MS: New law greatly expands those who may carry a firearm into a courthouse

Mississippi Governor Haley Barbour quietly signed into law Friday HB 506 allowing virtually anyone with a firearms license in the state to carry their gun in courthouses.

Existing law (Mississippi Code Sections 45-9-101(13) and 97-37-7(2)) were relative restrictive in terms of carrying:

45-9-1010(13): No license issued pursuant to this section shall authorize any person to carry a stun gun, concealed pistol or revolver into…any courthouse; any courtroom, except that nothing in this section shall preclude a judge from carrying a concealed weapon or determining who will carry a concealed weapon in his courtroom…

97-37-7(2): A law enforcement officer, as defined in Section 45-6-3, shall be authorized to carry weapons in courthouses in performance of his official duties. This section shall in no way interfere with the right of a trial judge to restrict the carrying of firearms in the courtroom.

HB 506, however, adds the following to 97-37-7(2):

A person licensed under Section 45-9-101 to carry a concealed pistol, who has voluntarily completed an instructional course in the safe handling and use of firearms offered by an instructor certified by a nationally recognized organization that customarily offers firearms training, or by any other organization approved by the Department of Public Safety, shall also be authorized to carry weapons in courthouses except in courtrooms during a judicial proceeding… (underline added)

The bill further allows for, with the aforementioned training, carrying to a variety of other places  under Section 45-9-101(13) but explicitly keeps the ban on carrying into “any police, sheriff or highway patrol station or any detention facility, prison or jail.”

The new law goes into effect July 1, 2011.

Colorado bill would create judicial public access system advisory board

Colorado’s Judiciary has had a Public Access System (PAS) and Electronic Filing System (EFS) for years. According to their website “Over the next two years, the Colorado Judicial Branch’s PAS/EFS team will build a new electronic filing system that will replace the Branch’s current e-filing vendor by January 2013.”

Enter Colorado HB 1282 of 2011.

The bill specifically provides a statutory obligation for the judicial department to provide a public access system for certain court records that direct-paying users and nonpaying users can access remotely. The bill prohibits the judicial department from restricting a direct-paying user from replicating the information on its system.

The bill also creates a Judicial Public Access System Advisory Board to govern the aforementioned system. The board would set the price schedule for access by direct-paying users and approve any changes to the schedule, determine what information will be available through the system and in what form it will be available, and address any other matter relevant to the system.

The board itself would consist of 9 members, including 4 legislators, 1 office of information technology (executive branch) staff member, 2 judicial department employees, and 2 vendors. The 2 judicial department employees (one of whom would chair the board) and 2 vendors would be selected by the chief justice.

The bill is currently pending in the House State, Veterans, & Military Affairs committee.

Cross-posted to Court Technology Bulletin.

Maine bill would create 13 member “Commission To Study Priorities and Timing of Judicial Proceedings in State Courts” with only 2 members of judiciary

What are the priority cases for courts? What should they be? In a time of dwindling budgets, every court has been confronted with these questions. Now, the Maine legislature is considering formally getting involved, too.

SB 297 creates a Commission To Study Priorities and Timing of Judicial Proceedings in State Courts. The sole duty of the commission is to “study the priority and timing of judicial proceedings in state courts including, but not limited to, judicial proceedings that require priority treatment pursuant to statute.”

The 13 member commission would have only 2 members of the judiciary (appointed by the state’s chief justice). The rest would be 2 Senators, 4 Representatives, and 1 appointee each for the Attorney General, Maine State Bar Association, Maine Prosecutors Association, Maine Trial Lawyers Association and the Pine Tree Legal Assistance.

If approved, SB 297 gives the Commission until December 7, 2011 to report and authorizes the legislature’s Joint Standing Committee on Judiciary to introduce a bill based on their findings for the 2012 session.

Texas bill would require Office of Court Administration put list of vexatious litigants online

Texas’ HB 720 was approved yesterday by that state’s House Committee on Judiciary & Civil Jurisprudence. The bill’s primary aim is to explicitly permit a person who has been found to be a vexatious litigant (and thus under an order requiring prior approval before additional filings)  may appeal the designation to a court of appeals.

Another portion of the bill, however, would modify an existing law that requires the state Office of Court Administration keep a list of vexatious litigants. That list must currently be send annually to the clerks of all courts in the state. If approved, Section 11.104(b) of the Civil Practice and Remedies Code would delete the annual distribution requirement and instead require the list be posted online, along with an indication of whether the person has filed an appeal of the designation.

2011 on track to have most efforts to remove judges from office in recent memory

It is barely March, and already there have been more bills seeking the removal of judges in 2011 than in any year in recent memory. As I noted in a special December 2010 edition of Gavel to Gavel, while threats to impeach state court judges have increased, it has only been in the last several years that actual bills have been drafted and submitted.
All told, 10 judges (9 state, 1 federal) are the target of impeachment or removal efforts in the state legislatures this year. This is in addition to the threats to impeach Iowa’s supreme court justices made earlier in the year that have not materialized as articles of impeachment.

State Bill Form of removal Target Reason for removal request
Massachusetts HB 2172 Bill of address Supreme Judicial Court Chief Justice Roderick L. Ireland Unknown
Massachusetts HB 2172 Bill of address Supreme Judicial Court Justice Francis X. Spina Unknown
Massachusetts HB 2172 Bill of address Supreme Judicial Court Justice Judith A. Cowin Unknown
Massachusetts HB 2172 Bill of address Supreme Judicial Court Justice Robert J. Cordy Unknown
New Hampshire HR 7 Impeachment Marital Master Phillip Cross Decisions in custody/divorce cases
New Hampshire HR 7 Impeachment “any justice of the New Hampshire superior court” Decisions in custody/divorce cases
New Jersey SR 105 Impeachment Supreme Court Justice Roberto Rivera-Soto Refusal to vote in some cases
Oklahoma HR 1001 Request for removal by judicial disciplinary commission District Judge Thomas Bartheld Failure to reject negotiated plea bargain in child sex abuse case
Oklahoma HR 1005 Impeachment request to Congress U.S. District Court Judge Vickie Miles-LaGrange “Abuse of authority” for issuing an injunction against state’s sharia law ban
Oklahoma HR 1006 Request for removal by judicial disciplinary commission District Judge Tammy Bass-LeSure 36 felony counts, including four counts of perjury and 32 counts of fraudulent claim

MA: Effort to remove by bill of address 4 justices of Supreme Judicial Court introduced

Last week a Massachusetts Representative introduced, at the request of a constituent, HB 2172 a “bill of address” for the removal of Supreme Judicial Court Chief Justice Roderick L. Ireland and justices Francis X. Spina, Judith A. Cowin, and Robert J. Cordy.

There is no specific reasoning for the effort to remove these four justices in particular. The last such effort in Massachusetts occurred in 2004 and 2005 where bills of address were introduced against the justices that ruled in favor of same-sex marriage (Goodridge v. Dept. of Public Health, 798 N.E.2d 941 (Mass. 2003)). However, justices Cordy and Spina had dissents in those cases, while (then associate justice) Ireland and Cowin voted in favor.

Under the Massachusetts constitution, removal by bill of address requires only a majority of both the House and Senate, followed by the approval of the Governor and Governor’s Council. Where impeachment would require accusations of “misconduct and mal-administration”, bills of address do not require such findings.

The bill is currently pending before the Joint Committee on the Judiciary.

Florida considers a “Judicial Opinion Communications Act”

It is one thing to have a state appellate court strike down a statute as unconstitutional. It is quite another to send a copy of the order striking down the law straight to the legislature. However, this is precisely what some members of the legislature are asking for.

HB 87 (and its Senate counterpart, SB 996) would require the state supreme court or district courts of appeal to send a copy of any decision that

  1. declares a Florida statute, regulation, or government practice unconstitutional
  2. recommends any statutory or regulatory changes to the current law, or
  3. identifies drafting issues

to the Governor, the President of the Senate, and the Speaker of the House of Representatives within 30 days of the decision. The three officers would have 30 days to acknowledge receipt and “may state in the acknowledgment any and all action to be taken in response to the opinion.”

The House bill is set for a hearing before the Judiciary Committee’s Civil Justice subcommittee on March 8.