8 states continue to have partisan elections for their top courts; a look at legislative efforts to move to nonpartisan

With the expecting signing this week of a bill to transition West Virginia judicial races from partisan to nonpartisan, the number of states with partisan judicial races for their courts of last resort (usually called supreme court) will decrease down to 8. A look at those 8 and the efforts to move to nonpartisan races is below. Please note that in some cases alternative proposals, such as a move to merit/commission selection, have also been introduced and drawn much of the legislative focus and interest. This looks exclusively at the proposals to keep judicial elections but make them nonpartisan.

Continue reading 8 states continue to have partisan elections for their top courts; a look at legislative efforts to move to nonpartisan

Ohio Legislative Year in Review: restructured Court of Claims

Law

HB 261 Abolishes the office of the Court of Claims commissioner. Transfers the functions with regards to awards of reparations from the Court of Claims commissioners or a single judge of the Court of Claims to the Court. Authorizes the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court to appoint magistrates (rather than referees) in civil actions in the Court of Claims and authorizes a magistrate to disclose or refer to certain records or reports otherwise exempt from public disclosure in reparations hearings. Changes the basis of the per diem compensation of a retired judge who serves on the Court of Claims from the annual compensation of a court of appeals judge to the annual compensation of a court of common pleas judge. Eliminates the requirements and procedure for filing an affidavit of disqualification for a judge of municipal or county court and instead includes the disqualification of a judge of a municipal or county court or a judge of the Court of Claims within the requirements and procedure for filing an affidavit of disqualification for a judge of the court of common pleas, a probate judge, or a judge of the court of appeals.

Ohio: Public Officer Compensation Commission passes Senate 34-0; would repeal guarantee legislature cannot reduce judges’ salaries while in office

In the last 48 hours the Ohio Senate has introduced and approved on a 34-0 vote a constitutional amendment (SJR 9) to create a Public Office Compensation Commission “to review the current compensation of each elected public official in the state” including judges. Interestingly, SJR 9 eliminates the guarantee that judicial salaries may NOT be cut by the General Assembly. Art. IV, Sec. 6(B) which now reads

The judges of the Supreme Court, courts of appeals, courts of common pleas, and divisions thereof, and of all courts of record established by law, shall, at stated times, receive, for their services such compensation as may be provided by law, which shall not be diminished during their term of office.

Would instead read

The judges of the Supreme Court, courts of appeals, courts of common pleas, and divisions thereof, and of all courts of record established by law, shall, at stated times, receive, for their services such compensation as provided for in [the Public Officer Compensation Commission system].

The Commission is explicitly authorized to recommend, and the General Assembly to enact, cuts to such salaries.

The elimination of the constitutional guarantee that judicial salaries cannot be cut by the legislature as part of a public officer compensation system is almost identical to what occurred in 2013 in Arkansas. As introduced and initially approved (see here and here and here) Arkansas’ HJR 1009 of 2013 eliminated that state’s constitutional guarantee that judicial salaries could not be diminished (Amendment 80, Sec. 16 (E) “Such salaries and expenses may be increased, but not diminished, during the term for which such Justices or Judges are selected or elected.”)

The final version of the Arkansas proposal that went on the ballot, however, did ensure the protection; that state’s new Independent Citizens Commission may increase, but not diminish, the salaries of judges in the state as discussed here.

Changing civil jurisdiction thresholds – Part 4

This fourth 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.

New Mexico to South Carolina below the fold.
Continue reading Changing civil jurisdiction thresholds – Part 4

Efforts to change state constitutions to remove/alter Judicial Council or Supreme Court rulemaking authority – Part 5

This fifth 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.

New Mexico to South Carolina below the fold.

Continue reading Efforts to change state constitutions to remove/alter Judicial Council or Supreme Court rulemaking authority – Part 5

Bans on court use of sharia/international law: are there the votes in the FL Senate this year? And what about a MO veto?

The 2014 efforts to ban state court use of international or foreign laws in general, and sharia law in particular, are effectively over save for two states. Since I last updated this in early March the only movement has been in Florida and Missouri, setting the stage for a possible repeat of 2013.

Florida: The Florida House and Senate bills are presently on the floors of their respective chambers and could be voted on any day. However, when this occurred last year the House was able to pass its version on April 18, 2013. The Senate on the other hand did not have the votes to pass either its version or the House bill and wound up tabling (i.e. killing) a combined House/Senate bill in May 2013.

Missouri: Just like in 2013, the 2014 effort came out of the Senate General Laws committee. However, last year’s version was vetoed by the state’s governor citing among other things the possibility that the language was so broad it would void or at least jeopardize foreign adoptions. The 2013 veto was overridden by the Senate but failed to be overridden by the House by a single vote (108 out of 109 needed).

List of bills below the fold
Continue reading Bans on court use of sharia/international law: are there the votes in the FL Senate this year? And what about a MO veto?

Ohio: Legislature approves overhaul of Court of Claims; two of nation’s 3 judicial Court of Claims revamped in last 6 months

Three states (Michigan, New York, and Ohio) have a court within the judiciary to hear claims filed against the state and two of those three are being revamped in the same 6 month time period. Michigan overhauled theirs late last year (prior coverage here and here), effectively turning it into a portion of the state’s Court of Appeals. Now Ohio has moved to revamp theirs. HB 261 is touted as a way to “modernize and streamline Court of Claims operations” by, among other things

  • Abolishing the office of the Court of Claims commissioner
  • Transferring the functions with regards to awards of reparations from the Court of Claims commissioners or a single judge of the Court of Claims to the Court
  • Authorizing the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court to appoint magistrates (rather than referees) in civil actions in the Court of Claims and authorizes a magistrate to disclose or refer to certain records or reports otherwise exempt from public disclosure in reparations hearings
  • Changing the basis of the per diem compensation of a retired judge who serves on the Court of Claims from the annual compensation of a court of appeals judge to the annual compensation of a court of common pleas judge
  • Eliminating the requirements and procedure for filing an affidavit of disqualification for a judge of municipal or county court and instead includes the disqualification of a judge of a municipal or county court or a judge of the Court of Claims within the requirements and procedure for filing an affidavit of disqualification for a judge of the court of common pleas, a probate judge, or a judge of the court of appeals

HB 261 met with effectively little to no opposition passing the House 91-0, the Senate 31-0, and re-passage in the House with Senate-amendments 88-0 on March 26.

Ohio House bill, similar to new Kansas law, would allow anyone with handgun license to carry gun into courthouse unless court provides security checkpoints

I mentioned last August that the Ohio House was considering a plan to allow guns into courthouses for all “government officials”, providing an exception to the existing law that made this a crime.(O.R.S. 2923.123). Last week a bill was introduced to effectively remove the ban.

HB 403 would add an exception to the current criminal statute, allowing anyone with a gun permit to come into a courthouse armed. The new O.R.S. 29212.123(C)(2)(c) would read:

This section [making it a crime to carry a gun in a courthouse] does not apply to…A person who conveys or attempts to convey a handgun into, or possesses or has under the person’s control a handgun in, a courthouse or another building or structure in which a courtroom is located if the person has been issued and at the time of the conveyance, attempted conveyance, possession, or control is carrying a valid concealed handgun license, and the courthouse, building, or structure is not a secure facility.

The bill then defines “security facility”

“Secure facility” means a facility that is operated, or designed and operated, to ensure that all of its entrances and exits are locked or under the exclusive control of its staff and that no person may enter into the facility unless one or more of the following apply with respect to the person entering…(a) The person has passed through or been scanned by a metal detection device or has been scanned by a metal detection wand.

This concept, that the courts cannot ban guns from courthouses or courtrooms unless they provide security checkpoints at the doors, is similar to one enacted in Kansas as HB 2052 of 2013. There, courts could not ban guns in courthouses unless they provided “adequate security measures’’ as defined by statute to be

electronic equipment and personnel at public entrances to detect and restrict the carrying of any weapons into the state or municipal building, including, but not limited to, metal detectors, metal detector wands or any other equipment used for similar purposes to ensure that weapons are not permitted to be carried into such building by members of the public.

The Kansas bill went further and also allowed carrying into courtrooms unless security was present.

Nothing in this section shall limit the ability of the chief judge of each judicial district to prohibit the carrying of a concealed handgun by any person into courtrooms or ancillary courtrooms within the district provided that other means of security are employed such as armed law enforcement or armed security officers.

Ohio HB 403 has been filed but not yet assigned to a committee.

Ohio (state) House member introduces impeachment resolution against (federal) judge for SSM ruling

Amid the record number of impeachment efforts in 2011 against state judges, I noted at the time Oklahoma stood apart in seeking the impeachment against a federal judge. In 2013, it appears to be Ohio’s turn.

United States District Court Judge Timothy S. Black issued  restraining order in June of this year that required the Ohio recognize the same sex marriage of a couple from out of state (Maryland). Judge Black then issued a permanent injunction in September.

Almost immediately after the September order a member of the Ohio House threatened impeachment against Judge Black (h/t Gavel Grab). That impeachment resolution was introduced on November 12 as HCR 37. The resolution reads as follows:

WHEREAS, The federal government has an ever-growing propensity to violate state sovereignty; and

WHEREAS, The violation of state sovereignty has been a trend since the early nineteenth century and has accelerated exponentially in recent decades; and

WHEREAS, Rather than protecting state sovereignty, the federal judiciary has been the primary perpetrator of the violation of state sovereignty; and

WHEREAS, Federal judges are appointed for life and the states and people, except as otherwise represented in Congress, are powerless against them; and

WHEREAS, The United States House of Representatives has the power to impeach federal judges and the United States Senate has the power to remove them from office; and

WHEREAS, The impeachment of rogue federal judges will begin the process of restoring state sovereignty to the original intent of the United States Constitution; and

WHEREAS, The drafters of the Constitution have provided impeachment as the mechanism, beyond appeal, for the people to remove lifetime appointees; and

WHEREAS, Since 1797, eight federal judges have been impeached and removed from office and three more have resigned prior to their potential removal; and

WHEREAS, In July 2013, United States District Court Judge Timothy S. Black ordered that Ohio recognize the homosexual marriage of John Arthur and James Obergefell; and

WHEREAS, In September 2013, Judge Black ordered that Ohio recognize the homosexual marriage of William Herbert Ives (deceased) and David Michener; and

WHEREAS, Judge Black’s orders are a clear violation of Article XV, Section 11 of the Ohio Constitution and the Tenth Amendment of the United States Constitution; and

WHEREAS, Judge Black has demonstrated his incompetence by allowing his personal political bias to supersede jurisprudence; now therefore be it

RESOLVED, That, in consideration of the above, we, the members of the 130th Ohio General Assembly, respectfully urge the Ohio Congressional delegation to initiate impeachment proceedings against Judge Timothy S. Black of United States District Court for the Southern District of Ohio; and be it further

RESOLVED, That the grounds for impeachment are malfeasance and abuse of power; and be it further

RESOLVED, That the Clerk of the House of Representatives transmit duly authenticated copies of this resolution to the Speaker and the Clerk of the United States House of Representatives, to the members of the Ohio Congressional delegation, and to the news media of Ohio.