KY: Public financing for judicial elections?

Perhaps in anticipation of an expected 2012 Supreme Court election in the state, or as a reaction to judicial elections in other states, the Kentucky legislature will be considering a bill (HB 21) this year to create a public financing system for all judges in the state, paid for in part by a $25 annual assessment on all members of the Kentucky Bar Association. If adopted, Kentucky’s public financing system for judicial races might be the most expansive in the nation. Similar programs in Wisconsin, North Carolina, and New Mexico are limited to appellate courts only. A fourth program (West Virginia) adopted in 2010 is limited to only the state’s 2012 Supreme Court race.

AL: Lobbying to include efforts to obtain judicial branch contracts

Current law in Alabama, indeed in most places, defines lobbying to include efforts to promote or oppose legislation or regulatory action. In all such cases the focus is either on the legislature OR the executive branch OR an administrative agency. Alabama’s Legislature, however, is on the verge of expanding the definition of lobbying to include “promoting or attempting to influence the award of a contract or grant by the executive, legislative, or judicial branch“. According to the latest information from The Birmingham News, the Alabama Senate’s Ethics Committee passed that language as part of HB 11 (Special Session) on Monday.  Due to the addition of an amendment in the Senate, the bill would have to be readopted by the House before submission to the Governor, which could happen as early as next week.

OK: Efforts to impeach/remove trial judge already starting

Readers may recall earlier this year I noted a case involving legislative efforts to remove OK trial judge Thomas Bartheld.

Media reports of legislators planning his ouster made the news in June 2009 after Judge Bartheld sentenced a man who had pled no contest of raping and sodomizing a 5-year-old girl to 20 years in prison, 19 of which are suspended. The case made national headlines, with Bill O’Reilly mentioning the judge by name on his show seven times. Judge Bartheld, however, noted that “The district attorney, child’s family, advocates and the defendant all agreed to this [plea bargain].”

HR 1001 of 2011 asks the Trial Division of the Court on the Judiciary to assume jurisdiction and institute proceedings for the removal of Judge Bartheld from office.

GA: Constitutional amendment would make Supreme Court decisions nonbinding

Georgia’s history with its Supreme Court is one of note. For nearly 75 years of statehood, there was no appellate review: a new trial before a new jury in the local court was the only procedure available for the correction of judicial error.

Enter HR 5 of 2011, a constitutional amendment being considered in the 2011 session that would remove the state’s constitutional provisions making state supreme court (and court of appeals) decisions binding on lower courts. The resolution’s preamble also makes it clear the decisions of the appellate courts would not be binding on any other party other than those involved in the judicial action at hand.

TX: Cost-benefit analysis for Rules of Court changes?

According to Texas Lawyer’s Blog, a piece of prefiled legislation in that state’s House would require the Texas Supreme Court conduct a cost-benefit analysis of proposed rules prior to adoption or amendment by the court. HB 352 would require the analysis for a host of rules, such as civil and criminal procedure and bar discipline.

Unlike some states which have constitutionally derived rule making authority that cannot be altered or interfered with by the state legislature, the Texas Supreme Court may  “promulgate rules of administration not inconsistent with the laws of the state as may be necessary for the efficient and uniform administration of justice in the various courts.

No word yet as to what prompted this particular piece of legislation to be introduced.