Gavel Grab

Archive for the 'Court Jurisdiction' Category

Report: Bill Would Strip KS High Court of Criminal Appellate Review

stock-footage-kansas-flag-loopA bill to split the Kansas Court of Appeals into two divisions, one criminal and one civil, and strip the state Supreme Court of authority to review criminal appeals was introduced Friday, according to Gavel to Gavel.

The bill has similar features to one introduced in the Kansas legislature in 2013 that did not succeed. It comes during a period of numerous attacks on the way Kansas courts do business, the way judges are selected, and the authority of the courts themselves. This  session, a high-profile effort is under way in the legislature to eliminate merit selection of Supreme Court justices, and Gov. Sam Brownback has voiced support. Read more

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Texas Bill Would Defy a Supreme Court Ruling for Marriage Equality

Texas State FlagHow many ways can legislators craft to punish judges for handling cases involving marriage for same-sex couples — or defy a Supreme Court ruling, if it occurs, that strikes down bans on these marriages?

In Texas, a recently filed bill would amend existing state law declaring that a marriage exists solely between one man and one woman by adding: “regardless of whether a federal court ruling or other federal law provides that a prohibition against the creation or recognition of a same-sex marriage or a civil union is not permitted under the United States Constitution.”

This legislation was reported by Gavel to Gavel, a publication of the National Center for State Courts, a Justice at Stake partner organization. Read more

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Legislation Would Strip Some Authority of Iowa Supreme Court

45960194-03085715Almost five years ago, voters removed three justices from the Iowa Supreme Court over a controversial ruling by the court about marriage for same-sex couples. Now, marriage for same-sex couples is the topic of anti-court legislation in the state.

According to Gavel to Gavel, a bill in the legislature would bar court registrars from granting marriage licenses to same-sex couples until a constitutional amendment on the topic is submitted to state voters, and it would bar the state Supreme Court from engaging in any appellate review of the marriage license ban.

The justices removed in the 2010 Iowa Supreme Court retention election had participated in a unanimous 2009 ruling that found it unconstitutional to deny civil marriage to same-sex couples. Gavel to Gavel is a publication of the National Center for State Courts, a Justice at Stake partner organization.

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Judge-Impeachment Advocate Now Wants a New Oklahoma Court

Rep. Christian

Rep. Christian

Oklahoma state Rep. Mike Christian, who unsuccessfully sought the impeachment of five state Supreme Court justices last year, has filed legislation to create a court of last resort to hear only death penalty appeals.

Christian wanted to impeach the justices over their issuing stays of execution for two condemned inmates. Ultimately the justices lifted the stays (see Gavel Grab). His new measure for a constitutional amendment would give the legislature total “discretion in terms of the court’s composition, terms of judges, and how those judges are selected/appointed,” according to a Gavel to Gavel article.

That selection method contrasts with the merit selection method now in place for selecting members of the existing two courts of last resort, the Supreme Court, which handles civil matters, and the Court of Criminal Appeals. Read more

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Court-Stripping South Carolina Bill Stirs Controversy

justice-scalesA bill filed in the South Carolina legislature is drawing attention for its intent to punish state judges for handling cases involving marriage for same-sex couples.   LGBT media, including the San Diego Gay and Lesbian News and Erie Gay News, highlighted the bill and Justice at Stake’s statement on it, which called the proposed legislation a “brazen” attack on the political independence of courts.   The proposed legislation would, among other things, prevent state judges from recognizing or upholding marriage rights for same-sex couples, and dock pay for judges who do not dismiss cases regarding these rights.  The San Diego Gay and Lesbian News also profiled the bill’s sponsor, a conservative Republican, and encouraged readers to contact him by including his email address and phone number.

The bill, HB 3022, goes to the state House Committee on the Judiciary and will be taken up in 2015.

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Editorial Decries Partisan N.C. Bid to 'Muzzle the Judges'

NORTH-CAROLINA-FLAG-300x224With a new law for weighing the constitutionality of statutes passed by North Carolina’s legislature, Republican leaders are working to “[m]uzzle the judges,” a (Raleigh) News & Observer editorial declares.

It’s because Republican legislators have been passing poorly crafted laws that individual Superior Court judges have overturned recently some statutes, the editorial says. It’s not the judges who are the problem, it asserts, and by creating special three-judge panels to hear challenges to such laws in the future (see Gavel Grab), Republicans “have moved to make judges more compliant toward the General Assembly.”

The three-judge panels will be named by the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, and “Republican judges control the state Supreme Court thanks to a flood of outside money that has thoroughly politicized the once low-profile elections,” the editorial continues. Read more

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New Criticism for 3-Judge Panel System in North Carolina

A provision in a budget approved by the North Carolina legislature,  to change the way state courts weigh challenges to the constitutionality of laws passed by the General Assembly, is getting scrutiny in state news media.

“The public is going to perceive this is some kind of special court that limits their ability to challenge legislative acts,” said Catharine Arrowood, president of the North Carolina Bar Association. “We don’t want the public thinking judges are in any way not impartial or not fair,” she told The (Raleigh) News & Observer.

Said Sharon Gladwell, a spokesperson for the state Administrative Office of the Courts, “We believe this concept should have been given additional review and consideration from appropriate stakeholders. We have both legal and practical concerns with this provision.” Read more

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North Carolina Budget Provision Shields State Laws

CORRECTION MADE: Indy Week now has stated it incorrectly reported that Ola Lewis was “unaffiliated.” She is a registered Republican.

According to Michael Papich in an article published by Indy Week, a provision in the North Carolina state budget that was signed into law on August 7 requires all constitutional challenges to state laws to be heard by a three judge panel at the trial level. That panel’s members, which are to consist of one judge each from the Eastern, Central, and Western portions of North Carolina, will be appointed by the Chief Justice of the North Carolina Supreme Court, a position that has become more partisan in recent years.

Papich writes that the race for the position of Chief Justice “pits Ola Lewis, an unaffiliated Superior Court judge, against Mark Martin, an outspoken conservative, who ran as a Republican before judicial races became ostensibly nonpartisan.”At the same time, “New election laws have eliminated public financing for judicial races, so now judges’ seats are more susceptible to big money from out-of-state donors,” he writes.

Papich contends that the Republican-controlled legislature inserted the provision to protect conservative policy agendas that the courts have struck down in recent years, including private school voucher programs, abortion restrictions, and, potentially, voter I.D. laws.

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Federal Gun Law Nullification Effort Dies in Missouri Legislature

In the waning moments of Missouri’s legislative session, minority Democrats filibustered a bill to nullify some federal gun laws, and the measure died.

Majority Republicans were split earlier about how aggressively the legislation should punish officials who enforced certain federal gun laws that were judged to have infringed on Missourians’ Second Amendment rights, the Associated Press reported. The House put its final approval on a compromise and sent it to the Senate with only 30 minutes in the session remaining.

Each chamber had passed earlier a version that would have allowed lawsuits against officials who enforce gun laws that are found to infringe upon Missourians’ Second Amendment rights. Justice at Stake said, “Surely state legislators have better things to do than pursue fruitless efforts to punish judges for enforcing the law of the land” (see Gavel Grab).


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JAS Criticizes Missouri Bill to Nullify U.S. Gun Laws

BULLETIN: “Surely state legislators have better things to do than pursue fruitless efforts to punish judges for enforcing the law of the land,” Justice at Stake Executive Director Bert Brandenburg said on Thursday about a Missouri nullification bill. “Nullification has been rejected throughout American history as an attack on democracy and the rule of law.  Rather than usurping the Constitution, state lawmakers who want to change federal gun laws should do what every other citizen has to: write their member of Congress.”

A Missouri Senate committee has approved a House-passed bill that would nullify federal restrictions on gun ownership in Missouri.

Missouri-gun-bill-aims-to-nullify-US-gun-laws-in-the-stateThe bill approved by the Senate General Laws Committee deems void “federal statutes, executive orders, administrative orders, court orders, rules, regulations, or other actions which restrict or prohibit the manufacture, ownership, and use of firearms,” reported Gavel to Gavel, a publication of the National Center for State Courts.

The legislation specifically bars Missouri judges from giving legal recognition to laws or federal court orders restricting gun ownership in Missouri, saying, “It shall be the duty of the courts…of this state to protect the rights of law-abiding citizens to keep and bear arms within the borders of this state and to protect these rights from the infringements defined in section 1.322.” Read more

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