Bans on court use of sharia/international law: Enacted in Mississippi; activity in 6 other states; WV considered ban on court use of “karma”

2015 saw some 32 pieces of legislation introduced in 17 states to ban or limit the use by state courts of foreign or international law. Of these, Mississippi saw after 5+ years of trying the enactment of such a ban. HB 177 provides in operative part that

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 to a natural person by the United States Constitution or the Mississippi Constitution of 1890.

Notable regarding many of these bills is the continued focus on specifically banning the use by state courts of sharia law (Mississippi HB 493, HB 557, HB 622, HB 1216; Oregon SB 176, South Carolina HB 3521, and West Virginia HB 2994). The specific targeting of sharia was held as unconstitutional in a decision by the Tenth Circuit in 2012 which upheld striking down such a sharia-specific constitutional amendment approved by Oklahoma voters in 2010. West Virginia HB 2994 is of particular note here in terms of not just targeting sharia, but “Canon law, Halacha and Karma”, language almost identical to a bill introduced in Arizona 2010 and 2011 and discussed here.

Details on the legislation introduced in 2015 below the fold.

Continue reading Bans on court use of sharia/international law: Enacted in Mississippi; activity in 6 other states; WV considered ban on court use of “karma”

Changes to mandatory judicial retirement ages: Virginia plan now law; Oregon voters will decide in November 2016 on repeal; Massachusetts proposal rejected

Since April’s update on the subject of mandatory judicial retirement age changes there’s been several developments.

Alabama

While the state does not have a retirement age per se, it does prohibit judges from seeking election or being appointed to fill a vacancy if they are above the age of 70. Efforts to raise this to 72 were approved in the House and appeared to have Senate backing before time ran out in the session. Critics argued the constitutional amendment was specifically designed to allow 68 year old Chief Justice Roy Moore to seek one more term in office.

Louisiana

Despite voters in 2014 rejecting a constitutional amendment repealing the mandatory retirement age for most judges in the state, at least some judges will be able to avoid being forced out at 70. Under HB 350 as signed into law, justices of the peace in office as of August 15, 2006 can continue to run for re-election over the age of 70.

Massachusetts

A plan to increase the mandatory retirement age for judges in that state from 70 to 76 was rejected in committee in late April.

North Carolina

Several efforts to increase the mandatory retirement age for judges met with approval in the House but were not taken up by the Senate prior to adjournment. Those bills could come back up in the 2016 session.

Oregon

Voters will get to decide in 2016 whether or not to repeal the state’s mandatory judicial retirement age. Under SJR 4 as approved by the legislature in late June the constitutional provision allowing the legislature to set a retirement age would be stricken.

Virginia

Virginia appellate judges as of today (July 1), will see their mandatory judicial retirement age increase from 70 to 73 under a bill signed into law this spring. However, only those trial judges elected or appointed after July 1, 2015 would get the increase to 73; all other trial judges remain at the mandatory retirement age of 70. Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe had asked the legislature to amend the bill (HB 1984) to apply the increase to all judges, and the state’s Senate was willing to do so, however the House insisted on the split treatment.

Continue reading Changes to mandatory judicial retirement ages: Virginia plan now law; Oregon voters will decide in November 2016 on repeal; Massachusetts proposal rejected

Changes to mandatory judicial retirement ages: Virginia plan may fall apart over what judges get the increase; Oregon Senate unanimously approves repeal; dead in Maryland; small change moving in North Carolina; debated in Massachusetts

Since last month’s update on the subject of mandatory judicial retirement age changes there’s been several developments. The biggest stumbling block: which judges should get the increase in the age?

Maryland

The Senate approved 47-0 a plan (SB 847) to increase the mandatory retirement age for judges from 70 to 73 (original bill called for 75) on March 24. The Senate plan would have applied to all judges after adoption of the amendment. The House, however, had various ideas on how this would impact current judges. The House Judiciary Committee approved amendment 172916/1 which would have allowed any judge that

reaches the age of seventy years before the date that the judge is eligible to be elected, appointed, or reappointed

to stay on to 73 or the end of their current term with the consent of the governor. A later floor amendment (393229/1) added the word “re-elected”

reaches the age of seventy years before the date that the judge is eligible to be elected, re-elected, appointed, or reappointed

The changes occurred on April 9, just days before the legislature adjourned sine die. As a result, the effort failed this year.

Massachusetts

The judges of Massachusetts only fell under the state’s mandatory judicial retirement age in the 1970s (Amendment LVII adopted in 1972)

[U]pon attaining seventy years of age said judges shall be retired.

Starting in 2009 there have been efforts to increase this age to 76. The first two attempts (HB 1640 of 2009/2010 & HB 1826 of 2011/2012) were approved by the Joint Committee on the Judiciary but proceeded no further. HB 68 of 2013/2014 saw rejection by the committee. The bill is now back up as HB 1609 of 2015/2016 and was heard before the Joint Committee on April 15.

North Carolina

The House approved 116-0 on March 25 a bill that would provide a minimal extension to the state’s judicial retirement age. Currently judges must retire on the last day of the month in which they reach 72. Under HB 50 as approved they may serve last day of the year they reach 72.

A counter proposal (HB 205) to extend this to the last day of the year they reach 75. Was approved by the House Judiciary IV committee on March 18 but has remained in locked up in the House Pensions and Retirement committee.

Oregon

On April 15 the Oregon Senate approved 30-0 a plan to eliminate the state’s mandatory retirement age or, to be more precise, repeal the state constitutional provision allowing the legislature to set such an age. SJR 4 would eliminate language from the state constitution that

[A] judge of any court shall retire from judicial office at the end of the calendar year in which he attains the age of 75 years. The Legislative Assembly or the people may by law: Fix a lesser age for mandatory retirement not earlier than the end of the calendar year in which the judge attains the age of 70 years.

The constitutional amendment is now pending on the House Speaker’s desk awaiting committee assignment.

Virginia

After 9 years of trying, a plan to increase the retirement age for at least some judges in Virginia passed the House and Senate, but the decision to increase for some judges and not others may result in a veto by the governor.

At issue under HB 1984 and SB 1196 was what judges should get the increase from 70 to 73. The House/Senate compromise approved provided that

  • all appellate judges effective July 1, 2015 would get the increase to 73
  • trial judges elected or appointed after July 1, 2015 would get the increase to 73
  • trial judges elected or appointed prior to July 1, 2015 would still have to retire at 70

The governor, however, issued a “recommendation” to eliminate the three-tired plan (Virginia governors can return a bill without a veto to the legislature “with recommendations for their amendment“). The Senate voted in favor of eliminating the three-tired plan 31-8. The House rejected it 27-63. Local media reports indicate the unamended bill will now go back to the Governor as early as today (Friday) for him to sign or veto.

Continue reading Changes to mandatory judicial retirement ages: Virginia plan may fall apart over what judges get the increase; Oregon Senate unanimously approves repeal; dead in Maryland; small change moving in North Carolina; debated in Massachusetts

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

Bans on court use of sharia/international law: new year means two dozen new bills

The new legislative year means a new wave of legislation that purport to ban the use by state courts of international or foreign law in general and sharia law in particular. In some instances, such as Oregon, this legislation has never previously been introduced in prior years.

The general pattern of the legislation this year has been to avoid the use of the word “sharia”, although 4 bills continue to specifically use the term. This appears to be done primarily in light of a federal court decision striking down a 2010 Oklahoma constitutional amendment that had used the word as being discriminatory for picking on sharia, and by extension Islam, in particular a decision upheld by the Tenth Circuit in 2012 and subsequent permanent injunction issued in August 2013.

The other aspect has been to specify that the bill, if enacted, would not apply to:

  1. harm or affect the right to contract
  2. corporations
  3. laws and court decisions of Native American tribes
  4. ecclesiastical matters/religious organizations

So far the bills have moved in Indiana (Senate) and Mississippi (House), while the Virginia version was withdrawn by the sponsor.

Details below the fold.

Continue reading Bans on court use of sharia/international law: new year means two dozen new bills

After 9 years of trying, Virginia judges could finally get increase in judicial retirement age from 70 to 73

Ninth time could be the charm for Virginia judges.

After 8 straight years of bills to increase or eliminate Virginia’s mandatory judicial retirement age of 70, both the Virginia House and Senate yesterday moved towards final approval of a plan to increase the age to 73. The full Senate gave its approval to SB 1196 on a 28-10, meeting the crossover day deadline by which time all Senate bills must be sent to the House.

Meanwhile the House agreed to engross an amendment to its version HB 1984. As introduced the bill would have allowed a judge reaching the age of 70 to remain until 73 or for another term if he or she was re-elected by legislature (Virginia is one of only two states in which the legislature is the sole electing/appointing authority for judges). That plan was scuttled in committee and replaced with a substitute identical to SB 1196 that simply raise the age from 70 to 73 without any conditions. The committee vote was 14-5. The House vote on engrossment was procedural; it remains to be seen if the full House will approve SB 1196 when it comes into that body.

The plan to increase judicial retirement ages was bogged down last year amid debate over restarting the state’s Judicial Performance Evaluation program. Several members of the General Assembly were not prepared to vote for an increase until the JPE program was in placed and funded. That occurred in the 2014 session, paving the way for this years’ votes.

Virginia Legislative Year in Review: deadlines for judicial decisions, judicial performance evaluation program, court record retention timelines

Veto override

HB 5002 Special Session Provides language and funding to fill specific judgeships contingent upon the General Assembly filling the vacancies either through the budget language itself or action during a Special Session of the 2014 General Assembly rather than by the Governor appointing to fill interim vacancies.

Law

HB 10 Modifies annual retirement allowance of any person who has served as a judge but retires under a different defined benefit retirement plan. Clarifies that only those persons who retired as a judge or justice may serve as a senior jurist on the Supreme Court or the Court of Appeals.

HB 143 Provides that documents required to be posted by a clerk on or at the front door of a courthouse or on a public bulletin board at a courthouse may instead be posted on the public government website of the locality served by the court.

HB 161 Allows counsel and parties in a general district court to make recordings of proceedings by method other than tape recording.

HB 269 Provides that a circuit court judge in a civil action who holds a decision on any matter, motion, or issue submitted to the court or any final decision in the action under advisement for more than 60 days after a decision was requested must provide the parties in the action a written report stating the expected time of a decision. A judge who fails to make such a report or fails to render a decision within the time set forth in the report may be reported to the Chief Justice of the Virginia Supreme Court. Currently, a circuit court judge only has to provide such a report for final decisions in civil actions that have been held under advisement for more than 90 days.

HB 272 Provides judicial performance evaluation program reports are public records, but all other records created or maintained by or on behalf of the program are confidential

HB 606 Increases and decreases the number of circuit, general district, and juvenile court judges authorized for each judicial circuit and district based on needs identified in a study report issued by the National Center for State Courts. (Full disclosure, Gavel to Gavel is a NCSC publication).

HB 952 Provides that whenever a party in a civil action files a document with a court containing a social security number or other identification numbers party shall make reasonable efforts to redact all but the last four digits of such number. Provides failure to redact such information does not create private cause of action against the party or lawyer who filed the document or any court personnel, clerk, or other employees who received the document for filing.

HB 1013 Permits the chief judge of a juvenile and domestic relations district court to direct the clerk of that court to destroy documents related to civil and criminal cases that have been ended for a period of three years, provided that the documents have been microfilmed or converted to an electronic format.

SB 124 Expands what counties and cities must provide clerk of courts from “…office equipment…” to “…office equipment, electronic or other systems,…”

SB 435 Provides that circuit court clerks may keep an automated system in lieu of order books and land books as well as allow remote access to such system with regard to non-confidential court records. Permits circuit court clerks to keep court records at a designated location outside of the clerk’s office. Exempts instruments and records that are more than 100 years old from the prohibition against the clerks posting personal information on the Internet.

Virginia: House member wants ban on election of judges whose relatives were current or recent members of the legislature

As I’ve noted in the past Virginia stands virtually alone (South Carolina is the other state) in granting the legislature alone the power to appoint judges to office. As a matter of recent practice the Virginia Senate has declined to allow for anyone to be appointed to a judgeship whose relative was a currently serving member of the General Assembly. Thanks to some activities that occurred earlier this year, however, there’s now an effort to ban appointment for those related to recently serving members of the legislature.

First, some background.

Back in June Republicans convinced Democratic Senator Phillip P. Puckett to resign, shifting the balance of power in the evenly divided state senate (20-20) in favor of the Republicans (20-19). Moreover the resignation meant that Puckett’s daughter, who had been serving by temporary appointment to a District Court judgeship and had been approved by the Virginia House for a permanent judgeship, would now be eligible for appointment by the Senate.

When the Virginia House came back into special session in July a House bill (HB 5006) was introduced to put into law, applicable to both the House and Senate, a policy that would prohibit the legislature from appointing a person to a judgeship if the person is an immediate family member (spouse, parent, child, brother, or sister) of a member of the General Assembly or former member of the General Assembly for at least 24 months after such member has ceased to be a member of the General Assembly. That bill went nowhere in the special session but has now been prefiled for the 2015 session as HB 1282.

Changing civil jurisdiction thresholds – Part 5

This fifth and final item 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.

South Dakota to Wyoming below the fold.

Continue reading Changing civil jurisdiction thresholds – Part 5