My overview of several of the items on the ballot as well as the live election night coverage I’ll be hosting at www.ncsc.org/elections.
During the 2014 session the Arizona legislature considered SB 1266, a bill to allow “judicial officers” in the state to carry firearms into their courthouses, subject to rules set by the local Superior Court’s presiding judge. Testimony during the Senate and House Judiciary Committee hearings focused on justices of the peace working in rural parts of the state where no court security was provided. An amendment required that judges also demonstrate “competence” through a firearms safety course or similar training.
SB 1266 as amended was signed into law in April 2014.
A state constitutional amendment to compel Missouri state judges use only the “original intent” of the U.S. Constitution and ignore federal laws/cases that do not made it out of the Senate Missouri General Laws committee yesterday. Under SJR 38 previously discussed here
Any interpretation of the [U.S.] Constitution based on an emerging awareness, penumbras or shadows of the Constitution, a theory of the Constitution being a “living, breathing document”, or any interpretation that expands federal authority beyond the limited powers enumerated and delegated to the federal government, without an amendment to the Constitution, shall be deemed to exceed the limited powers enumerated and delegated to the federal government.
Moreover, the Missouri courts in general, and the Missouri Supreme Court in particular, along with the legislature would be authorized to retroactively negate any federal law or court decision they wished.
Missouri citizens shall have standing to bring a cause of action to enforce the provisions of this section. Enforcement of this section shall apply to federal actions taking effect after approval of this section by Missouri voters, federal actions enumerated herein, and any federal action, regardless of its effective date, the general assembly or Missouri supreme court shall hereafter determine, in accordance with [the original intent language section replicated above], to exceed the powers enumerated and delegated to the federal government by the constitution of the United States of America.
Yesterday California Governor Jerry Brown signed into law AB 868, a bill that requires all judges in family and juvenile law proceedings in the state be trained on the effects of gender identity and sexual orientation on such proceedings. It further requires judges receive training on cultural competency and sensitivity relating to, and best practices for, providing adequate care to lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender youth in such proceedings. The state’s Judicial Council is required to come up with the training and implement it.
A hearing occurred before the Senate Judiciary Committee on June 11. Proponents argued the need for judges to be aware of the unique challenges faced by LGBT youth. The state’s Judicial Council expressed no position on the bill but did raise separation of powers concerns over the legislature mandating specific judicial training programs and interfering in a co-equal branch.
Earlier this week North Carolina’s governor signed into law the formal repeal of the state’s public financing system for appellate judicial races (Part 38 of HB 589). The end was already sealed earlier in the year when all appropriations for the program were cut out of the state’s budget (see this post for coverage of that).
Interestingly, at roughly the same time this session North Carolina was seeking to end its public financing, two states were going the opposite direction. West Virginia moved to make its temporary public financing program for its supreme court races permanent (HB 2805) and Kentucky’s House was voting to create such as program for its supreme court races starting in 2014, when 4 of the 7 seats on the state’s highest court are on the ballot.
The video below is from the Kentucky House proceedings on HB 31, the 2013 iteration of the public financing bill. This was the third year in a row a version of the bill was introduced and the first time it passed one chamber.
There has been a great deal of attention paid in the last several legislative sessions on the subject of courthouse security. Of particular note in Washington State has been the question of who pays for the security and what level of security is sufficient. Into this was placed HB 1365 / SB 5240 of the 2013 session. The bills required counties to provide security to district courts and for county legislative authorities to specifically furnish secure courthouses for district courts. The bills further provided municipalities, regardless of population size, to provide security to municipal courts.
A hearing before the House Local Government Committee was held on February 12, 2013. Proponents noted the shootings of judges and court staff in Delaware and Texas that had taken place in the days leading up to the hearing. Opponents noted the limited and finite resources available at the local level.
Ultimately the bill was held in the committee and died when the legislature adjourned for the year.
Oregon, like many other states, prohibits those elected or appointed to office from working or serving in another, especially if they are getting paid to do it. Oregon’s constitutional provision on this subject currently read as follows:
Article II, Section 10: No person holding a lucrative office, or appointment under the United States, or under this State, shall be eligible to a seat in the Legislative Assembly; nor shall any person hold more than one lucrative office at the same time, except as in this Constition [sic] expressly permitted; Provided, that Officers in the Militia, to which there is attached no annual salary, and the Office of Post Master, where the compensation does not exceed One Hundred Dollars per annum, shall not be deemed lucrative.
Article III, Section 1: The powers of the Government shall be divided into three separate branches, the Legislative, the Executive, including the administrative, and the Judicial; and no person charged with official duties under one of these branches, shall exercise any of the functions of another, except as in this Constitution expressly provided.
An exception is made in Article XV, Section 8 for those who are members of or employed by the State Board of Higher Education or a school board to allow them to also be elected as member of the legislature (i.e. the Legislative Assembly).
SJR 34 of 2013, as approved by the legislature in late June, would add another exception: judges would be able to teach in schools operated by the State Board of Higher Education and serve in the National Guard as well.
A person serving as a judge of any court of this state may be employed by the Oregon National Guard for the purpose of performing military service or may be employed by the State Board of Higher Education for the purpose of teaching, and the employment does not prevent the person from serving as a judge.
The amendment was approved unanimously in the Oregon Senate on June 25. The House, on the other hand, approved it on a 36-23 vote that broke across party lines.
Proponents note that judges in the state can work as part-time teachers for the two private law schools in the state, while opponents expressed concern about judges being employees and receiving two paychecks from the state.
Below is the audio with photos of the House members heard in debate on the measure from that June 25 floor vote. SJR 34 will be appearing on the November 2014 ballot.
Legislature after legislature is dealing with the question of efiling in state courts as courts themselves grapple with the subject. In December 2012 the Texas Supreme Court issued an order effectively mandating efiling in civil cases in the state’s trial courts (except justice court) over the next 4 years
- January 1, 2014, all appellate courts + trial courts in counties with a population of 500,000 or more
- July 1, 2014, trial courts in counties with 200,000 to 499,999
- January 1,2015, trial courts in counties with 100,000 to 199,999
- July 1, 2015, trial courts in counties with 50,000 to 99,999
- January 1,2016, trial courts in counties with 20,000 to 49,999
- July 1, 2016, trial courts in counties with fewer than 20,000
The question then turned to funding for efiling: should an efiling fee be put on the filing of each document filed, or as a lump sum one-time addition? And which would allow for enough funding to implement the system?
SB 1466 of 2013 as introduced would opt for the one-time only fee: $15 added to civil filing fee in probate, county, and district courts and Supreme Court; $5 additionally for criminal convictions from the justice, county and district courts. As came out in testimony, the amount will likely need to be increased to $20 in the form of a committee amendment later.
The fees would go to a Statewide Electronic Filing Fund, appropriated to the Office of Court Administration and the Supreme Court, for the electronic filing system. Testifying on the bill was the Chief Justice Wallace B. Jefferson and David W. Slayton, Administrative Director of the Texas Office of Court Administration.
The bill was debated, and left pending, in the Senate Jurisprudence Committee on March 19.
Limited English Proficient participants in state court proceedings often rely upon court interpreters to help them understand what is going on in the proceedings. Arkansas, like many states in the last few years, has examined their currently practices and statutes in this regard and has proposed HB 1325.
The video below is from the House Judiciary Committee hearing on February 19 and the full House floor debate on February 21.
Every state, either by statute, constitution, or case law, vests with the state’s courts power over bar admission specifically and lawyers in general. Arizona, however, is among several states that have legislatures that are seeking to take away or involve themselves more directly into controlling the bar.
On February 14, 2013 the Arizona House Judiciary Committee debated HB 2480. On the one hand it would require the state’s supreme court to adopt rules to license attorneys for the practice of law in Arizona, something the supreme court already does. It would also end the practice whereby an attorney is obligated to join the state bar in order to practice law.
After about 38 minutes of debate, the bill was held over to be debated further at another committee hearing.