Three states voted Tuesday on increases to mandatory judicial retirement: effort dies 49-21 in Arkansas House when 28 members fail to vote; amended versions advance in AL & MD

The efforts to increase mandatory judicial retirement ages have seen a great deal of activity in the last 24 hours.

  • Alabama’s House approved 64-35 with 1 abstention a plan to increase their age from 70 to 72 after members objected to the original proposed increase to 75. The Alabama provision is not a hard and fast retirement age; instead it addresses the maximum age a judge can be in order to be elected or appointed to a judgeship.
  • Maryland’s Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee effectively had the same idea as their Alabama House counterparts, reducing a planned increase in the mandatory judicial retirement age from 70 to 75 down to 73 instead. The amended plan passed on a 7-3 vote.
  • 28 Arkansas House members left the floor or failed to vote and 2 voted “present” when that state’s effort to increase the retirement age from 70 to 72 came up for a vote. As a result, despite receiving a 49 yes vs. 21 no vote, the bill failed under a provision of the Arkansas constitution that requires a majority of the entire body (51/100) to approve a bill.

Details of all increase efforts below the fold.

Continue reading Three states voted Tuesday on increases to mandatory judicial retirement: effort dies 49-21 in Arkansas House when 28 members fail to vote; amended versions advance in AL & MD

22 bills to increase or eliminate mandatory judicial retirement ages: moving in IN, NJ, OR, PA, VA; killed in UT & WY

The wave of interest in increasing or eliminating the mandatory retirement ages for judges continues apace in the state legislatures. Of the seven states that have voted on these proposals:

  • 1 state (Virginia) has passed an increase and is awaiting action by the governor
  • 2 states (Indiana, Pennsylvania) have seen at least one chamber pass the proposal
  • 2 states (New Jersey, Oregon) have seen committee approval
  • 2 states (Utah and Wyoming) saw their efforts killed

Details below the fold.

Continue reading 22 bills to increase or eliminate mandatory judicial retirement ages: moving in IN, NJ, OR, PA, VA; killed in UT & WY

New Jersey Legislative Year in Review: Supreme Court may set fees to pay for e-courts system

Law

SB 946 Authorizes Supreme Court to establish court costs and fees to pay for the development, maintenance and administration of a Statewide Pretrial Services Program; the development, maintenance and administration of a Statewide digital e-court information system; and the provision to the poor of legal assistance in civil matters by Legal Services of New Jersey and its affiliates. Provides aggregate fees may not be increased more than $50.

New Jersey: Committee balks at raising mandatory retirement age for Supreme Court; approves plan to increase for all other judges

On Monday the New Jersey Assembly Judiciary Committee approved two bills to increase the mandatory judicial retirement age in the state from 70 to 75 but with on major amendment: the increase would not apply to the Supreme Court.

ACR 186 (constitutional amendment) and AB 3706 (statutory change) would raise the mandatory retirement ages for judges of the state’s Tax Court and administrative courts as well as Superior Court judges.

The original bill, ACR 129, would have changed the mandatory retirement age for both the Superior and Supreme Courts. According to news reports

The sponsors of the package, led by committee Chairman John McKeon, D-Morris, agreed to maintain the mandatory retirement age at 70 for Supreme Court justices because of conservative lawmakers’ desire to maintain greater control of the court’s makeup.

If approved by the legislature and voters, New Jersey would be one of only 2 states that provide that judges of the state’s court of last resort (supreme court) must retire before the general jurisdiction trial court. The other state, Indiana, provides its Supreme Court justices (and for that matter Court of Appeals) must retire at 75; trial judges have no mandatory retirement age. An effort to repeal the mandatory retirement age for those appellate judges died in a somewhat confused Senate floor vote earlier this year and discussed cleared here.

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

NJ: Legislature passes plan to pay for court technology; governor vetoed 2012 version

An effort to allow the New Jersey Supreme Court to raise fees to pay for court technology, vetoed two years ago, has passed the House and Senate as part of a larger overhaul of the state’s pretrial services/bail practices. The bill (SB 946) provides the Supreme Court may revise or supplement filing fees and other statutory fees payable to the court for the sole purpose of funding three programs:

  • the development, maintenance and administration of a Statewide Pretrial Services Program
  • the development, maintenance and administration of a Statewide digital e-court information system
  • the provision to the poor of legal assistance in civil matters by Legal Services of New Jersey and its affiliates

“Digital e-court information system” is further defined as “a Statewide integrated system that includes but is not limited to electronic filing, electronic service of process, electronic document management, electronic case management, electronic financial management, and public access to digital court records…”

There is however a limitation: “All existing filing fees and other statutory fees payable to the court on the effective date of this section shall not be increased or supplemented more than $50 in the aggregate for each fee beginning on the effective date of this section.”

A very similar provision to allow the Supreme Court to raise fees was vetoed as AB 763 of 2012. However this year’s version is part of a larger bill that had the backing of Governor Chris Christie.

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

NJ: Bill could ban local government officials from pressuring municipal judges/judicial candidates regarding court revenue

A bill currently pending the the New Jersey Assembly would effectively ban municipal government officials from pressing Municipal Court Judges on the subject of how much revenue the court/judges is producing. The 539 Municipal Courts in New Jersey handle the state’s traffic/violation offenses along with minor criminal matters and are generally appointed by the municipal government for three year terms.

Under AB 2638 of 2014

No local government officer or employee shall discuss with any municipal court judge or any candidate for a municipal court judgeship pursuant to N.J.S.2B:12-4 the local government agency’s need for or reliance upon municipal court revenues.

AB 2638 has been assigned to the Assembly Judiciary Committee.

New Jersey: Constitutional amendments would remove Supreme Court’s powers of judicial review in cases involving court facilities

Courthouses in the United States are often funded and built primarily, or even exclusively, by local or county government as this report from the Arizona Administrative Office of the Courts details. On rare occasion if the facilities are inadequate or in such poor condition the courts, as a separate branch of government, cannot function the court itself may declare the courthouse/courtroom itself unconstitutional. This happened recently in one New Jersey county that build a courtroom with a pillar in the middle of it which blocks the defense table’s line of sight to the jury box and witness stand thereby making trials there unconstitutional. The county followed up that judge’s ruling by filing suit against the Judiciary to have the Judiciary pay for the redesign. The matter may go to arbitration under Court Rule 1:33-9 but the county government adopted a resolution seeking a state constitutional amendment to strip the Supreme Court of any power of judicial review of that arbitration.

That constitutional amendment has now been introduced this week as ACR 169 and the identical SCR 121. Both would create Section IX of Article IV of the state constitution to read

When a dispute arises between the Judiciary and a county regarding budgetary costs relating to court facilities and the matter is referred to arbitration, the decision of the arbitrators shall be final, binding, and not subject to review by the Supreme Court.

Both bills have been referred to their respective Judiciary Committees. The bills are similar to those introduced in the last several years to provide that New Jersey counties alone would determine whether there were “suitable” courtroom facilities (SB 1901 of 2014).

 

New Jersey: despite 2012 veto, Supreme Court may get power to set court fees to pay for ecourts

Last week the New Jersey Assembly and Senate advanced bills (AB 1910 and SB 946) that would change the way the state handles bail/pre-trial release. Included in the bills are provisions to allow the Supreme Court to issue rules of court to increase fees/costs to pay for a new Statewide Pretrial Services Program.

Most interestingly are the portions of the bill that include elements from AB 763 of 2012, vetoed in that year, that would allow the Supreme Court to increase fees/costs to pay for e-courts in the state (prior coverage here). The bill lets the Supreme Court revise or supplement filing fees and other statutory fees payable to the court for the purpose of funding the development, maintenance and administration of a statewide digital e-court information system.

The bills would provide either $10 million (Assembly version) or $17 million (Senate version) appropriated annually to the Judiciary for the Statewide digital e-court information system.

In addition both bills would restore the authority of the various State and municipal courts to establish systems to accept payments of court fees, judicially imposed obligations, and related charges by various electronic methods, and clarify the authority of the Administrative Office of the Courts to assess, collect, and pay service charges and other costs resulting from the collection of such fees, obligations, and related charges. They would also require that service charges and other costs collected by the Administrative Office of the Courts would be deposited in the “Court Computer Information System Fund,” except for those charges and costs assessed and collected on behalf of municipal courts.

AB 1910 was approved by the Assembly Judiciary Committee on June 12 and is pending in the Assembly Appropriations Committee.

SB 946 was floor amended by the Senate on June 12 and remains pending on the Third Reading calendar.