In the last two years Puerto Rico’s legislature has been active with respect to the commonwealth’s judiciary. Of particular note are two Senate bills (PS 801 and PS 802) enacted in December 2013 that mandate e-filing in civil and criminal cases, respectively, as soon as possible. Also related to court technolgy is House bill PC 1860 currently on the governor’s desk, that directs the judiciary, police, and several executive branch departments and agencies to establish a uniform technological system that allows effective sharing of information between agencies so that the best performance is achieved via the Criminal Justice Information System (Sistema de Información de Justicia Criminal (SIJC)).
Also making its way into law is a new judicial retirement system. PC 1595 establishes a defined contribution and defined benefit hybrid program for future judges of the General Court of the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico. That bill was signed into law 12/24/13.
Also active were two bills contending with the issue of retired judges that would effectively ban the former jurists from practicing law. PC 1270 as introduced would have prohibited a retired Chief Justice or President Judge of the Supreme Court of Puerto Rico from representing any person before a court, administrative or quasi-judicial agency. It also prohibits such a person from providing courts/agencies legal services. As amended the bill would have allowed a retired justice of the Supreme Court of Puerto Rico to restart their law practice, but prohibited them from appearing in court, administrative proceedings, alternative dispute forums, or generally representing people or corporations in any proceeding. Further, the amended bill provided that the person’s judicial pension is forfeited where such representations take place. It was approved by the full House 10/10/13 and is pending in the Senate Judicial, Security, and Veterans Committee. A similar bill (PC 1311) identical to the original PC 1270 remains in the House Labor and Public Service Retirement Systems Committee.
Finally, the House approved a plan to restore the Bar Association of Puerto Rico’s power to evaluate nominations of judges to fill seats on courts and to re-evaluate those seeking reappointment or promotion to a higher court. PC 1356 was approved by the full House 10/21/13 and remains pending in the Judiciary, Security, and Veterans Committee.
Additional bills currently pending below the fold.
Continue reading Non-state week: Puerto Rico – Legislature mandates e-filing and technology changes, creates new judicial retirement plan. Should retired judges be allowed to practice law? Should bar be involved in judicial evaluation?