Changing civil jurisdiction thresholds – Part 3

This third in a series of posts looks at legislative efforts to change the civil jurisdiction thresholds in state limited and general jurisdiction courts in the last decade. For a listing of all current civil jurisdiction thresholds, click here.

Massachusetts to New Jersey below the fold.
Continue reading Changing civil jurisdiction thresholds – Part 3

Efforts to change state constitutions to remove/alter Judicial Council or Supreme Court rulemaking authority – Part 3

This third installment looks at efforts to change state constitutional grants of rulemaking authority to courts of last resort, typically called the “supreme court”, or judicial councils.

My colleagues here at the National Center have a listing of all such provisions here.

Massachusetts to New Jersey below the fold.

Continue reading Efforts to change state constitutions to remove/alter Judicial Council or Supreme Court rulemaking authority – Part 3

Bills to authorize the creation of veterans courts advance in Arizona, Georgia, Washington; South Carolina version lets prosecutor pick the judge and doesn’t let judge get a salary

Many states have statues or rules of court that authorize the creation of “veterans courts”, divisions of trial courts that handle criminal cases involving veterans to provide them the treatment they need to address mental health and other issues that may  have lead to the criminal case in the first place. This year several legislatures took up such authorizing legislation.

Arizona HB 2457 amends an existing law authorizing the creation of homeless courts in the state’s lower tier criminal courts (Justice and Municipal) to include the creation of “veterans court and mental health court” divisions.  HB 2457 has so far advanced unanimously though its House committees, the full House, and its Senate committees.

Georgia SB 320 is similar to the Arizona bill but not identical. Under the Georgia bill veterans court divisions can be created in any court with criminal jurisdiction. Moreover, the Georgia bill is more detailed in terms of the operations of the veterans courts, specifying they are to operate under standards and practices to be established and updated by the Judicial Council of Georgia. Prosecutors “may” dismiss cases of those who successfully complete the veterans court program and courts “may” reduce or modify any sentences related thereto but specifically not below statutory minimums. SB 320 cleared the House on March 11 and is or will be before the governor for approval.

Illinois, which statutorily authorized the creation of veterans courts some years ago, has a bill (HJR 75) to encourage their use and creation.

Louisiana SB 532 is somewhere between the Arizona and Georgia bill in terms of jurisdiction: the state’s main trial court (District) is authorized to create veterans court divisions but the lower criminal courts are not. The bill provides that while the District Judge makes the final determination of eligibility for the veterans court program, the district attorney makes the final determination on  revocation, extension, or dismissal. SB 532 is before the Senate Health and Welfare Committee.

Mississippi had a series of bills to create veterans court divisions (HB 889, SB 2029, SB 2111). Only HB 889 made it out committee before dying in the House appropriations committee.

Nebraska LB 1105 expands an existing statute authorizing drug courts and problem solving courts to include veterans and servicemembers court divisions. LB 1105 had a hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee on February 20 but proceeded no further.

New Jersey has two veterans court bills. AB 1916 authorizes a pilot program in a single county (Burlington) for nonviolent offenders. This bill has been submitted every year for the last 3 legislative sessions in the Assembly and/or the Senate but never received committee approval. It is currently in the Assembly Military and Veterans’ Affairs Committee. The second such bill, SB 227 is broader, authorizing the pilot program in two “vicinages” (collections of one or more counties) one of which must  be Burlington County. It was first introduced last in the 2012/2013 session and has been reintroduced. It is pending in the Senate Judiciary Committee.

Oklahoma HB 2802 is just the latest attempt going back to at least 2009 to provide statutory authorization for veterans court divisions. This version failed to advance out of committee.

South Carolina stands alone from the other efforts at veterans courts. Under HB 3014 and HB 4859 the prosecutor (circuit solicitor) rather than an individual court judge or chief judge is authorized to establish the program. The state’s chief justice would assign judge(s) to the division but only “upon the recommendation of the circuit solicitor.” Moreover, the judge assigned would be required to attend training established by the prosecutor. Finally, the judge assigned could not be paid a salary and must serve on a voluntary basis. Prior efforts gave similar powers to the Attorney General, but left the selection of the judge to the Supreme Court “upon the recommendation of the Chief Administrative Judge for that judicial circuit.” (HB 3179 of 2011) HB 3014 passed the full House and came out of the Senate Judiciary Committee last year but has not moved since. HB 4859 was introduced earlier in March 2014 and has been assigned to the House Judiciary Committee.

Washington HB 2556 makes two statements with regard to authorizing therapeutic courts in general and veterans courts in particular. In section 2 “The legislature recognizes the inherent authority of the judiciary under Article IV, section 1 of the state Constitution to establish therapeutic courts…” including specifically “Veterans treatment court.” In Section 3, however, the legislature authorizes every trial and juvenile court in the state to establish and operate such courts. HB 2556 passed the full House and the Senate Law & Justice committee in February and remains pending in the Senate Rules Committee. Another bill, SB 5129 introduced in 2013 and carried over into 2014 specifically authorizes veterans’ courts established by the Chief Justice, but has never been heard in committee.

Nebraska State of the Judiciary: juveniles, sentencing alternatives, guardianships, children & families, technology, language access

The National Center for State Courts has an archive of current and prior State of the Judiciary addresses located here.

Nebraska Chief Justice Michael Heavican delivered his State of the Judiciary Address to the unicameral Nebraska legislature on January 17. There was apparently no formal resolution, only a motion at the appointed time for a committee to escort the Chief Justice to the rostrum.

Highlights of the Chief Justice’s speech (full text here) included

Current

  • Service to Juveniles: expansion of juvenile justice within probation system
  • Sentencing Alternatives: Young Adult Court, drug and specialty courts, Probation’s Specialized Substance Abuse Supervision programs
  • Guardianships: Commission on Guardianships and Conservatorships reviewing guardianships, State Auditor report on criminal activity by person serving as guardian
  • Service to Children & Families: Part 1 of evaluation of 2007 changes to Parenting Act, custody/parenting time, do mothers/fathers have lawyers, # children involved, etc.
  • Technology: bandwidth upgrade to rural courts to allow for remove interpreters/video conferencing, electronic filing system up to 70% in county court civil cases at end of 2013 + $15 million in electronically deposited fees/fines/costs.
  • Language Access: more interpreters + video conferencing interpreters

Requested/Future

  • Service to Children & Families: Part 2 of evaluation of 2007 changes to Parenting Act, program implementation, outcome results, and a cost-benefit study

Nebraska Legislative Year in Review: Filing false liens on judges; videoconferencing court proceedings

Law

LB 3 Provides penalty for fraudulent filings, change nonconsensual common-law lien provisions against judges and others.

LB 103 Changes provisions relating to judges’ powers at chambers. Provides a judge in civil case may order, where party is incarcerated, use of telephonic or videoconferencing.

Bans on court use of sharia/international law: NC legislature approves ban, becomes fifth legislature to approve such a bill in 2013

North Carolina’s legislature now joins those in Alabama (SB 4, constitutional amendment on ballot in 2014), Missouri (SB 267, vetoed by governor), Oklahoma (HB 1060, signed into law) and Washington state (portions of SB 5797, signed into law) to pass bills banning state courts use of sharia, international law, or religious law.

The history behind the North Carolina effort, however, was more complex than perhaps any other such ban.

The original North Carolina bill, HB 695, was approved by the full House on a 69-42 vote in May. The Senate amended onto the bill a list of abortion restrictions which bogged down and eventually killed the bill. In its place the Senate took up a completely unrelated bill (HB 522) regarding natural gas service, removed all the existing language, and put in the original language of HB 695. That bill was approved by the full House in July 19 and the full Senate concurred with the amendment on July 24.

It should be noted that the North Carolina ban is limited to family law matters, in contrast with broader bans that were debated and enacted in other legislatures in prior sessions.

A court, administrative agency, arbitrator, mediator, or other entity or person acting under the authority of State law shall not apply a foreign law in any legal proceeding involving, or recognize a foreign judgment involving, a claim for absolute divorce, divorce from bed and board, child custody, child support, alimony, or equitable distribution if doing so would violate a fundamental constitutional right of one or more natural persons who are parties to the proceeding.

With North Carolina now having approved a bill, the only state remaining in session (i.e. not adjourned sine die) with a sharia/international law banning bill is South Carolina, however those SC bills have not even advanced out of committee at this point.

List of bills below the fold Continue reading Bans on court use of sharia/international law: NC legislature approves ban, becomes fifth legislature to approve such a bill in 2013

With efiling increasing in trial courts, legislatures consider how clerks are to create a record on appeal

The advent of technology often requires revision to existing policies. The increased use of efiling in state trial courts is no exception. Often the solution can be found in the judiciary’s power to alter its rules of procedure or practice, but there are the occasional statutory impediments.

Oregon and Virginia are among the states looking at the subject this year. Oregon HB 2562 modifies existing laws on the filing of a transcript on appeal to allow for filing of an electronic, rather than a paper, version. Meanwhile Virginia HB 1654 would require a clerk of circuit court (the state’s general jurisdiction court) with an established electronic filing system to provide any appellate court the trial court record in electronic form. Both are pending in their respective chambers.

Louisiana in 2012 (HB 112) changed that state’s laws to allow for depositions made a part of a record on appeal to be attached in a reduced format or in an electronic format approved by the court.

In 2011,  Nebraska’s  LB 17  changed the law regarding what constitutes the “complete record” to include “those things maintained in the state’s electronic case management system.”

 

 

Nebraska Year in Review: judicial records management & judicial salaries

New laws affecting the courts enacted by the Nebraska legislature in 2012 include the following:

LB 576 Creates Nebraska Statutes Distribution Cash Fund for use by the Supreme Court to offset distribution costs.

LB 862 Sets salaries for justices of the supreme court as $145,614.74 (Although the bill only specifies salary increases for Supreme Court Judges, other judges will also receive an increase in salary as their salaries are statutorily tied to the Supreme Court judge salaries.)

LB 880 Requires judicial and other state branches/agencies reduce costs and adopt modern methods of state and local records management.

 

 

Bans on court use of sharia/international law: showdown vote in Michigan set for after November election

Few if any state legislatures are in session, but one of those few is Michigan and that state’s House is set to come back into session November 27 to decide the fate of a bill that would ban the use of international law by the state’s judiciary.

Under Michigan  HB 4769 and SB 701

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 by the constitution of this state or of the United States.

After initial bad press and rallies where the bills were introduced earlier this year the bills remained in their respective committees. However the House journal indicates a notice for a motion to discharge HB 4769 from the House Committee on Judiciary was filed by the bill’s primary sponsor September 11 and the motion made September 12. The vote on the motion was postponed until November 27, 2012.

Full roster of 41 bills introduced and their statuses after the jump.
Continue reading Bans on court use of sharia/international law: showdown vote in Michigan set for after November election

Bans on court use of sharia/international law: signed into law in Kansas, sent to study committee in New Hampshire, still technically alive in MI, NC, PA, & SC

There were only two pieces of activity since the May 14 update:

  • New Hampshire’s Senate approved May 16 on a voice vote its Judiciary Committee’s recommendation to send (HB 1422) to an interim study committee, effectively killing the bill for 2012.
  • In Kansas, that state’s governor signed SB 79 on May 21. News reports are here, prior blog posts detailing provisions (including an attempt to tie it to Citizens United) here and here.

With adjournments already having occurred, and with Missouri set to formal adjourn May 30 (they informally adjourned May 18), only 4 states even have the theoretically potential to advance such legislation in 2012 (barring special sessions):

  • Michigan HB 4769 / SB 701: the legislature is likely not to formally adjourn sine die, thus the legislation remains at least technically alive until a new legislature is sworn-in sometime in 2013.
  • North Carolina HB 640: Legislation carries over from odd-numbered to even-numbered years and the legislature is now back in session as of May 16.
  • Pennsylvania HB 2029: the legislature is likely not to formally adjourn sine die, thus the legislation remains at least technically alive until a new legislature is sworn-in sometime in 2013.
  • South Carolina HB 3490 / SB 444: Adjournment is June 7, however neither bill has advanced out of committee since being introduced in early 2011.

Full roster of 41 bills introduced and their statuses after the jump.
Continue reading Bans on court use of sharia/international law: signed into law in Kansas, sent to study committee in New Hampshire, still technically alive in MI, NC, PA, & SC