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”

Delaware and North Carolina legislatures address whether state supreme courts can sit outside of the capital

While a variety of state courts of last resort meet from time to time outside of their normal chambers in the state’s capital, there remains statutes, and in some cases constitutional provisions, that effectively tie the high courts to a particular city or place. As I pointed out in this item after Hurricane Katrina, it was and is somewhat of an open question in a variety of states whether the courts can move. This year legislatures in Delaware and North Carolina passed legislation to address this issue.

In Delaware, an 1852 statute specifies the “The Supreme Court shall be held at Dover“. However, the Supreme Court has been hearing oral arguments in locations other than Dover since at least the 1980s.

HB 113 of 2015 provides specifically that the Supreme Court may meet outside of Dover “when the Court determines that the education of the Bar or law students, or the public interest would be advanced by having a special session of the Court in another location.” The bill was approved unanimously in the House June 18 and unanimously in the Senate June 30. It is set to be transmitted to the governor.

North Carolina’s Supreme Court may be having a “Back to the Future” moment with legislation this year allowing it to return to sit in Morganton for the first time in 150 years. A 1997 law (HB 954) already allowed the Supreme Court to sit twice annually in Old Chowan County Courthouse in the Town of Edenton, the colonial capital of North Carolina. HB 283 and SB 161 both allow the Supreme Court “by rule [to] hold sessions not more than twice annually in the City of Morganton; unless a more suitable site is identified by the court, the court shall meet in the Old Burke County Courthouse, the location of summer sessions of the Supreme Court from 1847?1862.” This article written in 1919 on the 100th anniversary of the court details some of the sittings. The Senate version of the bill was signed into law by that state’s governor on June 19.

Delaware: 11 out of 21 senators cosponsor constitutional amendment to require “geographic balance” on state Supreme & Chancery courts

Judges of the Delaware Supreme and Chancery Courts are currently allowed to reside from any of the three counties that make up the state (Kent, New Castle, Sussex). That may change under a constitutional amendment introduced and co-sponsored by all 9 Senate Republicans and 2 Democrats (Bushweller & Ennis).

SB 46 would amend state’s constitution to provide that at least 1 justice or chancellor reside in each of the state’s 3 counties.

Seventh, so as to ensure traditional geographic balance within the judiciary, the Supreme Court and the Chancery Court shall at all times each include within their membership at least one member resident of each of the three counties at the time of their appointment and at least 2 years immediately prior thereto.

Delaware’s Supreme Court has 5 justices, and the state’s Chancery court has 5 chancellors, so each county would get at least 1 justice and chancellor and could get as many as 3. Florida’s constitution has a similar provision for that state’s supreme court based on appellate districts rather than counties.

The supreme court shall consist of seven justices. Of the seven justices, each appellate district shall have at least one justice elected or appointed from the district to the supreme court who is a resident of the district at the time of the original appointment or election.

SB 46 has been assigned to the Senate Executive Committee.

Delaware Legislative Year in Review: expanding list of those entities that may certify questions to state’s Supreme Court

Law

HB 392 Designates court security positions in the Court of Common Pleas and uniformed services supervisor positions in the Justice of the Peace Court as exempt from the State of Delaware Merit Rules, thereby placing them under the Judicial Branch Personnel Rules, consistent with similar positions in the Superior Court. Allows any incumbent to elect to be governed by the Judicial Branch Personnel Rules or remain in the Merit System.

Adopted Constitutional Amendment (must be re-adopted in 2015/2016)

HB 232 Adds “the highest appellate court of any foreign country, or any foreign governmental agency regulating the public issuance or trading of securities” to the list of entities that may certify questions of law to the Delaware Supreme Court.

Adopted

SCR 35 Extends deadline for Blue Ribbon Task Force to review the feasibility of opening Family Court proceedings to the public from February 15, 2014 to April 15, 2014.

Changing civil jurisdiction thresholds – Part 1

Most states have at least 2 levels of trial court, with a civil jurisdiction amount dividing them. For example a $1,000 civil case may be filed in the limited jurisdiction court, but a $100,000 case may only be permitted in the general jurisdiction court. Changes to this threshold can change the way courts are managed or function as caseloads and revenues rise/fall as a result. This series examines the existing thresholds and the legislative efforts to change them over the last decade. For a listing of all current civil jurisdiction thresholds, click here.

Alabama to Georgia below the fold.
Continue reading Changing civil jurisdiction thresholds – Part 1

Efforts to change state constitutions to remove/alter Judicial Council or Supreme Court rulemaking authority – Part 1

Most state constitutions grant their court of last resort, typically called the “supreme court”, or their judicial council some degree of rulemaking authority. My colleagues here at the National Center have a listing of all such provisions here. In the last several years, however, legislatures have made efforts to amend or alter those provisions. This series will examine all such efforts and how they have fared.

Alabama to Georgia below the fold.

Continue reading Efforts to change state constitutions to remove/alter Judicial Council or Supreme Court rulemaking authority – Part 1

Delaware constitutional amendment would expand who could certify questions to state’s supreme court; would be third expansion in last 10 years

The Delaware legislature appears ready to expand yet again the state supreme court’s ability to hear certified questions of law. If adopted in the 2014 session and again in the 2015/2016 cycle, HB 232 would allow “the highest appellate court of any foreign country, or any foreign governmental agency regulating the public issuance or trading of securities” to certify questions of law to the Delaware high court. The amendment would not have to go before voters.

If adopted this would be the fourth expansion of certified questions of law to the Delaware Supreme Court and the third such expansion in the last decade. The power was conferred on the court via a 1982 constitutional amendment (63 Del. Laws, c. 325) which allowed the Supreme Court to hear certified questions of law from the United States District Court for the District of Delaware. It remained as such until changes in 2007 and 2013 opened the certification process to other federal courts as well as state courts of last resort.

  • 1982– “the United States District Court for the District of Delaware”
  • 2007 (76 Del. Laws, c. 37)-“the Supreme Court of the United States, a Court of Appeals of the United States, a United States District Court, the United States Securities and Exchange Commission, or the highest appellate court of any other state”
  • 2013 (79 Del. Laws, c. 97)- “the Supreme Court of the United States, a Court of Appeals of the United States, a United States District Court, a United States Bankruptcy Court, the United States Securities and Exchange Commission, or the highest appellate court of any other state”
  • 2016 (?)- “the Supreme Court of the United States, a Court of Appeals of the United States, a United States District Court, a United States Bankruptcy Court, the United States Securities and Exchange Commission, or the highest appellate court of any other state, the highest appellate court of any foreign country, or any foreign governmental agency regulating the public issuance or trading of securities