Issue 5:5 is out with a focus on Court Interpreter legislation 2011

Issue 5:5 (January 28) is here.

  • Focus Piece: Court Interpreter legislation 2011
  • Oklahoma’s legislature considers asking Congress to impeach the federal judge that put a restraining order on the state’s anti-sharia law ban
  • Nebraska’s unicameral legislature looks likely to ask its Supreme Court for a report on whether and how to restructure the state’s judicial organizational structure
  • Virginia may finally increase its mandatory retirement age for judges from 70 to 73
  • Kansas asks: who should OK trial clerks use of e-filing and e-document storage systems: the supreme court or the local chief judge?
  • Record on appeal: Georgia considers dropping its per-page cost; New Mexico considers an Appellate Transcription Fund for indigent appeals
  • Hawaii may create an access to justice trust fund
  • Oklahoma now has its sixth bill to make elections for clerks of court nonpartisan, but its second bill to make appellate court races partisan

Today’s a big day for hearings on bills affecting the judiciary

Several bills affecting the state courts are getting committee hearings today, (see update below) including:

Montana HB 332 (House Judiciary committee audio will be here) would permit jury nullification and require judges inform jurors they may judge both the facts and the law in the case> Judges would be required to provide jurors  state and federal constitutions and any statute books they request. In criminal cases, the judge would be required to inform jurors they may vote their conscience to acquit an accused in spite of technical guilt. Finally, the bill defines “obstruction” of these provisions as reversible error.

Meanwhile, Indiana’s Senate Judiciary committee (live streaming video here) will be considering two bills of particular note. SB 212 would move the state closer to a restructured system of consolidated trial courts. It provides that all circuit courts, superior courts, and probate courts have: (1) original and concurrent jurisdiction in all civil cases and in all criminal cases; (2) de novo appellate jurisdiction of appeals from city and town courts; and (3) in Marion County, de novo appellate jurisdiction of appeals from township small claims courts. The bill would also repeal authorization for the establishment and operation of county courts (since January 1, 2009, no county court exists in Indiana.).Also up for debate is SB 463 which would repeal all provisions that establish a mandatory retirement age for superior court and county court judges.

Update 2/2/11 @ 8:44 Eastern: The massive snow storm affecting most of the country has shut down the Indiana Legislature Tuesday and Wednesday. According to the legislature’s website, Senate hearings may be conducted Thursday.

Bills to increase penalties for filing false liens on judges, court personnel moving in AR and PA

Among the myriad of challenges facing judges and court staff beyond the threat of physical violence is the prospect of having liens and similar instruments filed on their homes. A federal law adopted in 2008 (and codified as 18 USC 1521) provides

Whoever files, attempts to file, or conspires to file, in any public record or in any private record which is generally available to the public, any false lien or encumbrance against the real or personal property of an individual described in [18 USCS § 1114], on account of the performance of official duties by that individual, knowing or having reason to know that such lien or encumbrance is false or contains any materially false, fictitious, or fraudulent statement or representation, shall be fined under this title or imprisoned for not more than 10 years, or both.

In 2011, at least two states are looking at similar legislation.

Arkansas’  HB 1045 would make is a class C felony (punishable by 3 to 10 years in prison) to cloud or adversely affect the title or ownership of the property of a judge or other court personnel because of the performance of their official duties. That bill was approved by the House Committee on Judiciary 1/27/11 and adopted by the full House on 1/31/11.

A similar Pennsylvania bill (SB 50) would create the crime of “Simulated legal process” and includes within it “actions affecting title to real or personal property, indictments, subpoenas, warrants, injunctions, liens, orders, judgments or any legal documents or proceedings, knowing or having reason to know that the contents of the documents or proceedings or basis for the action to be fraudulent”. In addition SB 50 creates a separate crime (“Hindering public official”) when a person attempts “to influence, intimidate or hinder a public official or law enforcement officer in the discharge of his official duties by threat of or actual physical violence, harassment, through simulated legal process or by other unlawful act.” Both would be second degree misdemeanors punishable by up to two years imprisonment. SB 50 would also make specific crimes of tactics often used by “common law court” and militia/patriot groups such as “impersonating public official or legal tribunal” and use of unofficial license plates. SB 50 was introduced on January 12 and is currently pending in the Senate Judiciary Committee.

AZ: You say court surcharge, I say court penalty assessment….

Trying to come to terms with terms is at the heart of both legislative and judicial branches. One such area where the two can become entangled is with the difference between a court imposed surcharge in criminal cases where there is a conviction and an assessment the court imposes as the result of a criminal conviction. For Arizona, the terms matter: courts are required to collect a 61% and 13% surcharge, or penalty assessment, for violations of motor vehicle statutes and a 10% surcharge is also permitted for violations related to the Clean Elections Act. Moreover, it is not 100% what the surcharge is on (can one surcharge a surcharge? an assessment?)

Enter HB 2353 which clarifies that surcharges apply to the base fine and do not apply to another surcharge and conforms all terminology currently referring to a penalty assessment as a surcharge. It was adopted on a 9-0 vote by the House Judiciary Committee last Thursday and is now in the House Committee of the Whole.

Recently introduced e-filing bills

Cross-posted at the Court Technology Bulletin blog

Much has been made, particularly in the recent spate of State of the Judiciary Speeches, about the boon and promise of e-filing in state courts. In just the last week legislators in five states introduced or advanced bills related to the subject.

Arizona SB 1185 Would change the state’s existing laws that allow the Supreme Court and Superior Courts (pursuant to rules adopted by the Supreme Court) to have e-filing to require they do (“may” to “shall”) Moreover, the bill would require the electronic access to court records and add bulk data to required material the courts shall provide. It is currently in the Senate Banking and Insurance Committee.

Oregon HB 2690 (link to legislature’s website, no direct link to bill status page) takes a different tack. It allows the state;s Chief Justice to establish reasonable subscription fees, and other user and transaction fees, for remote access to case information and other Judicial Department forms, reports and services that are available in electronic form. Moreover, it modifies laws on filing of trial court transcripts on appeal to allow for the electronic filing of the transcript. It is in the House Judiciary Committee.

South Dakota HB 1038 requires the clerk of that state’s Supreme Court collect certain fees for the electronic transmission of court records. That bill was approved by the House Committee on Judiciary on January 21 and by the full House on January 25.

Virginia SB 1369 would allow Circuit Court Clerks to charge a fee of $25 for civil or criminal proceedings filed electronically and an additional $10 fee for subsequent filings in such proceedings. The funds would be directed to the clerk’s local fund to cover operational expenses of the electronic filing system.  That bill is currently in the Senate Courts of Justice Committee.

Finally, Wyoming HB 190 offers what amounts to an e-filing discount of sorts. The bill provides for the electronic submittal of fees, fines, bonds and penalties to circuit courts and authorizes the Supreme Court to reduce the aforementioned fines, bonds and penalties if submitted electronically. That bill is currently in the House Judiciary Committee.

Issue 5:4 is out

Issue 5:4 (January 21) is here.

  • Bans on sharia/international law introduced in six states. Wyoming’s version would only allow its courts to reference the laws of the rest of the U.S. “provided the law of the other state does not include Sharia law.”
  • Washington State introduces six bills to remove or increase the mandatory judicial retirement age
  • Arizona bill would require supreme court and superior courts provide bulk electronic case data to companies
  • E-filing/E-filing fees: Bills introduced in Arizona, Oregon, South Dakota, Virginia, and Wyoming
  • Bills in Montana and New Hampshire would require judges instruct juries as to jury nullification
  • Proposals to end or substantially change judicial retirement systems introduced in Arizona, Indiana, and Nebraska.
  • Constitutional amendments to permit or require reductions in judicial salaries proposed in Michigan and Washington.
  • Oklahoma’s Senate considers repeal of statutes requiring counties provide courts electricity and water.