Maine bill would create 13 member “Commission To Study Priorities and Timing of Judicial Proceedings in State Courts” with only 2 members of judiciary

What are the priority cases for courts? What should they be? In a time of dwindling budgets, every court has been confronted with these questions. Now, the Maine legislature is considering formally getting involved, too.

SB 297 creates a Commission To Study Priorities and Timing of Judicial Proceedings in State Courts. The sole duty of the commission is to “study the priority and timing of judicial proceedings in state courts including, but not limited to, judicial proceedings that require priority treatment pursuant to statute.”

The 13 member commission would have only 2 members of the judiciary (appointed by the state’s chief justice). The rest would be 2 Senators, 4 Representatives, and 1 appointee each for the Attorney General, Maine State Bar Association, Maine Prosecutors Association, Maine Trial Lawyers Association and the Pine Tree Legal Assistance.

If approved, SB 297 gives the Commission until December 7, 2011 to report and authorizes the legislature’s Joint Standing Committee on Judiciary to introduce a bill based on their findings for the 2012 session.

Maine: One sentence bill directs judicial branch to upgrade its computer system

Typically legislation related to a state judiciary’s computer system(s) are parts of budget bills or sections of other non-appropriations bills related to the judiciary. Maine’s HB 644 of 2011, however, may go on record as the single shortest and most direct piece of legislation on the matter ever.

Below is the sum total of the bill (formatting in original):

Resolve, To Streamline the Judicial Process in Maine’s Courts

Sec. 1. Judicial Department to upgrade its computer system. Resolved: That the Judicial Department shall design and implement a plan to upgrade its computer system to ensure access by Maine citizens and attorneys to electronic filing and scheduling online.

The bill’s summary is almost as long as the bill itself:

This resolve directs the Judicial Department to design and implement a plan to upgrade its computer system to ensure access by Maine citizens and attorneys to electronic filing and scheduling online.

The bill has yet to be assigned to a committee, but presumably it would be sent to the Joint Committee on the Judiciary. Interesting note: Maine is one of three states (Connecticut and Massachusetts are the others) that rely primarily on joint judiciary committees.

Cross-posted to Court Technology Bulletin.

Judicial Retirement Plans/Pensions: Northeastern States

Maine HB 650 & SB 184 Implements the recommendation of the Judicial Compensation Commission that members of Maine’s judiciary with retirement contributions earned in the Legislative Retirement Program be allowed to fully transfer these contributions to the Judicial Retirement Program. Requires any member who transfers retirement contributions from the State Employee and Teacher Retirement Program or the Legislative Retirement Program to pay the costs to have the contributions transferred to the Judicial Retirement Program. Signed into law by Governor 6/4/09.

Maine HB 1120 Brings various public employees retirement systems, including the Judicial Retirement Program, into IRS compliance. Specifies Judicial Retirement Program as a governmental qualified defined benefit plan pursuant to Sections 401(a) and 414(d) of the Internal Revenue Code and such other provisions of the Internal Revenue Code and United States Treasury regulations and other guidance as are applicable. Details vesting, use of forfeitures, benefits, etc. in a manner to comply with the Internal Revenue Code. Signed into law by Governor 2/23/10.

New Hampshire SB 1512 Allows judges who resign from office to elect to receive a deferred retirement benefit under the judicial retirement plan. Approved by full House 3/3/10.

New Hampshire SB 357 Authorizes the judicial retirement plan to deduct a health insurance premium contribution from allowances. Approved by full Senate 2/17/10.

New Jersey SB 2 Provides that  new members of the Judicial Retirement System (JRS) will not have a non-forfeitable right to receive benefits upon the attainment of five years of service credit. Signed into law by Governor 3/22/10.