The 2011/2012 regular and special sessions of the Legislative Assembly of Puerto Rico have focused on the creation of specialized courts/dockets within the Commonwealth’s courts. Among the proposals:
PC 910 Creates special labor-relations courts (“Salas de Asuntos Laborales”) as divisions of the main trial court (El Tribunal de Primera Instancia). Grants Office of Court Administration power to create regulations for operation of new divisions. Approved by full House with Senate amendments 6/29/12. To Governor for approval.
PC 3693 Requires Office of Ombudsman for Woman offer training to judges at least twice a year on the issue of domestic violence. Approved by full House 6/25/12.
PC 3988 Establishes special courts for claims of damages for negligence on the hospital medical malpractice. Directs Judicial Branch create special chambers for up to 6 months as divisions of the main trial court to handle such cases. Requires judges assigned have specialized training regarding hospital medical malpractice. Grants Office of Court Administration power to create regulations for new chambers. Approved by full House 6/22/12. Approved by Senate Health Committee 6/25/12.
PS 2362 Creates Veterans Courts Pilot Program. Approved by Senate Public Safety and Judicial Affairs & Labor, Veterans Affairs and Human Resources Committees 6/25/12.
PS 2522 Directs Supreme Court create special chambers as divisions of the main trial court to handle murder trials. Provides the chambers are to be presided over by current or former judges specialized in criminal cases appointed by the Supreme Court. Grants Office of Court Administration power to create regulations for new chambers. Requires Office of Court Administration report on special chambers and practices within 12 months of implementation. Signed into law by Governor 6/24/12.
In addition in late 2011 there were accusations that the Commonwealth’s Chief Justice had misused government vehicles and escorts (contemporary news accounts can be found here, here, and here). Resulting in an ongoing Senate investigation.
RC 1963 Directs House Finance and Judiciary Committees investigate accusations of misuse of public funds by Chief Justice. Reports due to legislature by December 31, 2012. In House Internal Affairs Committee.
RS 2509 Directs Senate Public Security and Judicial Affairs Committee investigate recent allegations of irregularities in use of public funds and property administered by the Judicial Branch and the criteria use by judicial officers with respect to their administrative powers. Requires report be completed within 60 days. Approved by full Senate 12/14/11. House approval not required.
RS 2539 Amends RS 2509 to include possible interference and misuse of such judicial officers with administrative powers in the adjudication of disputes pending before the Judicial Branch and to extend the term to present the report findings. Extends deadline to end of legislative session. Approved by full Senate 1/19/12. House approval not required.
RS 2654 Amends RS 2509 to extend deadline for reports to December 31, 2012. Approved by full Senate 3/29/12. House approval not required.
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