Special Edition: Massachusetts fee/fine/cost legislation in the 2017 session

HB 1812 allows for medical necessity grace periods for payment of civil motor vehicle infractions or parking violations. Requires cities and towns immediately notify registrar of motor vehicles electronically of payments made for citations that could result in license suspension. In Joint Transportation Committee.

HB 2359

  • Prohibits judges from confining person solely for non-payment of monies owed if such person has shown by a preponderance of the evidence that the person is not able to pay without causing substantial financial hardship to such person or the family or dependents thereof.
  • Provides person sentenced to pay fine, fee, etc. has a right to address the court on inability to pay.
  • Allows for waiver or reduction of various assessments, fees,  if they would cause a substantial financial hardship upon the person or the person’s family or dependents.
  • Requires court consider alternatives to incarceration before confining person for non-payment.
  • Expands use of monthly payment plans for assessments.Requires person in non-payment hearing be offered counsel and, if indigent, counsel to be offered for no fee.
  • Expands use of civil citations in lieu of arrest/criminal proceeding for misdemeanor, civil infraction, violations, etc.
  • Prohibits entirely confinement of juvenile for non-payment.

In Joint Judiciary Committee.

SB 755

  • Prohibits judges from confining person solely for non-payment of monies owed if such person has shown by a preponderance of the evidence that the person is not able to pay without causing substantial financial hardship to such person or the family or dependents thereof.
  • Allows for waiver or reduction of various assessments, fees,  if they would cause a substantial financial hardship upon the person or the person’s family or dependents.
  • Requires court consider alternatives to incarceration before confining person for non-payment.
  • Provides person sentenced to pay fine, fee, etc. has a right to address the court on inability to pay.

In Joint Judiciary Committee.

SB 777

  • Prohibits judges from confining person solely for non-payment of monies owed if such person has shown by a preponderance of the evidence that the person is not able to pay without causing substantial financial hardship to such person or the family or dependents thereof.
  • Provides person sentenced to pay fine, fee, etc. has a right to address the court on inability to pay.
  • Allows for waiver or reduction of various assessments, fees,  if they would cause a substantial financial hardship upon the person or the person’s family or dependents.
  • Requires court consider alternatives to incarceration before confining person for non-payment.
  • Expands use of monthly payment plans for assessments.Requires person in non-payment hearing be offered counsel and, if indigent, counsel to be offered for no fee.
  • Expands use of civil citations in lieu of arrest/criminal proceeding for misdemeanor, civil infraction, violations, etc.
  • Prohibits entirely confinement of juvenile for non-payment.

In Joint Judiciary Committee.

 

 

Massachusetts: Senator wants 29-member “Judicial Accountability Commission” to examine selection and oversight of judges in the state

Judicial selection in Massachusetts is very close to the federal-style system of nomination/confirmation/life appointment. In the case of Massachusetts, the confirmation comes from the elected Governor’s Council, not the Senate, and life appointment is limited to a mandatory judicial retirement age of 70. Now, a member of the Massachusetts Senate wants a review of that system.

Under SB 870 as filed a Special Commission on Judicial Accountability would be created to look at the nomination, selection, appointment, and oversight of judges in the Commonwealth and to develop recommendations to improve accountability including reappointment standards.

The Commission would be made up of 29 members, the first 7 would be selected by elected officials

  • 3 appointed by the governor
  • 2 members of the House (1 picked by Speaker, other by minority leader)
  • 2 members of the Senate (1 picked by President, other by minority leader)

In addition to those 7, the president of 22 different bar associations (or the president’s designee) would be included

  1. Massachusetts Bar Association
  2. Asian American Lawyers Association of Massachusetts
  3. Barnstable Bar Association
  4. Berkshire County Bar Association
  5. Boston Bar Association
  6. Bristol County Bar Association
  7. Essex County Bar Association
  8. Franklin County Bar Association
  9. Hampden County Bar Association
  10. Hampshire County Bar Association
  11. League of Women Voters
  12. Massachusetts Association of Hispanic Attorneys
  13. Massachusetts Association of Women Lawyers
  14. Massachusetts Black Lawyers Association
  15. Massachusetts Judges Conference
  16. Massachusetts LGBTQ Bar Association
  17. Middlesex Bar Association
  18. Norfolk County Bar Association
  19. Plymouth County Bar Association
  20. Suffolk County Bar Association
  21. Woman’s Bar Association
  22. Worcester County Bar Association

SB 870 has been assigned to the Joint Committee on the Judiciary.

 

Massachusetts Legislative Year in Review: House asks for Supreme Judicial Court advisory opinion

Adopted

HB 3551 Requests the opinions of the Supreme Judicial Court on certain questions of law pertaining to the origin of a “money bill” in relation to the General Appropriation Bill for fiscal year 2016. (Copy of the opinion filed as HB 3593)

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

Jury Nullification in New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Oregon, and New York

This year, four states introduced measures that addressed the issue of jury nullification. Even though all measures failed, it still reveals a greater level of attention towards the power of juries to nullify than it has historically received. Although two of these measures have been reviewed in previous posts, below is a collection and summary of the measures addressing jury nullification in the state legislatures this session.

New Hampshire

Over the past decade there have been efforts in New Hampshire to codify the right of juries to nullify the law, and to require that juries be informed of that right. These efforts culminated in the enactment of HB 146 in 2012, which was viewed by some proponents of jury nullification instructions as a victory, but by others as too watered down to be meaningful; and so efforts have continued.

Two bills were introduced in the New Hampshire House of Representative this session. Both HB 246 and HB 470 were responses to a New Hampshire Supreme Court ruling in October 2014, discussed in a previous post. This ruling significantly narrowed the scope of RSA 519:23-a, the statute created by HB 146, by declaring that it does not provide a right to jury nullification instructions. RSA 519:23-a, reads:

In all criminal proceedings the court shall permit the defense to inform the jury of its right to judge the facts and the application of the law in relation to the facts in controversy.

Both measures attempted to circumvent that ruling by amending the statute to more explicitly provide for jury nullification instructions.

HB 246 was discussed in the previous post mentioned above, and would have added an additional provision to RSA 519:23-a that the refusal by a judge to administer jury nullification instructions be considered maladministration, an impeachable offense. This bill was killed by the House Judiciary Committee in February.

However, this was not the only jury nullification measure introduced in the New Hampshire House of Representatives this session. Another bill, HB 470 , proposed to repeal RSA 519:23-a and replace it with language that would make clear the jury’s right to nullify the law and the defendants right to inform them of this power. Specifically, the language of HB 470 read:

In all court proceedings, the court shall instruct the jury of its inherent right to judge the law as well as the fact and to nullify any and all actions it finds to be unjust. The court shall allow the defendant or counsel for the defendant to explain this right of jury nullification to the jury.

HB 470 was killed by the House Judiciary Committee in late February. The language of this bill is almost identical to the introduced version of HB 146 of the 2012 session, the enacted version of which created RSA 519:23-a. However, HB 146 was amended by both the House and the Senate, and by the time it was enacted no longer included any explicit reference to jury nullification.

HB 246 and HB 470 are not the first bills since the enactment of HB 146 aimed at expanding the provisions of that bill. In 2014, the House considered HB 1452 (discussed here) which proposed to replace the language of RSA 519:23-a and more explicitly require that the jury be informed of the concept of jury nullification. The measure also proposed that a mistrial be declared if the court failed to provide such instructions. This bill was killed by the House Judiciary Committee. In 2012, the same session in which HB 146 was passed, two other bills, HB 1247 and HB 1397, were also considered that included more explicit provisions for jury nullification instructions. Both were killed by the House Judiciary Committee.

Massachusetts

Although with a much less contentious history, a measure was introduced in the Massachusetts House of Representative that required judges to permit the defense to inform the jury of their right to nullify the law. The language of this bill was very similar to HB 470 of New Hampshire. HB 1544 read:

In all criminal proceedings, the court shall permit the defendant to inform the jury of its right to judge the facts and the application of the law in relation to the facts by providing a specific nullification instruction to the jury. The instruction shall further inform jurors of their right to refuse to enforce unjust or unjustly applied laws.

Although referred to the Joint Committee on the Judiciary, no action was ever taken. This legislation was the first attempt to establish jury nullification instructions in Massachusetts in recent years.

Oregon

HB 3381 was introduced in the Oregon House of Representatives. This bill was also discussed in a previous post. HB 3381 proposed to amend ORS 136.325, which governs what information juries may and may not be given in criminal cases requiring mandatory minimum sentences and/or the adult prosecution of juveniles. The jury nullification instructions would have read:

As jurors, if you feel that a conviction would not be a fair or just result in this case, it is within your power to find the defendant not guilty.

The bill was referred to the House Judiciary Committee, but no further action was taken. This was the first attempt to establish jury nullification instructions in Oregon in recent years.

New York

New York also introduced legislation regarding jury nullification. However, rather than attempting to inform juries of their ability to nullify, as the other measures reviewed in this post did, this measure attempted to restrict the nullification power of juries by informing them of a reason for which they may not nullify the law. Introduced as AB 6381 in the Assembly, and SB 1724 in the Senate, this bill proposed a requirement that judges deliver certain instructions to juries in criminal proceedings, including the instruction that:

It is against public policy for a defendant to be acquitted of a charged offense or convicted of a lesser included offense based upon an appeal to the societal bias that may be possessed by members of a jury.

Although introduced in both the Assembly and the Senate and referred to their Committees on Codes, no action was ever taken on the bill. This legislation was the first attempt to address jury nullification instructions in New York in recent years.

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