Bans on court use of sharia/international law: Law in Arizona, bills advance in Missouri and Texas, failing in most states

This post has been updated. Click here.

In the April update (located here) there were 44 bills in 21 states seek to ban court use of sharia/international law. There have been no new bills, but almost all existing ones have either died or failed to advance in the last several weeks. As of today, the status of the 44 break down as follows:

20 died due to adjournment or had been rejected by their respective legislatures.

11  failed to make it out of committee in their originating house before the legislature’s internal deadline.

1 failed to make it out of committee in the second house before the legislature’s internal deadline (Oklahoma HB 1552).

1 was signed into law (Arizona’s HB 2064 on April 12).

11 remain at least theoretically active.

Of the active, only three moved in the last month.

  • Texas: One of the House bills was approved in committee, but with a massive shift in wording. HB 911 was originally a broad-based ban on the use of foreign law “if the application of that law would violate a right guaranteed by the United States Constitution or the constitution of this state.” As amended, however, the ban applies only “on a matter arising under the Family Code.” As amended, the bill passed the House Committee on Judiciary & Civil Jurisprudence on April 18.
  • Missouri: The House approved one of its versions (HB 708). The Senate committee scrapped the House bill in favor of its own (SB 308).

Both use the same definition of “foreign law”

As used in this section, “foreign law, legal code, or system” means any law, legal code, or system of a jurisdiction outside of any state or territory of the United States, including but not limited to international organizations and tribunals, and applied by that jurisdiction’s courts, administrative bodies, or other formal or informal tribunals.

Both use nearly identical wording for what is banned (differences in bold).

House: Any court, arbitration, tribunal, or administrative agency ruling or decision violates the public policy of this state and shall be void and unenforceable if such court, arbitration, tribunal, or administrative agency bases its rulings or decisions in the matter at issue in whole or in part on any law, legal code, or system that would not grant the parties affected by the ruling or decision the same fundamental liberties, rights, and privileges granted under the constitutions of this state and the United States.

Senate: Any court, arbitration, tribunal, or administrative agency ruling or decision shall violate the public policy of this state and be void and unenforceable if the court, arbitration, tribunal, or administrative agency bases its rulings or decisions in the matter at issue in whole or in part on any foreign law, legal code, or system that would not grant the parties affected by the ruling or decision the same fundamental liberties, rights, and privileges granted under the United States and Missouri constitutions.

The big difference appears to be in the provisions related to contracts. The Senate version waives the ban on the use of “foreign law” where the clause is “capable of segregation” from the rest of the contract.

Minor differences include a provision in the House version that declares “The general assembly fully recognizes the right to contract freely under the laws of this state, and also recognizes that this right may be reasonably and rationally circumscribed in accordance with the state’s interest to protect and promote rights and privileges granted under the constitutions of this state and the United States.” Moreover, the House version would amend Missouri Revised Statutes Chapter 1 (Laws in Force and Construction of Statutes) while the Senate version adds to Chapter 506 (Commencement of Actions and General Provisions).

Full roster of bills introduced in 2011 and their status after the jump.

Continue reading Bans on court use of sharia/international law: Law in Arizona, bills advance in Missouri and Texas, failing in most states

“Birther bills” and their potential impact on state judicial candidates

Last night, the Arizona Legislature gave final approval of a bill (HB 2177) that would require presidential candidates to prove  they are natural born U.S. citizens (most likely through “long form” birth certificates) before their names can appear on the state’s ballot. At least 13 other states are considering or have considered and rejected such proposals this year. Several of these efforts, and related bills, would and could impact judicial candidates should they ultimately be adopted in 2011 or 2012.

Kansas HB 2224 would require candidates for state office to provide the Office of the Secretary of State a certified copy of the candidate’s birth certificate and the candidate’s drivers license or other government-issued identification. For judicial candidates, the birth certificate requirement would apply only if they are in a partisan election. For those courts (Supreme, Court of Appeals, and 17 of the state’s 31 District Court districts, and Municipal Courts) which use a merit selection system, candidates would not be required to produce the birth certificate.

Oklahoma SB 540 would allow any registered voter to challenge the U.S. citizenship of any candidate. The candidate would be required to produce documents supporting their citizenship, one of which may be a birth certificate.

Oklahoma SB 91 requires each candidate required to file a Declaration of Candidacy for any federal, state, county, municipal or judicial office, or for the nomination of a recognized political party, in any general, primary, or special election shall, at the time of filing the Declaration of Candidacy, provide proof of identity and eligibility to hold the office sought to the election board at which the Declaration was filed. Given that Oklahoma appellate judges must be at least 30 years of age this could possibly mean the production of a birth certificate (the bill lists other ways/documents to provide identity & eligibility).

While Oklahoma SB 91 may require a birth certificate for judicial candidates, Alabama SB 401 explicitly requires it.

Any person who seeks election and/or seeks ballot access for any election to any public office that has an age requirement for election to that office shall provide a certified copy of his or her birth certificate that includes the date and place of birth when the person qualifies for election to that office.

While there appears to be no minimum for Alabama appellate and most trial judges, there is a maximum of 70 (Amendment 328, Section 6.16). Could “age requirement” be construed to mean proof the judicial candidate has not reached the magic number of 70? The exception to the no-minimum-age-requirement is Alabama Municipal Court judges, who as I noted in a recent blog post do have a minimum (18).

Finally, Maine’s HB 27 would have the effect of requiring the state’s Probate Court judges provide birth certificates. The state’s other judges (Supreme, District, Superior) are all nominated by the state’s Governor and confirmed by the Senate and therefore not considered electoral candidates.

Bans on court use of sharia/international law advance in Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Florida, Kansas, Missouri, and Oklahoma

Welcome New York Times readers!

This post has been updated. Click here.

In the March update (located here) there were 42 bills introduced in 2011 in 20 states seeking to ban court use of sharia/international law. That number is now up to 44 bills in 21 states.

  • Arizona’s “new” bill was really a strike-all amendment to a completely unrelated bill HB 2064. The resulting bill was approved April 7 and is currently sitting on Governor Jan Brewer’s desk.
  • North Carolina HB 640 was introduced April 5 and is currently pending in the House Committee on Judiciary, Subcommittee C.

In addition to Arizona, bills in 6 other states advanced out of their committees or chambers, including Alabama SB 61 and SB 62, Alaska HB 88,  Florida SB 1294, Kansas HB 2087, Missouri HB 708, and Oklahoma HB 1552. Additionally, hearings were conducted in Texas and Missouri. All 2011 activity is in bold below the fold.

Continue reading Bans on court use of sharia/international law advance in Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Florida, Kansas, Missouri, and Oklahoma

Judicial Retirement Plans/Pensions 2011: Northeastern States

Maine HB 425 Establishes an option for new employees hired on or after July 1, 2012 to become members of the Judicial Retirement Program. Provides current members may make a onetime, irrevocable election to remain as members.

Massachusetts HB 2431 Provides survivors of judges who die “in the performance of his/her duties” are to receive maximum retirement benefits as if judge were fully vested, etc. Defines “in the performance of his/her duties” as including judicial assignments in any courthouse or other venue, such as hospitals or jails, used to conduct judicial business; to Emergency Judicial Response System assignments; to approved voluntary or assigned education programs or other assignment within the scope of his/her employment as a judge or justice.

Massachusetts HB 2965 Modifies retirement earnings and benefits of certain senior justices.

Massachusetts HB 2978 Provides for judges who reach mandatory retirement age shall receive automatic inflation adjustments to annual pensions.

New Hampshire HB 299 Allows the annual contribution for unfunded accrued liability of the judicial retirement plan to be calculated over a 30-year period or the maximum period allowed, whichever is less.

New Hampshire HB 492 Establishes a deferred retirement option in the judicial retirement plan. Modifies benefits related to service of certain judges of probate retiring because of permanent disability.

New Jersey AB 3796 & SB 2705 Increases employee contribution rates in Judicial Retirement System (JRS) to 8.5% of salary (up from 3%). Provides additional 5.5% not being used to reduce the statutorily required employer normal contribution. Provides increases to be implemented in a manner to conform to State Constitution prohibition against the reduction in the compensation of a judge during the judge’s term of appointment.

New Jersey SB 2696 Restructures Judicial Retirement System (JRS) and other Retirement Systems. Changes contribution rate to JRS and authorizes JRS board to make future changes.

Rhode Island HB 5840 Eliminates the cost-of-living retirement adjustments for all judges, teachers, and state employees and their surviving spouses or domestic partners who are hired on or after the effective date of act.

Mid-session update: 42 bills in 20 states seek to ban court use of sharia/international law (with list and links)

Welcome ABA Journal readers! This post has been updated, here.

We are about half way through the 2011 state legislative season and so far there have been 42 bills in 2011 to ban or otherwise restrict court references or use to sharia/international law.

Prior 2011 posts on the subject can be found here, here, and here.

Below is an update on the current (as of 3/14/11) status of such efforts. Hearings coming up this week include Alaska HB 88, Missouri HB 708, Missouri SB 308, and Nebraska LB 647.

Interestingly, some of the most recently filed bills (Iowa HB 489 filed March 2;  Maine HB 811 filed March 15; West Virginia HB 3220 filed February 21) now provide that foreign law cannot be the “primary factor which a court…shall consider”.

Continue reading Mid-session update: 42 bills in 20 states seek to ban court use of sharia/international law (with list and links)

Maine bill would create 13 member “Commission To Study Priorities and Timing of Judicial Proceedings in State Courts” with only 2 members of judiciary

What are the priority cases for courts? What should they be? In a time of dwindling budgets, every court has been confronted with these questions. Now, the Maine legislature is considering formally getting involved, too.

SB 297 creates a Commission To Study Priorities and Timing of Judicial Proceedings in State Courts. The sole duty of the commission is to “study the priority and timing of judicial proceedings in state courts including, but not limited to, judicial proceedings that require priority treatment pursuant to statute.”

The 13 member commission would have only 2 members of the judiciary (appointed by the state’s chief justice). The rest would be 2 Senators, 4 Representatives, and 1 appointee each for the Attorney General, Maine State Bar Association, Maine Prosecutors Association, Maine Trial Lawyers Association and the Pine Tree Legal Assistance.

If approved, SB 297 gives the Commission until December 7, 2011 to report and authorizes the legislature’s Joint Standing Committee on Judiciary to introduce a bill based on their findings for the 2012 session.

Maine: One sentence bill directs judicial branch to upgrade its computer system

Typically legislation related to a state judiciary’s computer system(s) are parts of budget bills or sections of other non-appropriations bills related to the judiciary. Maine’s HB 644 of 2011, however, may go on record as the single shortest and most direct piece of legislation on the matter ever.

Below is the sum total of the bill (formatting in original):

Resolve, To Streamline the Judicial Process in Maine’s Courts

Sec. 1. Judicial Department to upgrade its computer system. Resolved: That the Judicial Department shall design and implement a plan to upgrade its computer system to ensure access by Maine citizens and attorneys to electronic filing and scheduling online.

The bill’s summary is almost as long as the bill itself:

This resolve directs the Judicial Department to design and implement a plan to upgrade its computer system to ensure access by Maine citizens and attorneys to electronic filing and scheduling online.

The bill has yet to be assigned to a committee, but presumably it would be sent to the Joint Committee on the Judiciary. Interesting note: Maine is one of three states (Connecticut and Massachusetts are the others) that rely primarily on joint judiciary committees.

Cross-posted to Court Technology Bulletin.

Judicial Retirement Plans/Pensions: Northeastern States

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.