Last year I noted the effort in New Hampshire to remove Marital Master Philip Cross (details here) via a bill of address. Such bills allow, in cases where there “shall not be a cause which is a sufficient ground for impeachment”, for a majority of both houses of the legislature to ask the state’s governor and executive council to remove a judge or judicial officer. The bill of address method was used to try and remove Cross, another martial master, and a judge last year. Those efforts failed, however Cross’ was the “closest” vote (6-3 in committee against recommending removal; 170-127 against in the full House).
Citing testimony from the 2010 bill of address hearings, HR 7 of 2011 has been introduced directing the House Judiciary Committee to investigate Cross “and/or any justice of the New Hampshire superior court” for impeachment. Under the state constitution, the committee would have to find instances of “bribery, corruption, malpractice or maladministration in office” for impeachment to proceed.
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.
The third New Hampshire bill of address (HA 3) this year focuses on Marital Master Philip Cross. While details are not provided as to specific case number or names in the bill of address, the charges appear to duplicate most of those found in the bill of address Judge Lucinda Sadler but do not involve the “Amanda” case for which Sadler and Marital Master Michael Garner face the prospect of being removed from their respective offices.
It remains to be seen among all three of these bills of address if a committee will be convened to examine the matter. According to the bill status reports from the NH legislature’s website, all three must be voted out of committee and onto the floor by February 18.
Yesterday’s post on the effort to legislatively remove form office a New Hampshire marital master was only half the story. To recap, marital master Michael garner recommend a girl be removed at the father’s request from his ex-wife’s homeschooling practices for the girl and put into public school. It was Judge Lucinda Sadler that signed off on that recommendation. For her role in the homeschooling order, Judge Sadler is the target of HA 2 of 2010 seeking her removal via a bill of address to the Governor. Sadler is also cited for her role in signing off on the orders of another marital master in a many as 6 child support and custody cases in addition to the one previously noted.
Three separate efforts to remove New Hampshire judges and judicial officers via bills of address are currently pending in that state. A bill of address requires only a simple majority of both the House and Senate and need not specify any “bribery, corruption, malpractice or maladministration, in office” as in the case of an impeachment. “The governor with consent of the council may remove any commissioned officer for reasonable cause upon the address of both houses of the legislature,..”
The first such effort (HA 1) is against marital master Michael Garner. Garner, according to the bill of address, “recommended to the presiding justice an order removing a child from an educational setting on the basis of religious prejudice.” The case surrounds a divorce case and a child, identified only as “Amanda,” who was being home schooled by her mother, while her father wanted the child placed in public school. According to media reports, Garner evaluated the home schooling situation. On July 13, 2009, he issued his recommendation, stating “The Court is extremely reluctant to impose on parents a decision about a child’s education” but ultimately deciding, based on the testimony of the parents and a Guardian Ad Litem, that it was in “Amanda’s best interests to attend public school.” The story made national headlines and was, as of November 2009, on appeal to that state’s Supreme Court.
Judicial Councils vary from state to state, ranging from advisory bodies to formal policy makers and setters. Three states are wrestling with the possibility of eliminating these bodies.
Virginia’s HB 240 would eliminate the Council and transfer its responsibilities to the Supreme Court or the Executive Secretary of the Supreme Court (the official title for the state court administrator).
New Hampshire, on the other hand, is seeking to save its Judicial Council. In 2009, the state’s legislature passed as part of its appropriations bill a provision (144:87) automatically ending “all non-regulatory boards, commissions, councils, advisory committees, and task forces in state government created by statute or administrative rule” on June 30, 2011 unless new authorizing legislation was approved. HB 1689 would keep the Judicial Council in operation.
Tennessee’s Judicial Council is facing a similar automatic sunset. Statutorily, the Council expired June 30, 2009 and is currently in its one-year “wind down” phase. HB 1016 and SB 374 would extend it until June 2017 while HB 1102 and SB 373 would grant it only until June 2010. HB 1102 was approved on a 90-5 vote on June 3, 2009 while the Senate version was deferred until 2010.