Illinois becomes fifth state to consider term limits for judges this year; Florida House to vote on plan next week

A plan introduced in the Illinois House last week calls for elected state and local officials to be term limited, but with a unique proviso for the judiciary.

HCA 53 provides state legislators and executive branch officials are to be limited to 3 consecutive terms. Local governments would be authorized to implement term limits laws that would apply locally.

With respect to the judiciary, however, the bill leaves term limits to the courts themselves.

Judges shall have the authority to implement term limits for any elected judge.

Illinois now joins Florida (appellate courts), Oklahoma (Supreme Court only), Washington (Supreme Court only), and West Virginia (all elected officials) in considering some kind of judicial term limits in 2016. The Florida proposal (HJR 197), which would apply only to appellate judges, is set for a vote by the House February 23 and would requires a 3/5ths vote of the full House to advance.

Illinois: House bills allow judges, prosecutors to carry firearms into courthouses; Senate version would still ban courtroom carry by judges

I mentioned last spring an effort in the Illinois Senate to allow judges to carry guns into their own courthouses but continue the practice of courtroom bans. Now the Illinois House is considering similar legislation.

Current law provides for a broad ban on guns in courthouses.

430 ILCS 66/65(a)(4) A [concealed carry] licensee under this Act shall not knowingly carry a firearm on or into…Any building designated for matters before a circuit court, appellate court, or the Supreme Court, or any building or portion of a building under the control of the Supreme Court.

HB 5518 would provide exceptions for a list of people, including

  1. correctional officers
  2. state trial and appellate judges
  3. federal trial and appellate judges
  4. State’s Attorney
  5. Assistant State’s Attorney with the consent of the State’s Attorney

HB 5792 would provide a narrower exception

  1. state trial judges (Circuit and Associate Circuit judges) would be allowed to carry both in the courthouse and into courtrooms
  2. prosecutors (State’s Attorney and Assistant State’s Attorney) would be allowed to carry in the courthouse but would have to store the firearm in a storage locker provided by the sheriff or chief judge when entering a courtroom

HB 5792 differs in the treatment of judges vs. the Senate version (SB 1637) which would allow judges to only carry into a courthouse but would maintain the ban on carrying into a courtroom.

HB 5518 and HB 5792 are in the House Rules Committee. SB 1637 is in the Senate Assignments Committee.

 

 

Illinois Legislative Year in Review: court interpreters in civil cases; supreme court may issue law licenses to non-citizens here under Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (“DACA”) program

Law

HB 299 Provides that no court security officer shall be subject to the jurisdiction of a Sheriff’s Merit Commission unless the officer was hired through the Sheriff’s Merit Commission’s certified applicant process.

HB 3620 Provides that whenever any person is a party or witness in a civil action in this State, the court shall, upon its own motion or that of a party, determine whether the person is capable of understanding the English language and is capable of expressing himself or herself in the English language so as to be understood directly by counsel, court, or jury.

HB 3933 Provides that the Illinois Access to Civil Justice Council shall develop (instead of the “General Assembly encourages the Supreme Court to develop”) specified pilot programs.

SB 23 Specifies Supreme Court may grant license to practice law to persons who are non-citizens or who are in the country due to deferred action under President Obama’s deferred action for childhood arrivals (“DACA”) program.

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

8 states continue to have partisan elections for their top courts; a look at legislative efforts to move to nonpartisan

With the expecting signing this week of a bill to transition West Virginia judicial races from partisan to nonpartisan, the number of states with partisan judicial races for their courts of last resort (usually called supreme court) will decrease down to 8. A look at those 8 and the efforts to move to nonpartisan races is below. Please note that in some cases alternative proposals, such as a move to merit/commission selection, have also been introduced and drawn much of the legislative focus and interest. This looks exclusively at the proposals to keep judicial elections but make them nonpartisan.

Continue reading 8 states continue to have partisan elections for their top courts; a look at legislative efforts to move to nonpartisan

Illinois: Senate bill lets judges bring guns into courthouses, but not into their courtrooms

Most states have fairly large and broad statutory prohibitions on the carrying of firearms into either courthouses in general or courtrooms in particular (click here for a list). Illinois’ current prohibition is on the broader side.

430 ILCS 66/65(a)(4) A [concealed carry] licensee under this Act shall not knowingly carry a firearm on or into…Any building designated for matters before a circuit court, appellate court, or the Supreme Court, or any building or portion of a building under the control of the Supreme Court.

SB 1637 as introduced, however, would change the equation in the state, allowing judges and prosecutors who have a concealed carry firearm license to in fact carry into the courthouse but not a courtroom. The judge or prosecutor seeking to enter into the courtroom would be required to put the weapon into a locker provided by the sheriff or, if the building was controlled by the judiciary, the presiding judge.

SB 1637 has been placed in the Senate Assignments Committee pending placement in a subject matter committee.

 

Illinois: effort to drug/alcohol test judges reintroduced

Last year 5 states introduced legislation to drug and/or alcohol test judges serving on the bench. Illinois’ version has already been reintroduced for the 2015/2016 cycle.

Under HB 2426 a person may not serve as a judge, or return to service as a judge after testing positive, until they first provide a “clean” drug and alcohol test (“a blood alcohol concentration of less than .02”). For judges currently serving, that means a drug/alcohol test once a year. For those judges who tested positive, it means a mandatory substance abuse program plus drug/alcohol testing 9 times a year for 3 years after returning to service.

HB 2426 has been filed with the House Clerk but not yet assigned to a committee.