Louisiana: bill would require judges to file annual financial statements, mandatory ethics training; separation of powers debate comes back after 2008 agreement

A bill prefiled in the Louisiana House would require elected and appointed judges in the state to follow the same financial disclosure statute as other officials.

SB 44 as filed would require judges file annual financial statements and attend mandatory ethics training.

Some background: the law in question was adopted in 2008. At the time of introduction, HB 1 of the First Extraordinary Session of 2008 included judges in the required annual financial statements and mandatory ethics training and placed enforcement in the hands of an executive branch agency.

As I wrote, this struck some as a possible separation of powers, including the state’s Chief Justice who wrote a letter asking the legislature to remove the provision related to judges, assuring that the Supreme Court would issue rules with the same effect.

Ultimately the solution was that the Senate adopted a resolution asking the Supreme Court to impose financial disclosure on the judges similar to what had been adopted by law for the other officials (SR 6). The Supreme Court in fact did adopt a financial disclosure rule (Supreme Court Rule XXXIX) except for justices of the peace.

Despite the agreement reached in 2008, this isn’t the first time legislators have tried to statutorily impose disclosure on judges.

In 2010 SB 72 was filed to place judges under the provisions of the existing law. It was filed but failed to advance out of committee.

In 2015 several legislative efforts were made, starting again with putting judges under the existing statute (HB 294). It was heard in committee in May of that year. After the hearing the House considered HCR 195 and HR 127. Both requested the Louisiana Supreme Court make judicial financial disclosure reports available for viewing on the internet.  The HR was approved by the House, the HCR was never taken up.

 

 

Virginia: Senate committee OKs bill to mandate civil e-filing in under 18 months; no paper documents accepted after July 2019; provides for paying for system based on annual subscription fee

The Virginia Senate’s Courts of Justice Committee approved on a 15-0 vote last week a plan to mandate civil e-filing in the state within 18 months.

SB 980 provides that

  1. Except in limited instances no document filed in court shall contain the social security number of any party, or of any minor child of any party, or any identifying financial information of any party. If needed, the information must be filed in a separate addendum file by the attorney or party in such civil case.
  2. Requires all circuit clerks to establish and operate a system for electronic filing. Currently law provides they may create such a system.
  3. Provides that in civil cases after July 2019 all nonconfidential documents filed with the clerk are to be in electronic form and available through secure remote access and searchable by name and case number across all circuit courts that use the Office of the Executive Secretary’s electronic imaging system.
  4. Direcst the Executive Secretary of the Supreme Court to administer a paid subscription service that provides access to all electronic records maintained by the clerks who use such electronic imaging system for civil cases filed on or after July 1, 2019.
  5. Specifies that such subscription shall be on an annual basis, with an annual fee to be established by the Judicial Council of Virginia.
  6. Provides that any sums collected pursuant to such subscription shall be deposited into the state treasury to the credit of the Courts Technology Fund.
  7. Directs the Virginia Information Technologies Agency to update its document entitled “Security Standard for Restricted Remote Access to Documents on Court-Controlled Websites” consistent with the provisions of the bill by July 1, 2019.

Iowa: Senate bills would force courts to accept guns in courthouses; similar bills already filed in House

As I mentioned here the Iowa Supreme Court issued orders last year regarding a new law that expanded where guns could be carried first discussed here. The orders limited courthouse carrying of firearms, much to the anger of some legislators. A series of House bills were filed targeting the courts on this issue, now it is the Senate’s turn.

SF 2044 provides if state supreme court or local court prohibits carrying of firearms into courthouses, courts are to pay rent and provide armed security to be paid for by reducing judge’s salaries.

SF 2052 provides people may carry a firearm into a courthouse with a handgun permit.

SF 2104 provides no supreme court or judicial branch order may prohibit a person from carrying a firearm into a courthouse.

 

Iowa: Anger over Supreme Court orders limiting guns in courthouses continues, House member wants to cut Supreme Court salaries down to $25,000 (salary of a legislator), reduce their terms & term limit them

A member of the Iowa House has introduced 3 pieces of legislation targeting the state’s Supreme Court, the latest legislative reaction to orders released by the Supreme Court last year regarding a new law that expanded where guns could be carried first discussed here. The orders limited courthouse carrying of firearms, much to the anger of some legislators.

All three bills are not pending in the House Judiciary Committee.

Iowa: After state’s chief justice issues orders limiting carrying of guns into courthouses, state senator introduces plan to dock judicial pay down to as low as $25,000

Last year Iowa enacted a law allowing expanded carrying of firearms into “public buildings” and the question arose what this meant for courthouses and courtrooms. Chief Justice Mark Cady in June 2017 issued an order in June banning courthouse carry and later following up in December 2017 with another order that narrowed the June order but that still left the decision ultimately up to the local Chief Judge.

In response, at least one member of the Iowa Senate is looking at the possibility of reducing judicial salaries.

SF 2044 as filed provides that if the supreme court or local court issues a no-carry-in-a-courthouse order

  1. The local court must pay a rent of $2 per square foot per month to the county for the area of a courthouse used by the court.
  2. The judicial branch would have to provide armed security in the courthouse. Payment for the armed security would come from the Chief Judge’s salary on a dollar-for-dollar basis until the Chief Judge’s salary hit $25,000.

SF 2044 has been filed in the Senate Judiciary Committee.

Michigan: new laws require state court administrative office certify all veterans, drug, DWI, and mental health courts

A set of bills previously discussed here, that require Michigan judges/courts that want to operate special problem solving dockets be certified by the state court administrator’s office has been signed by that state’s governor (press release here).

SB 435 (drug courts), SB 436 (DWI/sobriety courts), SB 437 (mental health courts), and SB 438 (veterans courts) provide that existing or new problem solving courts/dockets must be certified (“The state court administrative office shall establish the procedure for certification.”) or will be shut down starting January 1, 2018.

Michigan: Senate unanimously approves bills requiring state court administrative office certify all veterans, drug, DWI, and mental health courts

A set of bills previously discussed here, that require Michigan judges/courts that want to operate special problem solving dockets be certified by the state court administrator’s office has cleared that state’s Senate (news report here).

SB 435 (drug courts), SB 436 (DWI/sobriety courts), SB 437 (mental health courts), and SB 438 (veterans courts) provide that existing or new problem solving courts/dockets must be certified (“The state court administrative office shall establish the procedure for certification.”) or will be shut down starting January 1, 2018.

The bills are “tie-barred”, meaning for one to pass, they must all pass.

The bills have now been assigned to the House Law and Justice Committee.