forfeiture in electronic gold currency.” There appears to be no other option but for payment to the court for a contempt in the form of electronic gold.

A hearing on the bill set for February 16 before the House State Administration Committee was canceled. No word on when it is to be rescheduled.

Just who exactly gets to administer the oath of office to a judge? Maryland and Arkansas grapple with the question.

It may sound relatively mundane, but in many states judges of various courts may only be sworn into office by specific office holders. The issue came to a head in Maryland recently. In November 2010, state voters approved a constitutional amendment requiring Orphan’s Court judges in Baltimore City be attorneys. At the same election, Baltimore City residents voted into office as an Orphan’s Court judge non-attorney Laudette Ramona Moore Baker. The state’s governor did not issue her a commission and the circuit clerk, who under existing Maryland law administers the oath personally or through a designated deputy, declined to swear her in.

Enter HB 410 of 2011, which would expand the list of those who could administer a judicial swearing in to include “any officer whose office is established in the Maryland Constitution”. The bill is set for a hearing on February 23 before the House Health and Government Operations Committee.

At the same time, Arkansas is also recodifying who gets to swear in judicial and other elected officials via SB 156. Current law provides Supreme Court, Court of Appeals, Circuit Court, and District Court judges have a choice of taking their oath before

  1. the Governor
  2. a Supreme Court Justice
  3. a Circuit Court Judge
  4. the clerk of the county court or
  5. the clerk of the circuit court.

SB 156 keeps these 5 but adds judges of the Court of Appeals to the list. SB 156 was approved by the full Senate February 14 and is currently pending in the House State Agencies and Government Affairs Committee where it had a hearing earlier today (February 16).