New North Carolina law expands carrying of guns directly into courtrooms; roundup of guns-in-courts legislation in 2015

I noted back in March the litany of bills that would allow for expanded carrying of firearms into courthouses, and in some cases directly into courtrooms. Since then there’s been a great deal of activity.

In late July North Carolina’s governor signed into law a bill (HB 562) that would allow for prosecutors to carry guns not just into courthouses but directly into courtrooms. Moreover, the no-guns-courthouses policy (specifically that “portion of the building used for court purposes while the building is being used for court purposes.”) already in place no longer applies to administrative law judges or employees of the Department of Public Safety.

At the same time North Carolina was debating expanding guns-in-courthouses, Oregon was moving to restrict. SB 385, as introduced, originally added justice courts and municipal courts to the definition of “court facility” in which firearms and other weapons are prohibited except in specified circumstances. As enacted SB 385 still expands the restriction, allowing municipal court and justice of the peace court judges to ban weapons but only to those portions of the “local court facility” used by the court during the hours in which the court operates. Moreover, in buildings where there are multiple types of court (circuit, municipal, justice of the peace, etc.) the presiding judge of Circuit Court can enforce a ban that cannot be contradicted by an order of the lower court’s judges.

A review of 2015 legislation regarding guns in courts is below the fold.

Continue reading New North Carolina law expands carrying of guns directly into courtrooms; roundup of guns-in-courts legislation in 2015

Bans on court use of sharia/international law: Enacted in Mississippi; activity in 6 other states; WV considered ban on court use of “karma”

2015 saw some 32 pieces of legislation introduced in 17 states to ban or limit the use by state courts of foreign or international law. Of these, Mississippi saw after 5+ years of trying the enactment of such a ban. HB 177 provides in operative part that

A court, arbitrator, administrative agency or other adjudicative, mediation or enforcement authority shall not enforce a foreign law if doing so would violate a right guaranteed to a natural person by the United States Constitution or the Mississippi Constitution of 1890.

Notable regarding many of these bills is the continued focus on specifically banning the use by state courts of sharia law (Mississippi HB 493, HB 557, HB 622, HB 1216; Oregon SB 176, South Carolina HB 3521, and West Virginia HB 2994). The specific targeting of sharia was held as unconstitutional in a decision by the Tenth Circuit in 2012 which upheld striking down such a sharia-specific constitutional amendment approved by Oklahoma voters in 2010. West Virginia HB 2994 is of particular note here in terms of not just targeting sharia, but “Canon law, Halacha and Karma”, language almost identical to a bill introduced in Arizona 2010 and 2011 and discussed here.

Details on the legislation introduced in 2015 below the fold.

Continue reading Bans on court use of sharia/international law: Enacted in Mississippi; activity in 6 other states; WV considered ban on court use of “karma”

Changes to mandatory judicial retirement ages: Virginia plan now law; Oregon voters will decide in November 2016 on repeal; Massachusetts proposal rejected

Since April’s update on the subject of mandatory judicial retirement age changes there’s been several developments.

Alabama

While the state does not have a retirement age per se, it does prohibit judges from seeking election or being appointed to fill a vacancy if they are above the age of 70. Efforts to raise this to 72 were approved in the House and appeared to have Senate backing before time ran out in the session. Critics argued the constitutional amendment was specifically designed to allow 68 year old Chief Justice Roy Moore to seek one more term in office.

Louisiana

Despite voters in 2014 rejecting a constitutional amendment repealing the mandatory retirement age for most judges in the state, at least some judges will be able to avoid being forced out at 70. Under HB 350 as signed into law, justices of the peace in office as of August 15, 2006 can continue to run for re-election over the age of 70.

Massachusetts

A plan to increase the mandatory retirement age for judges in that state from 70 to 76 was rejected in committee in late April.

North Carolina

Several efforts to increase the mandatory retirement age for judges met with approval in the House but were not taken up by the Senate prior to adjournment. Those bills could come back up in the 2016 session.

Oregon

Voters will get to decide in 2016 whether or not to repeal the state’s mandatory judicial retirement age. Under SJR 4 as approved by the legislature in late June the constitutional provision allowing the legislature to set a retirement age would be stricken.

Virginia

Virginia appellate judges as of today (July 1), will see their mandatory judicial retirement age increase from 70 to 73 under a bill signed into law this spring. However, only those trial judges elected or appointed after July 1, 2015 would get the increase to 73; all other trial judges remain at the mandatory retirement age of 70. Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe had asked the legislature to amend the bill (HB 1984) to apply the increase to all judges, and the state’s Senate was willing to do so, however the House insisted on the split treatment.

Continue reading Changes to mandatory judicial retirement ages: Virginia plan now law; Oregon voters will decide in November 2016 on repeal; Massachusetts proposal rejected

Changes to mandatory judicial retirement ages: Virginia plan may fall apart over what judges get the increase; Oregon Senate unanimously approves repeal; dead in Maryland; small change moving in North Carolina; debated in Massachusetts

Since last month’s update on the subject of mandatory judicial retirement age changes there’s been several developments. The biggest stumbling block: which judges should get the increase in the age?

Maryland

The Senate approved 47-0 a plan (SB 847) to increase the mandatory retirement age for judges from 70 to 73 (original bill called for 75) on March 24. The Senate plan would have applied to all judges after adoption of the amendment. The House, however, had various ideas on how this would impact current judges. The House Judiciary Committee approved amendment 172916/1 which would have allowed any judge that

reaches the age of seventy years before the date that the judge is eligible to be elected, appointed, or reappointed

to stay on to 73 or the end of their current term with the consent of the governor. A later floor amendment (393229/1) added the word “re-elected”

reaches the age of seventy years before the date that the judge is eligible to be elected, re-elected, appointed, or reappointed

The changes occurred on April 9, just days before the legislature adjourned sine die. As a result, the effort failed this year.

Massachusetts

The judges of Massachusetts only fell under the state’s mandatory judicial retirement age in the 1970s (Amendment LVII adopted in 1972)

[U]pon attaining seventy years of age said judges shall be retired.

Starting in 2009 there have been efforts to increase this age to 76. The first two attempts (HB 1640 of 2009/2010 & HB 1826 of 2011/2012) were approved by the Joint Committee on the Judiciary but proceeded no further. HB 68 of 2013/2014 saw rejection by the committee. The bill is now back up as HB 1609 of 2015/2016 and was heard before the Joint Committee on April 15.

North Carolina

The House approved 116-0 on March 25 a bill that would provide a minimal extension to the state’s judicial retirement age. Currently judges must retire on the last day of the month in which they reach 72. Under HB 50 as approved they may serve last day of the year they reach 72.

A counter proposal (HB 205) to extend this to the last day of the year they reach 75. Was approved by the House Judiciary IV committee on March 18 but has remained in locked up in the House Pensions and Retirement committee.

Oregon

On April 15 the Oregon Senate approved 30-0 a plan to eliminate the state’s mandatory retirement age or, to be more precise, repeal the state constitutional provision allowing the legislature to set such an age. SJR 4 would eliminate language from the state constitution that

[A] judge of any court shall retire from judicial office at the end of the calendar year in which he attains the age of 75 years. The Legislative Assembly or the people may by law: Fix a lesser age for mandatory retirement not earlier than the end of the calendar year in which the judge attains the age of 70 years.

The constitutional amendment is now pending on the House Speaker’s desk awaiting committee assignment.

Virginia

After 9 years of trying, a plan to increase the retirement age for at least some judges in Virginia passed the House and Senate, but the decision to increase for some judges and not others may result in a veto by the governor.

At issue under HB 1984 and SB 1196 was what judges should get the increase from 70 to 73. The House/Senate compromise approved provided that

  • all appellate judges effective July 1, 2015 would get the increase to 73
  • trial judges elected or appointed after July 1, 2015 would get the increase to 73
  • trial judges elected or appointed prior to July 1, 2015 would still have to retire at 70

The governor, however, issued a “recommendation” to eliminate the three-tired plan (Virginia governors can return a bill without a veto to the legislature “with recommendations for their amendment“). The Senate voted in favor of eliminating the three-tired plan 31-8. The House rejected it 27-63. Local media reports indicate the unamended bill will now go back to the Governor as early as today (Friday) for him to sign or veto.

Continue reading Changes to mandatory judicial retirement ages: Virginia plan may fall apart over what judges get the increase; Oregon Senate unanimously approves repeal; dead in Maryland; small change moving in North Carolina; debated in Massachusetts

Election 2016: Arkansas Clerks of Circuit Court may get 4 year terms under constitutional amendment

About 2/3rds of clerks of general jurisdiction courts in the U.S. are elected officials (in states such as California Superior they are employees of the court). In 2016 Arkansas voters will get to decide whether they want to give their court clerks, along with other county officials, 4 year terms.

HJR 1027 as approved by the legislature last week (87-2 in the House; 33-0 in the Senate) contains three provisions:

  1. County officials, including Clerks of the Circuit Court, will have their term of office extended from 2 years to 4 years. They will also be explicitly prohibited from holding any other civil office.
  2. Where there is a single candidate for an office, no election is required and the person’s name does not have to appear on the ballot
  3. “Infamous crimes” for which a convicted person may never hold public office again are specifically defined.

Clerks of the District Courts would remain appointed by the local District Court judge (A.C.A. § 16-17-211(a) “The judge of any district court may appoint a clerk for the court, who shall be designated and known as the district court clerk.”)

Assuming its adoption in November 2016, the extended terms would only apply to Circuit Clerks and others elected in 2018.

 

 

 

Carrying guns into courthouses: Arkansas moving legislation, Texas debating, North Dakota rejected

Continuing a trend that’s been moving nationally over the last several years, efforts have been pressed in this legislative session to expand those people who are allowed to carry weapons into courthouses.

Arkansas

Current law (Arkansas Code § 5-73-306(5) & (6)) puts forth a general ban on concealed handgun permit holders carrying a firearm into a courthouse (5) or courtroom (6). Last week the Arkansas Senate Judiciary Committee approved SB 159, a plan to allow allows any county employee with a concealed carry permit to bring their gun into the courthouse that contains their primary place of employment. More than just the courthouse, the person would be permitted to carry into

Any courthouse, courthouse annex or other building owned, leased, or regularly used by a county for conducting court proceedings or housing a county office

The Arkansas Senate could vote on this proposal as early as today.

Meanwhile the Arkansas House approved earlier in March a more limited bill (HB 1626) that allows elected officials with a concealed carry permit to carry into courthouses. That bill was approved March 12 on an 80-4 vote.

North Dakota

Current law (62.1-02-05) makes it a crime to possess a firearm at a “public gathering” which includes courthouses and other “publicly owned or operated buildings.” HB 1157 as introduced would have permitted any elected official with a concealed weapons license to carry into such “publicly owned or operated buildings” with their weapon.

The House Judiciary Committee approved a modified version: the ban on handgun carrying would still apply but only in areas designated and made a “secured court facility”

“Secured court facility” means a building or portion of a building in which court proceedings occur and in which access is not permitted unless an individual passes through equipment that detects weapons and is staffed by armed security personnel.

The language is very similar to a Kansas law enacted a few years ago that used the term “adequate security” instead of “secured court facility.” The only way a court would be able to prohibit carrying weapons into a courthouse area was if there was the resources to provide for scanners and armed security. The amended bill was rejected by the House Judiciary Committee 5-8 but advanced to the full House, where it was rejected on a narrow 45-47 vote in February.

Texas

Texas Penal Code Sec. 46.03(a)(3) provides

A person commits an offense if the person intentionally, knowingly, or recklessly possesses or goes with a firearm, illegal knife, club, or prohibited weapon listed in Section 46.05(a)…on the premises of any government court or offices utilized by the court, unless pursuant to written regulations or written authorization of the court.

Two bills on this subject, one of which is set for a hearing tomorrow, would provide exemptions to this restriction and allow county employees or officials to carry into the courthouses. Texas HB 2241 would allow a “county officer” or “county employee” to possess a firearm in a courthouse. The county officer would need to have a concealed handgun permit; a county employee would need both a permit and the permission from both the local governing body and the county officer who supervises the employee.

An alternative bill (HB 3007) would be limited to county and court clerks only that possess a concealed handgun permit. No additional permissions would be required.

Three states voted Tuesday on increases to mandatory judicial retirement: effort dies 49-21 in Arkansas House when 28 members fail to vote; amended versions advance in AL & MD

The efforts to increase mandatory judicial retirement ages have seen a great deal of activity in the last 24 hours.

  • Alabama’s House approved 64-35 with 1 abstention a plan to increase their age from 70 to 72 after members objected to the original proposed increase to 75. The Alabama provision is not a hard and fast retirement age; instead it addresses the maximum age a judge can be in order to be elected or appointed to a judgeship.
  • Maryland’s Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee effectively had the same idea as their Alabama House counterparts, reducing a planned increase in the mandatory judicial retirement age from 70 to 75 down to 73 instead. The amended plan passed on a 7-3 vote.
  • 28 Arkansas House members left the floor or failed to vote and 2 voted “present” when that state’s effort to increase the retirement age from 70 to 72 came up for a vote. As a result, despite receiving a 49 yes vs. 21 no vote, the bill failed under a provision of the Arkansas constitution that requires a majority of the entire body (51/100) to approve a bill.

Details of all increase efforts below the fold.

Continue reading Three states voted Tuesday on increases to mandatory judicial retirement: effort dies 49-21 in Arkansas House when 28 members fail to vote; amended versions advance in AL & MD

Arkansas: bill to create “rebuttable presumption” of judicial recusal for campaign contributions pulled by author

An Arkansas bill, apparently modeled on a new Alabama law, to create a rebuttable presumption in favor of recusal due to campaign contributions has been pulled by the author. HB 1457, discussed here, would have created a “rebuttable presumption” for judicial recusal where the total campaign contributions made by a party or attorney met a particular threshold (10% for appellate races, 15% for Circuit Court, 25% for District Court). According to the Arkansas General Assembly’s website the bill was withdrawn by the author for some unspecified reasons on March 12.

Arkansas: Supreme Court could get merit selection if all other judicial races go back to being partisan ones

Plans to change the ways in which Arkansas judges are elected are starting to take shape as bills are starting to be debated and amended in committee any by authors, including one with a unique quid pro quo.

First, some background.

The state’s constitution (Amendment 80) moved the state away from partisan judicial elections in 2000 to nonpartisan with an option, subject to voter approval, to switch to “merit selection” (term used) for the state’s appellate courts (Supreme Court and Court of Appeals).

There are three proposed constitutional changes being debated/amended as of this writing, all heading in different directions.

Supreme Court only: merit selection

HJR 1005 as most recently amended would move only the state’s Supreme Court to merit selection with yes/no retention elections. A 15 member Judicial Nominating Commission would be created to submit 3 names to the Governor when a vacancy occurs on the Supreme Court.

  • 6 people who are non-attorneys and do not have attorneys in their immediate family selected by the Governor (at least 1 per congressional district)
  • 6 attorneys selected by the Arkansas Bar Association (at least 1 per congressional district)
  • 1 person selected from state at large by House Speaker
  • 1 person selected from state at large by Senate President Pro Tempore
  • 1 non-attorney who does not have attorneys in their immediate family selected from state at large by other 14 members of Commission

Supreme Court: merit selection, but only if all other judicial races go back to being partisan

HJR 1016 as most recently amended (H2) moves in two different directions at once. It moves Supreme Court races to a merit selection system, but places much more power over the 15 member Judicial Nominating Commission in the legislature

  • 5 people who are non-attorneys and do not have attorneys in their immediate family selected by the Governor (at least 1 per congressional district)
  • 6 attorneys selected by the Arkansas Bar Association (at least 1 per congressional district)
  • 1 person selected by House Speaker
  • 1 person selected Senate President Pro Tempore
  • 1 person selected by House Judiciary Chair
  • 1 person selected by Senate Judiciary Chair

At the same time it repeals nonpartisan elections for all other judicial races. Instead, those races would go back to being partisan unless the legislation specifically authorized nonpartisan elections again by statute.

As of the effective date of this amendment, judges of the Court of Appeals, circuit court judges, district court judges, and prosecuting attorneys shall be selected on a partisan basis unless the General Assembly provides by law that the offices shall be selected on a nonpartisan basis.

All judicial races: back to being partisan

HJR 1015 would abandon nonpartisan elections altogether and at all levels. Instead, judges and prosecuting attorneys would be required to be elected on a partisan ballot unless the legislature reenacted nonpartisan elections in language almost identical to HJR 1016.

 

 

 

22 bills to increase or eliminate mandatory judicial retirement ages: moving in IN, NJ, OR, PA, VA; killed in UT & WY

The wave of interest in increasing or eliminating the mandatory retirement ages for judges continues apace in the state legislatures. Of the seven states that have voted on these proposals:

  • 1 state (Virginia) has passed an increase and is awaiting action by the governor
  • 2 states (Indiana, Pennsylvania) have seen at least one chamber pass the proposal
  • 2 states (New Jersey, Oregon) have seen committee approval
  • 2 states (Utah and Wyoming) saw their efforts killed

Details below the fold.

Continue reading 22 bills to increase or eliminate mandatory judicial retirement ages: moving in IN, NJ, OR, PA, VA; killed in UT & WY