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.
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).
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.
I’ve mentioned the highly contentious issue of school funding and its impact on efforts to limit state court systems such as stripping the courts of jurisdiction to hear K-12 funding lawsuits. Now members of the Delaware legislature want that state’s supreme court to weigh in via an advisory opinion.
Delaware state law (10 Del. C. 141) allows for the Governor or a majority of the legislature to request an advisory opinion from the supreme court. In this instance, the request to the state’s supreme court comes after a recent Chancery Court decision in Young v. Red Clay Consol. Sch. Dist. determined that a local school district broke election rules when it passed a voter referendum to raise taxes to pay for schools. In that opinion, the court noted that the case “stems from the dysfunction in Delaware’s system for funding public schools” (media coverage here).
SCR 38 asks the supreme court two questions:
- What does “efficient system of free public schools” mean for purposes of the General Assembly’s obligations under § 1, Article X of the Delaware Constitution?
- Does Delaware’s public school system, given the features set forth in the above Whereas clauses, meet the definition of an “efficient system”?
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The Pennsylvania Constitution currently provides that justices of the peace (referred to in statute as magisterial district court judges) are to be elected. For non-attorneys election is only the first step, they must then “complete a course of training and instruction in the duties of their respective offices and pass an examination prior to assuming office.”
This presents a problem: what happens if the non-attorney doesn’t pass the exam? Or take the course at all?
Back in the 1970s the state legislature tried to require non-attorneys take the exam prior to running for office to avoid this, but it was struck down as unconstitutional by the state’s Supreme Court (Flegal v. Dixon, 472 Pa. 249, 372 A.2d 406 (1977))
The Act’s imposition of the additional requirement that the instruction and examination be completed before filing nominating petitions is therefore unconstitutional.
Now, members of the Pennsylvania House wants to amend the constitution to in effect overturn Flegal.
Under HB 1645 as introduced a non-attorney would have to take the course and pass the exam prior to even being nominated or running for office.
HB 1645 has been filed in the House Judiciary Committee.
This isn’t the first time legislators have attempted amend the state’s constitution to require non-attorney pass the exam before they can run for office. Similar efforts were made on the Senate side (SB 521 of 2015; SB 170 of 2013; SB 57 of 2011; SB 1119 of 2009; SB 696 of 2007), none of which advanced out of committee.
A plan to restructure North Carolina’s entire judicial election map was approved in committee earlier this week but appears to have been blocked from a floor vote.
HB 717 as originally filed in April would have altered a few judicial election districts. The amendment, offered according to news reports with little or no notice in the House Judiciary I committee, would have instead restructured all judicial divisions and districts in the state. Opponents accused the sponsors of wanting to gerrymander the judicial districts in favor of Republicans. The lead author claimed he was correcting an existing pro-Democratic gerrymander of the districts. The author did acknowledge during the committee hearing that the new maps were drawn without input from judges, prosecutors (whose lines would also be redrawn), court clerks, or the state’s Administrative Office of the Courts.
Although the plan did come out of committee, objections to the bill swiftly reduced the odds of a floor vote in the House this session and HB 717 has been sent back to committee (Elections and Ethics Law).