Issue 7:9 is here.
Archive for February, 2013
Thanks to Washington State Supreme Court ruling, bills for public financing of Supreme Court races may be back on track.February 28th, 2013
Earlier today the Washington State Supreme Court struck down a state statute that requires a two-thirds vote of both chambers of the legislature in order to impose a tax increase. (h/t How Appealing) In a roundabout way, this may mean a return of proposals for public financing of state supreme court races.
First, some background.
The first efforts at public financing for Washington Supreme Court elections started in the 2007/2008 session with HB 1186 and the similar HB 3336. HB 1186 made it out of committee in 2007, was carried over into the 2008 session, but died at the end of that year.
The 2009/2010 session is where the 2/3rds for a tax increase statute struck down today by the Washington Supreme Court came into play. HB 1738 / SB 5912 of that session both advanced out of their various committees and were set to be voted on by their respective chambers. However the public financing system proposed in both bills was based on a $3 fee on court filings. On February 10, 2010 the state’s Lieutenant Governor ruled, as President of the Senate, the additional $3 charge for filing fees was a tax, not a fee, and therefore subject to the 2/3rds requirement. That ended SB 5912′s advancement and the House bill was effectively killed as well.
So far the proposals have not been reintroduced in the 2013/2014 session.
The last several years have seen new laws enacted increasing penalties for assaults and other crimes perpetrated against not only judges but court staff. Bills introduced in Massachusetts and Washington, however, would focus on the placement of the criminal activity (a courthouse or courtroom).
Under Washington HB 1563 and SB 5484 provide an assault committed in an area related to court proceedings, including and specifically courtrooms, corridors, judge’s chambers, jury rooms, etc. would automatically be elevated to a Class C felony. It would also make such an assault an “Aggravating circumstance” for sentencing purposes.
The House version was committee amended to require courts to develop procedures for notifying the public that an assault offense occurring on the grounds of a court proceeding is a class C felony. The amended bill was approved by the House Public Safety Committee February 21 on a 9-2 vote
The Senate version has its own amendment to address the issue of courthouses that also hold or host other government functions. Under the amendment the felony assault provision would only apply at those times when the area in question was being used for a judicial proceeding. SB 5484, with the committee amendment, was approved by the Senate Law & Justice Committee unanimously on February 22.
On the same day the Washington State Senate committee was approving SB 5484, Massachusetts HB 1269 and HB 1305 were being introduced. Sections 2 & 3 of the nearly identical bills provide for enhanced for enhanced punishment for crimes committed against judges, court staff, or court employees in the performance of their duties.
Section 1, however, like the Washington State bill provides for enhanced punishment for an assault on “property owned, leased or occupied by the Massachusetts judicial department or an agency or committee thereof, including any trial or appellate court, during the time when the courts are in session or open to the public.”
Massachusetts HB 1269 & HB 1305 are currently pending in the legislature’s Joint Committee on the Judiciary.
Updated 3/1/13 added HB 1268 references
Hearing March 5 on Illinois bill to give Supreme Court power to set court fees to fund e-filing and electronic case managementFebruary 28th, 2013
I’ve mentioned the push in numerous states to let the supreme court or chief justice of a state determine additional court fees to pay for court technology (such as New Jersey and South Carolina in 2012). Illinois may be the next state to give their Supreme Court the same discretion.
Under SB 1768 the Supreme Court would be able to alter certain specified fees related to the appellate court filing fees (705 ILCS 25/3 & 705 ILCS 105/28) with revenues generated going to a Reviewing Court Case Management System Fund. The new fund would be a non-appropriated trust fund held separate and apart from State moneys. The Supreme Court would then be allowed to use the fund for two purposes: electronic filing and electronic case management systems.
SB 1768 also includes a second provision for the creation on a Supreme Court Committees and Commissions Fund. Money for this fund would come from additional fees on law firms (805 ILCS 10/12 & 805 ILCS 180/50-45) and the license to practice law held by individual attorneys (805 ILCS 305/10). Like the other fund, money collected would be a non-appropriated trust fund held separate and apart from State moneys. The funds from the Supreme Court Committees and Commissions Fund would be used “for costs associated with the operation of committees and commissions created by the Supreme Court.” such as the Attorney Registration & Disciplinary Commission, the Board of Admissions to the Bar and others.
SB 1768 has a hearing March 5 before the Senate Judiciary Committee.
Should current and former Georgia legislators be allowed to carry weapons into courthouses? Retired judges? Concealed carry permit holders?February 28th, 2013
Georgia, like most states, have a general prohibition on the carrying of a weapon into a courthouse. Unlike many states, however Georgia makes it a specific crime. O.C.G.A. § 16-11-127(b)(2) Provides “A person shall be guilty of carrying a weapon or long gun in an unauthorized location and punished as for a misdemeanor when he or she carries a weapon or long gun while…In a courthouse”. “Courthouse” is defined as “a building occupied by judicial courts and containing rooms in which judicial proceedings are held.”
O.C.G.A. § 16-11-127(b)(2) is, however, subject to a list of 16 categories of exemptions (O.C.G.A. § 16-11-130) including state and federal judges (including some retired judges), peace officers, members of the military, defense contractors, prosecutors, coroners, etc.
Three separate bills would, however, expand the list of people who could carry.
HB 60 amends an existing categorical exemption and would allow all retired state and federal judges to carry
State, local, and federal judges, full-time and permanent part-time judges of municipal and city courts, and such former judges retired from their respective offices.
It was approved by the full House 2/13/13.
HB 394 adds a 17th categorical exemption to O.C.G.A. § 16-11-130: current and former members of the General Assembly who possess a valid weapons carry license. Interestingly, while the current and former legislators would be allow to carry in the courthouses of the state, they could not carry in their chamber (“provided, however, that no member of the General Assembly shall be authorized to carry a weapon within the chamber of the House of Representatives or the chamber of the Senate.”)
HB 394 is currently pending in the House Public Safety and Homeland Security Committee.
SB 188 would expand the areas a weapons carry license holder could carry. The effect would be to limit the prohibition on carrying of firearms to particular courtrooms, unless the court or local government provides a security checkpoint at the courthouse door.
The prohibitions contained in Code Section 16-11-127 shall not apply to license holders as defined in Code Section 16-11-125.1; provided, however, that nothing in this subsection shall authorize a license holder to carry a weapon or long gun in a jail, prison, courtroom, or beyond the security checkpoint of a courthouse
SB 188 is in the Senate Judiciary Non-Civil Committee.
I’ve had several readers ask for a synopsis of what is gong on in states to enact, modify, or end merit selection in 2013. This post is intended to respond to those queries. The latest information can always be found at the Gavel to Gavel database located here.
Details below the fold.
In repeat of 2011, Kansas House may wind up targeting merit selection for Court of Appeals only; effort to end Supreme Court merit selection may not have the votesFebruary 27th, 2013
I’ve mentioned in the past the dichotomy in Kansas with appellate judicial selection: the merit selection system in place for the Supreme Court is in the constitution while the merit selection system in place for the Court of Appeals is only in statute. In 2011 and 2012, when they had a majority but not the supermajority needed for a constitutional amendment, this meant Kansas House Republicans targeted only the Court of Appeals, including tacking the plan onto unrelated bills just to get it passed (see here, here, and here).
It appears, however, even with a supermajority in 2013 they don’t have the votes to end merit selection for the Supreme Court.
The House Judiciary Committee yesterday approved on a tight 12-11 vote a plan (HB 2019) to end merit selection and put a quasi-federal system in place for the Court of Appeals only. The House Judiciary Committee had approved a constitutional amendment that would have ended merit selection in favor of a quasi-federal system for the Supreme Court and Court of Appeals (HCR 5002) in January, and the full Senate approved an almost identical bill in January as well (SCR 1601).
But media reports indicate that House GOP does not have have the 2/3rds vote needed for either HCR 5002 or SCR 1601.
Bill approved by Arkansas House rewrites way language court interpreters are appointed, certified, and regulated in stateFebruary 27th, 2013
Limited English Proficient participants in state court proceedings often rely upon court interpreters to help them understand what is going on in the proceedings. Arkansas, like many states in the last few years, has examined their currently practices and statutes in this regard and has proposed HB 1325.
The video below is from the House Judiciary Committee hearing on February 19 and the full House floor debate on February 21.