Non-state week 2014: U.S. Virgin Islands – Granting Chief Justice more administrative control over Superior Court

Among the topics related to the U.S. Virgin Island’s judiciary in the last year has been a proposal to consolidate and unify the administrative authority for all Superior Courts in the Chief Justice, based in part on a recommendation from a study conducted by the National Center for State Courts (full disclosure: Gavel to Gavel is an NCSC publication). Prior to a set of 2007 laws (Act 6965 and Act 6985) the Supreme Court had authority over the Superior Court, but the legislature removed that power.

30-278 would have repealed the 2007 Acts and unified administration of the judiciary under the Chief Justice. Hearings on the subject in February and this summer included proponents arguing that such a consolidation would be more efficient than having two administrative systems. Opponents voiced concern over putting so much authority in the hands of one person (the chief justice). Media coverage of can be found here (July 2013), here (September 2013), here (February 2014), and here (July 2014).

Other bills of note included:

30-155: Increases small claims jurisdiction from $10,000 to $25,000.

30-254: Establishes electronic citations and creates Superior Court Clerk Electronic Citation Fund. Provides $5 to be added to all convictions with $3 to be sent to clerk to pay for technology to allow for e-citations to be received by courts.

Non-state week 2014: A look at legislation affecting the non-state courts of the United States

Since its establishment in 2006 as a set of spreadsheets, Gavel to Gavel maintained itself as “A review of state legislation affecting the courts.” However, this has admitted and regrettably given short shrift to the other parts of the United States that are not states:

  1. Territory of American Samoa
  2. Territory of Guam
  3. Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands
  4. Commonwealth of Puerto Rico
  5. United States Virgin Islands
  6. District of Columbia

In 2011 Gavel to Gavel began a semi-regular practice of focusing a week on these specific non-states and that practice continues for a week starting today.

U.S. Virgin Islands: Intercepting tax refunds to pay for debts owed court, appeals straight to SCOTUS

The courts of the U.S. Virgin Islands, like other courts throughout the U.S., have fees, fines and other debts owed by parties. Like those courts and their respective legislatures, the idea of intercepting tax refunds to help offset these debts has recently come to the fore in the form of BR 11-1153. Under the proposal the Virgin Islands Bureau of Internal Revenue would be permitted to withhold payment of income tax returns to taxpayers who have outstanding financial obligations with the Superior Court of the Virgin Islands. The bill was formally introduced in November 2011 (as 29-0242) but held in the Legislature’s Rules and Judiciary Committee 3/29/12.

Another, more successful, piece of legislation was a BR 12-1524 involving direct appeals from the Virgin Islands’ Supreme Court to the U.S. Supreme Court. First, some background.

The Supreme Court of the Virgin Islands was created in 2004 and took on complete appellate jurisdiction for the territory in 2007. However, under the Section 23 of the Revised Organic Act of 1954, appeals from Virgin Islands’ courts went to the Third Circuit, rather than the U.S. Supreme Court directly (as is the case with appeals from courts of last resort in the U.S. states). The judges of the Third Circuit were to report to Congress every 5 years on whether the VI Supreme Court “has developed sufficient institutional traditions to justify direct review by the Supreme Court of the United States from all such final decisions.” The first report came out in 2012 and recommended just such a direct appeal route.

BR 12-1524 urges Congress to amend the Revised Organic Act to direct appeals from the V.I. Supreme Court directly to the U.S. Supreme Court, as occurs with the court of last resort in the U.S. states and D.C. It was approved on 6/27/12.

Other legislation of note over the last year included:

BR 11-0164: Increases penalties for assaults on judges.

BR 11-0227: Increases Magistrate and Small Claims Division civil jurisdiction from $10,000 to $25,000. In Public Safety Committee.

BR 11-0240 (introduced as 29-0163): Creates Judicial Branch Management Committee. Removes various powers from Supreme Court and Chief Justice. Gives committee power to adopt rules, establish policies, and take any other appropriate action pertaining to the operations of  the  Judicial  Branch  and  all  local  courts  within  the  Virgin  Islands  court  system. In House Rules and Judiciary Committee.

BR 11-0264: Provides for appeal from Magistrate Division of Superior Court directly to V.I. Supreme Court in some cases. Tabled indefinitely in Rules and Judiciary Committee 12/11/12

BR 11-0281 (introduced as 29-0297) : Permits Magistrate Division of the Superior Court of the Virgin Islands to hear all misdemeanors. Held in the Legislature’s Rules and Judiciary Committee 3/29/12 and 7/23/12.

 

 

 

Non-state week 2012: A look at legislation affecting the non-state courts of the United States

Since its establishment in 2006 as a set of spreadsheets, Gavel to Gavel maintained itself as “A review of state legislation affecting the courts.” However, this has admitted and regrettably given short shrift to the other parts of the United States that are not states:

  1. Territory of American Samoa
  2. Territory of Guam
  3. Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands
  4. Commonwealth of Puerto Rico
  5. United States Virgin Islands
  6. District of Columbia

In 2011 Gavel to Gavel began an annual practice of focusing a week on these specific non-states and that practice continues for a week starting today.

U.S. Virgin Islands bill requests would cut judiciary budget 5%, change judicial salaries

The Legislature of the [U.S.] Virgin Islands has exercised the legislative power under the 1954 Constitution and functioned as a unicameral body during that time. The 15 senators have, in 2011, introduced several bill requests affecting the courts, including:

BR 11-0117 Increases the amount of insurance provided to Superior Court Judges from $15,000 to at least $100,000.

BR 11-0663 Amends the FY 2011 appropriation to the Supreme Court, Superior Court and the Judicial Council – To reduce by 5% (five) the FY 2011 appropriation for all divisions of the Judicial Branch of Government.

BR 11-0240 Establishes the Joint Committee of Judicial Administration. Alters and changes powers of Supreme Court.

BR 11-0386 Alters Selection of the Presiding Judges. Establishes a procedure for determining and linking judicial salaries to those of U.S. District Court judges. Establishes time limits for the appointment and confirmation of judges and justices provide for Territorial Court Administrator and Mashalls etc.

BR 11-0939 Includes “probation officers” of the Superior Court of the VI as peace officers with all rights associated there in.

 

Non-state week 2011: A look at legislation affecting the non-state courts of the United States

Since its establishment in 2006 as a set of spreadsheets, Gavel to Gavel maintained itself as “A review of state legislation affecting the courts.” However, this has admitted and regrettably given short shrift to the other parts of the United States that are not states:

  1. Territory of American Samoa
  2. Territory of Guam
  3. Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands
  4. Commonwealth of Puerto Rico
  5. United States Virgin Islands
  6. District of Columbia

This week will be dedicated to rectifying that oversight, starting today with a look at the Chief Justice of Guam’s state of the judiciary and his proposal to put a new form of judicial funding in the territory’s “Organic Act” (effectively, the constitution for the territory).