Mississippi Legislative Year in Review: false liens on judges and court staff; creation of County Courts by counties

Law

HB 142 Allows County Court to have criminal jurisdiction over any criminal matter assigned by the Circuit Court.

HB 649 Provides when an election is challenged, the Chief Justice is to designate judge to hear case from outside the county/district/circuit the complaint was filed in.

HB 943  Allows counties to establish County Courts. Provides if county voters have voted to abolish County Court the county legislature cannot recreate one within 2 years.

HB 1008 Prohibits filing of false liens and UCC filings on judges.

SB 2046 Requires justice court clerks receive 12 hours of annual training.

SB 2385 Creates new crime of filing false lien against judges, court staff, and other public officials/employees.

 

 

 

Bans on court use of sharia/international law: NC legislature approves ban, becomes fifth legislature to approve such a bill in 2013

North Carolina’s legislature now joins those in Alabama (SB 4, constitutional amendment on ballot in 2014), Missouri (SB 267, vetoed by governor), Oklahoma (HB 1060, signed into law) and Washington state (portions of SB 5797, signed into law) to pass bills banning state courts use of sharia, international law, or religious law.

The history behind the North Carolina effort, however, was more complex than perhaps any other such ban.

The original North Carolina bill, HB 695, was approved by the full House on a 69-42 vote in May. The Senate amended onto the bill a list of abortion restrictions which bogged down and eventually killed the bill. In its place the Senate took up a completely unrelated bill (HB 522) regarding natural gas service, removed all the existing language, and put in the original language of HB 695. That bill was approved by the full House in July 19 and the full Senate concurred with the amendment on July 24.

It should be noted that the North Carolina ban is limited to family law matters, in contrast with broader bans that were debated and enacted in other legislatures in prior sessions.

A court, administrative agency, arbitrator, mediator, or other entity or person acting under the authority of State law shall not apply a foreign law in any legal proceeding involving, or recognize a foreign judgment involving, a claim for absolute divorce, divorce from bed and board, child custody, child support, alimony, or equitable distribution if doing so would violate a fundamental constitutional right of one or more natural persons who are parties to the proceeding.

With North Carolina now having approved a bill, the only state remaining in session (i.e. not adjourned sine die) with a sharia/international law banning bill is South Carolina, however those SC bills have not even advanced out of committee at this point.

List of bills below the fold Continue reading Bans on court use of sharia/international law: NC legislature approves ban, becomes fifth legislature to approve such a bill in 2013

After Oklahoma Supreme Court strikes down law, OK House decides to debate term limits for justices; voters tend to reject such proposals

I mentioned that Oklahoma’s Senate had during the regular session approved a constitutional amendment to subject appellate judges to a single 20-year term. I also noted that Kansas’ House considered late in their session a plan to reduce the mandatory retirement age for judges from 75 to 65 as a form of “term limits”.

Now, just days after the Oklahoma Supreme Court struck down a law pushed by the Speaker of the Oklahoma House, the Speaker has announced plans to study term limits for the justices. (h/t Gavel Grab for the pointer)

Currently only New Mexico has term limits for any judges and even there it is limited to the Probate Courts. Probate Court judges need not be attorneys and handle only uncontested and informal probate and estate matters; anything involving a contested case goes to the District Court.

From 1912 when it was admitted into the Union to 1992, Probate Court judges and county clerks as county officials were allowed to serve multiple consecutive terms; all other county officials were limited to a single 4 year term and could not be re-elected until four more years had elapsed (Art. 10, Sec. 2)

The probate court judges and county clerks were swept up in a 1992 amendment (Amendment 3) that limited all county officials to two consecutive 4 year terms. A 2000 effort to eliminate the term limits outright (Question 2) failed 73-27%. A 2010 effort (Amendment 2) to extend this out to three consecutive four year terms with a two year gap was rejected 83-17%

That said, efforts to term limit specifically judges have not fared well at the ballot box.

In 2006, Colorado’s Amendment 40 would have limited the total number of years an appellate judge could serve to 10 years, required all judges then-serving with over 10 years of serving to leave (effectively clearing the appellate benches at the time) and reducing the terms of office (Supreme Court from 10 to 4; Court of Appeals from 8 to 4). It was rejected 57-43.

Nevada voters overwhelming rejected Question 9B, a 1996 effort to limit that state’s judges to two terms (or 1 full term + part of another OR two partial terms). It was rejected 59-41%.

In 1995 Mississippi voters rejected Initiative 4, an effort to term limit a litany of public officials. Included were judges, who would have been restricted to 3 successive terms. It was rejected 54-46%.

Veterans Courts: 2013 legislatures are both encouraging them and trying to give the executive control over them

I’ve been monitoring for the last several years legislative interest in veterans courts, and 2013 appears to bear out the continued interest in them. Many states already operate such courts through court rule or the calendar/docketing practices of individual judges, such as in Buffalo, New York where the a veterans court has operated for years.

What sets 2013’s bills apart is the shift in focus from establishment (such bills are still being introduced) to encouragement and control.

3 states (Kentucky HR 118, Oregon HCR 24, Washington State SB 5797) are considering bills or resolutions “encouraging” or “urging” veterans courts.

3 states (Oregon’s HB 3194 and HB 3195; Texas SB 462, South Carolina’s HB 3014) would transfer to or establish it is the executive branch, not the judiciary, that is to create veterans courts and/or set the rules for their operation.

Details and current status of the efforts below the fold. Continue reading Veterans Courts: 2013 legislatures are both encouraging them and trying to give the executive control over them

As more states try to require their judges be lawyers, Tennessee may move in opposite direction

In the last several years, various states have moved away from the practice of allowing judges to be non-attorneys. Georgia, for example, in 2011 required all newly appointed or elected Municipal Court judges to be attorneys. In 2011 and 2012 Maryland’s voters approved constitutional amendments requiring at least some of their Orphan’s Courts have attorney-judges.

Tennessee’s HB 1320 and SB 1230 move in precisely in the opposite direction.

Existing laws require the judges of all the state’s courts be attorneys (judges serving prior to 1990 in some courts without a law license can continue to serve). HB 1320 / SB 1230 would provide that effective September 2013 the requirements would be repealed.

At the same time at least 4 states are considering requiring their judges be lawyers:

Indiana SB 295: City and Town Courts

Mississippi HB 633: Municipal Court

Montana HB 467: Justice of the Peace Courts that are courts of record

New Mexico HB 119: Metropolitan Courts

New Mexico SB 237: Probate Courts in counties with a population over 500,000

Mississippi bill gives chief justice power to name judge in election dispute cases; judge must not be a local

Election disputes in Mississippi may start to look a little different in the coming years. HB 649, as approved by the House Apportionment and Elections Committee last week, would give the Chief Justice the power to designate a judge to hear the contest. The judge selected, based on a list of all judges in the state compiled by the Supreme Court, must be from outside the district, subdistrict, county, or counties involved in the dispute. The judge so designated would be required proceed to hear the case at the earliest possible date.

The bill now goes to the full House.

Plan to prosecute Mississippi judges for their decisions reintroduced

Going back at least as far as the JAIL4Judges effort on the 2006 South Dakota ballot, there have been several legislative efforts to criminally prosecute judges for unpopular decisions. The latest such effort, a repeat from 2012, is in Mississippi.

HCR 10 is a constitutional amendment made up of three parts.

The first grants any qualified elector with at least an Associate’s degree the right to submit a bill draft request to the legislature, which must then draft the bill and consider it.

The second provides any law enforcement officer who commits misconduct, racial misconduct, unnecessary physical abuse or other improper conduct against another shall face a $5,000 fine and be suspended for 30 days.

The third is focused on judges and prosecutors. Under it, any judge who

  • deprives a person of his constitutional or civil rights,
  • abuses or exceeds the authority of his office,
  • does not maintain proper decorum in the court room, or
  • engages in unethical conduct

is to be criminally prosecuted. Conviction of a first offense means a $5,000 fine and a law license suspension for 90 days. Second or subsequent convictions have no fine provision, but would result in suspension of the judge’s law license for 1 year.

Given that judges/justices of the state’s courts (except justices of the peace and municipal courts serving a population below 10,000)¬† must be attorneys, this would presumably prohibit them from serving as a judge during the duration of the suspension.

HCR 10 is currently pending before the House Constitution Committee.

Mississippi Year in Review: judicial salary increases paid for with extra court fees

New laws affecting the courts enacted by the Mississippi legislature in 2012 include the following:

HB 484 Increases judicial salaries. Pay for salaries via a) increase to filings of appeals from $100 to $200 b) a special $40 fee on a civil case filings and c) special $75 fee on criminal convictions. Specifically includes in responsibilities of chief justice supporting and implementing electronic filing systems for the courts and drug courts. Specifically includes in responsibilities of judges of the court of appeals service as special trial judges because of a statewide increase in litigation and insufficient resources to fully fund trial judge positions, and performing additional judicial services after usual state business hours to reduce delays, backlogs and inefficiencies to comply with time standards adopted by and for the appellate and trial courts, and promoting public awareness of our judicial processes and openness and accessibility of our courts by being available to conduct programs and give speeches to civic, educational, governmental and religious organizations and entities. Specifically includes in responsibilities of circuit judges all necessary action to develop drug courts within their districts and to regularly report to the Administrative Office of Courts on the success of their drug court programs. The chancery and circuit court judges will take such action as is necessary to implement electronic filing and case management systems within their districts as developed by the Administrative Office of Courts as such systems become available and will take all necessary action to prepare their courts for electronic filing and case management.

Bans on court use of sharia/international law: showdown vote in Michigan set for after November election

Few if any state legislatures are in session, but one of those few is Michigan and that state’s House is set to come back into session November 27 to decide the fate of a bill that would ban the use of international law by the state’s judiciary.

Under Michigan  HB 4769 and SB 701

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 by the constitution of this state or of the United States.

After initial bad press and rallies where the bills were introduced earlier this year the bills remained in their respective committees. However the House journal indicates a notice for a motion to discharge HB 4769 from the House Committee on Judiciary was filed by the bill’s primary sponsor September 11 and the motion made September 12. The vote on the motion was postponed until November 27, 2012.

Full roster of 41 bills introduced and their statuses after the jump.
Continue reading Bans on court use of sharia/international law: showdown vote in Michigan set for after November election

Bans on court use of sharia/international law: signed into law in Kansas, sent to study committee in New Hampshire, still technically alive in MI, NC, PA, & SC

There were only two pieces of activity since the May 14 update:

  • New Hampshire’s Senate approved May 16 on a voice vote its Judiciary Committee’s recommendation to send (HB 1422) to an interim study committee, effectively killing the bill for 2012.
  • In Kansas, that state’s governor signed SB 79 on May 21. News reports are here, prior blog posts detailing provisions (including an attempt to tie it to Citizens United) here and here.

With adjournments already having occurred, and with Missouri set to formal adjourn May 30 (they informally adjourned May 18), only 4 states even have the theoretically potential to advance such legislation in 2012 (barring special sessions):

  • Michigan HB 4769 / SB 701: the legislature is likely not to formally adjourn sine die, thus the legislation remains at least technically alive until a new legislature is sworn-in sometime in 2013.
  • North Carolina HB 640: Legislation carries over from odd-numbered to even-numbered years and the legislature is now back in session as of May 16.
  • Pennsylvania HB 2029: the legislature is likely not to formally adjourn sine die, thus the legislation remains at least technically alive until a new legislature is sworn-in sometime in 2013.
  • South Carolina HB 3490 / SB 444: Adjournment is June 7, however neither bill has advanced out of committee since being introduced in early 2011.

Full roster of 41 bills introduced and their statuses after the jump.
Continue reading Bans on court use of sharia/international law: signed into law in Kansas, sent to study committee in New Hampshire, still technically alive in MI, NC, PA, & SC