West Virginia: constitutional amendment to give legislature power over judiciary’s budget heads to November ballot; language protecting budget from retaliation for court decisions removed

I mentioned that West Virginia is unique among all states in that the judiciary’s budget request to the legislature cannot be reduced. The West Virginia House and Senate, after disagreeing on specific language, have now sent to voters a plan to put the legislature in charge of the judiciary’s budget (news here and here)

The current constitutional language provides

The Legislature shall not amend the budget bill so as to create a deficit but may amend the bill by increasing or decreasing any item therein. Provided, That no item relating to the judiciary shall be decreased

SJR 3 as made its way through committee looked like this

The Legislature shall may not amend the budget bill so as to create a deficit but may amend the bill by increasing or decreasing any item therein: Provided, That no item relating to the judiciary shall be decreased, Provided, That the Legislature may not make any law that conditions the increase or decrease of an item relating to the judiciary upon a particular ruling, order, or decision of a court of this state

In the end, however, the version approved provides percentages beyond which the legislature may not cut. Gone is anything about protecting the budget from legislative actions based on “a particular ruling, order, or decision of a court of this state.”

That the Legislature shall may not decrease the total general revenue appropriations to the judiciary in the budget bill to an amount that is less than 85 percent of the amount of the total general revenue appropriations to the judiciary in the most recently enacted budget without a separate vote of the Legislature approved by a two-thirds vote of the members elected to each house, determined by yeas and nays and entered on the journals.

SJR 3 goes to voters in November.

Louisiana: bill provides Judicial Council would no longer report whether court costs/fees “reasonably related to the operation of the courts or court system”

A 2003 law that requires the state’s Judicial Council report whether new court costs of fees are “reasonably related to the operation of the courts or court system” may be effectively repealed.

HB 493 as prefiled for the 2018 session would repeal a provision requiring the Judicial Council weigh in on the “reasonably related.”

No law to provide for a new court cost or fee or to increase an existing court cost or fee shall be enacted unless first submitted to the Judicial Council for review and recommendation to the legislature as to whether the court cost or fee is reasonably related to the operation of the courts or court system.

This follows on a 2011 amendment that had added the “reasonably related” language, but removed the power of the Judicial Council to review fees/costs in Mayor’s Courts or Justice of the Peace Courts (HB 522 of 2011)

HB 493 has been preliminarily filed in the House Judiciary Committee.

West Virginia: constitutional amendment to give legislature power over judiciary’s budget clears House committee; specific language denying legislature ability to financially punish courts for their decisions at issue

I mentioned that West Virginia is unique among all states in that the judiciary’s budget request to the legislature cannot be reduced. The West Virginia House and Senate appear to be disagreeing over how to re-assert legislative power in this area while ensuring courts aren’t punished financially for their decisions.

The current constitutional language provides

The Legislature shall not amend the budget bill so as to create a deficit but may amend the bill by increasing or decreasing any item therein. Provided, That no item relating to the judiciary shall be decreased

SJR 3 as introduced would have reasserted legislative control, striking the “That no item relating to the judiciary shall be decreased” language.

SJR 3 as approved by the Senate Judiciary committee struck the language, but added a protection.

Provided, That the Legislature may not condition the increase or decrease of an item relating to the judiciary upon a particular ruling, order or decision of a court of this state.

SJR 3 as approved by the Senate Finance committee changed the wording further still (emphasis added

Provided, That the Legislature may not make any law that conditions the increase or decrease of an item relating to the judiciary upon a particular ruling, order, or decision of a court of this state.

That language was approved by the full Senate.

However, the House Finance committee yesterday appears to have reverted the wording back to the Senate Judiciary version.

Provided, That the Legislature may not condition the increase or decrease of an item relating to the judiciary upon a particular ruling, order or decision of a court of this state.

SJR 3 now goes to the House Judiciary Committee.

Florida: What is the Constitution Revision Commission looking at regarding the judiciary?

Although not technically a legislative entity, Florida’s Constitutional Revision Commission is, like the legislature, allowed to submit constitutional amendments onto the ballot affecting the courts. While there were 103 CRC proposals, these have been narrowed to Proposals Under Active Consideration as of today. Those affecting the courts include

      • Proposal 6: Requires any state court or administrative law judge to interpret a state statute or rule de novo, independent of an agency’s interpretation, in any litigation proceedings between a private party and an administrative agency.
      • Proposal 39: Among other things, prohibits a justice or judge from personally representing another person for compensation before the legislative, executive, or judicial branches of state government, other than practicing law before a judicial tribunal, for a period of six years following vacation of office.
      • Proposal 41: Allows judges to serve until age 75. Currently judges must retire at 70, but can serve out their current term if they already served at least 1/2 of it when they hit 70.
      • Proposal 47: Provides a person must be a member of a U.S. state or territory for 10 years to be eligible for a trial court judgeship (Circuit or County Courts).
      • Proposal 55: Requires the legislature to provide funding sufficient to offset the Clerks costs in providing services in criminal and other court cases in which the parties do not pay fees and costs.

Gone are any proposals regarding changes to judicial selection.

 

West Virginia: Senate approves big changes to judiciary; constitutional amendment would let legislature control judiciary’s budget; creation of intermediate appellate court advances

The West Virginia Senate approved two big changes to the state’s judiciary yesterday

Judicial Budget Oversight Amendment

SJR 3 as approved addresses funding for the state’s judiciary. Currently the West Virginia judiciary is unique among all states in that it’s budget request must be approved by the legislature without a decrease

The Legislature shall may not amend the budget bill so as to create a deficit but may amend the bill by increasing or decreasing any item therein. Provided, That no item relating to the judiciary shall be decreased

SJR 3 as introduced would have reasserted legislative control, striking the “That no item relating to the judiciary shall be decreased” language.

SJR 3 as approved by the Senate Judiciary committee struck the language, but added a protection.

Provided, That the Legislature may not condition the increase or decrease of an item relating to the judiciary upon a particular ruling, order or decision of a court of this state.

SJR 3 as approved by the Senate Finance committee changed the wording further still

Provided, That the Legislature may not make any law that conditions the increase or decrease of an item relating to the judiciary upon a particular ruling, order, or decision of a court of this state

The Senate Finance language was approved by the full Senate. If approved by the House it would still have be approved by voters.

Intermediate Appellate Court (at least for the next 10 years)

SB 341 as amended and approved by the full Senate yesterday is the latest in a 20 year effort to get an intermediate appellate court in the state.

SB 341 would create a court with two geographic districts (Northern and Southern) each with its own panel made up of 3 judges. Judges would not be “borrowed” from other courts; prior proposals would have created 3 judge panels made of 1 Supreme Court justice sitting with 3 Circuit Court judges. The court would automatically sunset in July 2029.

Interestingly, the judges of the new court would NOT be subject to any sort of election. Instead there would be a 3-step process.

  1. The state’s existing Judicial Vacancy Advisory Commission, currently used to fill interim vacancies, would submit names to the governor for each vacancy.
  2. The governor would then appoint a person subject to Senate confirmation.
  3. Once appointed, the judge serves for 10 years and may be reappointed. (Some of the first set of judges would serve 6-year or 8-year terms in order to create a staggered term system).

Included is a provision that civil appeals would lie either to the Intermediate Court of Appeals or Supreme Court of Appeals and that in civil cases “shall be afforded a full and meaningful review, and an opportunity to be heard, by the West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals or the Intermediate Court of Appeals, and a written decision on the merits shall be issued, as a matter of right.”

SB 341 now goes to the House.

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: 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.