Jordanian King stresses judicial independence, competence, efficiency

Jordan’s King Abdullah has endorsed the recommendations of the Royal Committee for Developing the Judiciary and Enhancing the Rule of Law.

The King outlined the priorities of the council; namely, accelerating litigation and the execution of court rulings, establishing specialised courtrooms and better harnessing technology to serve the set goals of judicial reform.

His Majesty stressed that the economic and investment environment cannot be improved without an effective and independent judiciary.

He underlined the importance of supporting judges and improving their competence with continuous training.

Other Arab countries have similarly recognized in recent years that a stable and competent judicial system is critical to economic growth.  But it is one thing to support judicial independence and the rule of law in principle, and quite another to maintain those values in a challenging political climate.

Ontario judge reprimanded for repeatedly failing to give reasons for her decisions

The Ontario Court of Appeal has formally reprimanded a trial judge for repeatedly failing to give reasons for her decisions in a timely manner.  The reprimand came after an appeal for a new trial in a domestic violence case filed in 2014.  The judge acquitted the defendant, stating from the bench that she had been left with reasonable doubt as to his guilt.  But the judge never provided written reasons for her decision–as was required–even after being asked repeatedly for them as late as September 2016.  Citing several previous violations of the same judicial responsibility, the Court of Appeals concluded that “[t]he trial judge’s failure to give reasons, despite her repeated promises to do so, has frustrated the proper administration of justice.”

Whereas juries need not provide any justification for their decisions, it is part and parcel of the judicial role.  The legitimacy of a judicial decision rests less on its ultimate accuracy and more on its ability to state principled reasons for the result in a clear and comprehensible way.

Behold, the British law clerk

At the Faculty Lounge, Steve Lubet has a highly entertaining post about the world of the British law clerk — “a combination major domo, operations manager, and bill collector, whose function bears no resemblance to legal or judicial clerks in the United States.”  The post, and the longer article to which it links, are both well worth the read.

Texas legislature passes bill designating attacks on judges as hate crimes

The bill would make attacks on judges and police officers–whether verbal or physical–a hate crime in the state.  “Terroristic threats” could carry a two-year prison sentence, a simple assault could lead to up to 20 years in prison, and assault leading to serious bodily injury could be punishable by 99 years to life in prison.

The bill now advances to Governor Greg Abbott for signature.

Budget constraints will temporarily close Iowa’s district and juvenile courts

Iowa’s juvenile and district courts will not schedule any appearances this coming Friday, and all clerk of court and administrative offices will be closed. Court staff will instead take a mandatory, unpaid furlough day.  The move stemmed from budget cuts by the state legislature.

Courts dropping bail requirements; bail bondsmen hardest hit

To say that courts are interdependent is to say they are a part of a larger system. Courts rely on key resources–including funding, staffing, and a steady flow of cases–from external actors. And many people outside the courts rely on the court system itself for legal stability, safety, and sometimes their livelihoods.

A good example of the latter interdependence is the work of bail bondsmen. The Wall Street Journal reports today that many state courts have dropped or are radically revising the cash bail system for criminal defendants that has been in place since the late 1800s. With fewer defendants needing to post bail, there has been less of a need for bail bonds, and the bail bond industry is suffering more than at any point in the last four decades.

A very interesting story on a complex interdependency, and a good reminder as to why there are few easy, painless fixes in interdependent systems.

(Story link may require a subscription.)

Insurance claims analyst with no legal education elected as judge in Pennsylvania

Brian Tupper, a claims analyst with Berkshire Hathaway, will take the bench in Wilkes-Barre. The seat was held by Tupper’s father until his recent retirement.  The local story notes: “Because he is not a law graduate, Tupper prepared for his new job by completing a four week certification course with the Justified Judicial System of Pennsylvania in June 2016.”

Oh, boy.