Call for Submissions: Trends in State Courts

Trends in State Courts is an annual, peer-reviewed publication that highlights innovative practices in critical areas that are of interest to courts, and often serves as a guide for developing new initiatives and programs, and informing and supporting policy decisions.

Trends in State Courts is the only publication of its kind and enjoys a wide circulation among the state court community. It is distributed in hard copy and electronically.

Submissions for the 2018 edition are now being accepted. Please email abstracts of no more than 500 words by October 13, 2017 to Deborah Smith at dsmith@ncsc.org. Abstracts received after this date are welcome and will be considered for later editions or for our monthly online version.

In addition to the Trends 2018 publication, we have monthly articles on our Trends website with a rolling submission process.

Suggested topics might include:

  • Opioid Crisis
  • Security (Judicial, Cybersecurity)
  • Rural Courts
  • Safety (Children, Elders, Community)
  • Human Trafficking
  • Pretrial Risk Assessment
  • Problem Solving Courts
  • Well Being
  • Other

Visit the Trends in State Courts website at www.ncsc.org/trends .

Illinois: new law requires posting in public areas of courthouses detailing how to file disciplinary complaints against trial judges

A bill in the Illinois House discussed here and here that would require courthouses have postings of how to file a disciplinary complaint against trial judges has been signed into law.

HB 3054 as filed contained 3 elements

  1. All Circuit Judges must announce that a person can file a complaint against him or her with the state’s Judicial Inquiry Board prior to calling the first case of the day.
  2. The Clerk of the Circuit Court must make a Judicial Inquiry Board complaint form with instructions available.
  3. The Clerk must also post within each courtroom a notice that a person may file a complaint against the judge and that instructions for filing a complaint may be obtained from the clerk.

HB 3054 as amended and enacted removes Item 1 entirely and heavily modifies Items 2 and 3. The new bill provides

The clerk shall post in the common areas of the courthouse a notice that a person may file a complaint against the judge that includes contact information for the Judicial Inquiry Board. The Judicial Inquiry Board shall develop a uniform statewide notice and provide the format of the notice to each clerk.

HB 3054 has an effective date of January 1, 2018.

 

Florida: 2017 bill passed by Senate to levy civil fines and remove from office judges who try to stop the carrying of guns into courthouses already prefiled for 2018

Earlier this year I mentioned Florida SB 616. Under the 2017 bill the firearm permit holders would have been allowed to carry guns into courthouses, or at least those portions not directly used by the courts (such as courtrooms and chambers). Judges who attempted to prohibit courthouse carry were threatened with civil fines and removal from office by the Governor. It was approved by the Senate but went nowhere in the House.

Now, SB 616 of 2017 has been refiled as SB 134 of 2018. It again threatens judges with civil fines and removal from office if they attempt to issue an administrative order stopping courthouse carry or altering the definition of “courthouse” to be broader than the limited-space definition provided in SB 134 (emphasis added).

A local ordinance, administrative rule, administrative order, or regulation that is in conflict with the definition of the term “courthouse” in this subsection or the rights set forth under subparagraph (12)(a)4. is preempted to the Legislature under s. 790.33. The person, justice, judge, county, agency, municipality, district, or other entity that enacts or causes to be enforced a local ordinance, administrative rule, administrative order, or regulation that is preempted is subject to the penalties set forth in s. 790.33, including, but not limited to, civil fines and removal from office by the Governor.

SB 134 has not yet been assigned to a committee.

South Dakota: Initiated Constitutional Amendment would require judges recuse for campaign contributions; new State Government Accountability Board would have power over judges

A proposed South Dakota constitutional amendment, currently circulating for signatures, could require the state’s judges to recuse in cases involving campaign contributors.

In 2016 voters in the state passed IM 22, amending state statutes related to campaign finance and lobbying laws. While approved by voters, the legislature effectively rewrote and overturned the measure during its 2017 session.

In June proponents of IM returned with a new proposal, this time a constitutional amendment, that includes some of IM 22’s provisions and several new ones, including one focused on judges.

Under Section 11 of the proposed constitutional amendment

A judge shall avoid the appearance of bias, and shall disqualify himself or herself in any proceeding in which monetary or in-kind support related to the judge’s election or retention creates an appearance of bias to a reasonable person.

Circuit judges in South Dakota are subject to non-partisan elections, while South Dakota Supreme Court judges are appointed via a merit/commission based system and subject to yes/no retention elections.

In addition the legislatively created State Government Accountability Board would be replaced with a new board of the same name with the power to investigate both legislators and judges, including the power to adopt rules of ethics that would be binding on judges and to investigate judges for violations of those ethics or existing ethics/corruptions statutes. Moreover, the Board would have the power to impose sanctions on judges.

The initiative requires 27,741 signatures to be gathered and submitted to the secretary of state by November 2017 to appear on the November 2018 ballot.

Maryland: Senate committee debated whether parties in a civil case should be automatically given continuances, without judicial approval, if the parties agree

A plan introduced earlier this year in the Maryland Senate could have effectively stripped judges in civil cases of the ability to deny many continuances.

SB 250, as introduced, provided that if all parties to a civil proceeding agreed to a continuance “a court shall continue” the proceeding.

Current law provides a continuance may be granted. And Maryland’s top court in December 2016 adopted a rule (Rule 16-804) regarding continuances.

SB 250 came up for a hearing in the Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee February 2 where the author indicated lawyers were complaining of judges not granting continuances. The state’s top judge (Chief Judge Mary Ellen Barbera) testified in committee against the bill, indicating her concern the detrimental impact on the courts and the court’s ability to set and arrange calendaring.

SB 250 failed to advance out of committee.

Pennsylvania: bill would require drug testing of judges and other elected officials; similar drug-testing-judges law struck down in 1998

Over the last several decades there has been a push to drug test those who are on any kind of public assistance and, in response, efforts by state legislators to put the same sort of drug testing requirements on public officials, including in many instances judges (I discussed this phenomena at length here and here and here).

This year’s version comes from Pennsylvania as HB 1655 which would require candidates who seek to serve as judges to, along with their nomination petitions, submit to a drug test. The same requirement would be imposed on anyone seeking to be elected to local, state, or federal office from or in Pennsylvania.

If enacted, HB 1655 is likely to face a court challenge. In 1997, the same year Louisiana mandated drug testing for certain adult recipients of public assistance (HB 2435), the state enacted a process for random drug testing of all “elected officials” (HB 646). The elected officials plan was struck down in 1998 by the Federal courts when Justice of the Peace Phillip O’Neill and other elected officials challenged the law. (O’Neill v. Louisiana., E.D. La. 1998, 61 F.Supp.2d 485, affirmed 197 F.3d 1169, cert. denied 120 S.Ct. 2740, 530 U.S. 1274, 147 L.Ed.2d 2005).

 

Ohio: House-approved bill allows people found to carry a gun into a courthouse to avoid charges if they simply leave

The Ohio House last week approved a plan that could expand the carrying of guns into courthouses in the state.

Under current law (R.C. 2923.126(B)(3)) a concealed carry license doesn’t allow for a person to carry a concealed gun into “A courthouse or another building or structure in which a courtroom is located, in violation of section 2923.123 of the Revised Code.”)

Currently a person who does carry into a courthouse is guilty of a felony under R.C. 2319.123(A) and (B).

However, under HB 233 as approved by the House, the person with a concealed carry license would be able to avoid the felony charge if they simply leave the courthouse. Moreover, if they remained or came back with a gun within 30 days, they would be charged only with a misdemeanor under a new law (R.C. 2923.1214).

A person who has a valid concealed handgun license or who is a qualified military member and who is discovered conveying, possessing, or controlling a deadly weapon in violation of division (A) or (B) of this section is subject to removal from the premises but is not guilty of illegal conveyance of a deadly weapon or dangerous ordnance into a courthouse or of illegal possession or control of a deadly weapon or dangerous ordnance in a courthouse, as applicable . If the person refuses or fails to leave the premises upon being requested to do so by the individual in control of the premises or by that individual’s agent or employee, or returns within thirty days to the same premises while knowingly in possession of a deadly weapon in violation of this section, the person is guilty of criminal trespass with a deadly weapon, as described in section 2923.1214 of the Revised Code

HB 233 has been sent to the Senate.