New Jersey may prohibit publication of judges’ home contact information

The New Jersey legislature will consider bills to prohibit publishing or posting the home addresses and phone numbers of state judges and prosecutors.  Violating the prohibition would carry a potential 18-month prison sentence and a fine of $10,000.  The bill also contemplates civil penalties.

The proposal comes amid increased awareness of direct threats to the judiciary. Just yesterday, a Florida man was arrested on multiple counts of threatening and stalking judges in Broward County.  And the Texas legislature recently passed bills to beef up courthouse security and designate attacks on judges as hate crimes.

 

Reform Party files challenge to mandatory judicial retirement age in New York

New York’s Reform Party has filed a challenge to the state’s mandatory retirement age for judges. City and State New York has a detailed and well-balanced article on the lawsuit and the hurdles it faces.  Key bits:

Vincent Bonventre, an expert on judical matters in New York and a professor at Albany Law School, agreed that judges should be able to serve past the age of 70, saying that many of them are just reaching their peak at that stage in terms of experience and perspective. But the lawsuit has little chance of finding success, he said.

Bonventre pointed to decisions in the New York state Court of Appeals and U.S. Supreme Court that have upheld age limits for judges. Additionally, New York’s state constitution specifically provides for a mandatory retirement age. In 2013, a proposed state constitutional amendment that would have raised the retirement age to 80 for state Supreme Court justices and extended the terms of several Court of Appeals judges fell short.

“It’s not even that the New York courts can take an independent state constitutional perspective on this thing, because the state constitution itself provides for this mandatory retirement age,” Bonventre said. “The state courts, in order to overturn mandatory retirement age, would have to do it under federal law.”

To steal a phrase from the blogosphere, read the whole thing.

New York courts prepare to combat opioid overdoses

The New York Law Journal reports that each court in the state will receive an overdose prevention kit containing naloxone (Narcan) and other related medical materials.  Court personnel will receive formal training in the use of the kits as well.

This is a forward-looking and sensible response to the national opioid crisis, and a good example of courts taking seriously their role as forums that serve all members of the community.

The cascade effects of federal judicial nominations

Today, the Senate Judiciary Committee will consider a number of President Trump’s judicial nominees, including current Idaho state judge David Nye. In related news, the President has nominated Colorado Supreme Court Justice Allison Eid to the Tenth Circuit seat previously held by Neil Gorsuch.

Assuming that Nye and Eid are eventually confirmed by the Senate, their current state seats will become open, and will be filled by their respective state governors from a list provided by a nominating commission. (One interesting twist is that Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper, a Democrat, would be given his fourth appointment to the state supreme court, replacing a more conservative justice with presumably a more liberal one.)

The new judges in Colorado and Idaho will both serve a short, interim term before facing the voters. But the way in which they will face the voters is quite different, and highlights challenges that some states face in attracting qualified candidates for the state bench.

Continue reading “The cascade effects of federal judicial nominations”

Makar on raising the mandatory retirement age for state judges

The Honorable Scott Makar (First District Court of Appeal, Florida) has written a short and interesting article suggesting that Florida’s mandatory judicial retirement age should be raised from 70 to at least 73. The article revisits arguments that he made twenty years ago, and finds that those arguments are still well-supported. Among the factors supporting raising the retirement age:

  • Judging is a “late peak, sustained activity” where performance peaks later in life;
  • The average American life expectancy at birth is now nearly 79 years, more than eight years higher than when the current retirement age was adopted in 1972;
  • Technology helps older judges continue to do their jobs efficiently;
  • Florida’s demographics are consistent with older citizens working later into their lives; and
  • The current constitutional provision contains a loophole that allows some judges to stay on the bench until age 73 anyway.

The judge for whom I clerked recently left the bench due to Colorado’s mandatory retirement age, and he is as sharp, fair, and thoughtful as ever. There may be good arguments against life tenure for judges, bur forcing years of accumulated experience, wisdom, and intellectual capital off the bench simply because a particular birthday rolls around seems utterly self-defeating.

(Link may require a subscription.)

Citation: Scott D. Makar, A Modest Proposal: Raise the Mandatory Judicial Retirement Age, 18 Fla. Coast. L. Rev. 51 (2016).

 

Washington court faces 300 percent increase in case filings after city implements red light cameras

In another example of external decisions directly affecting internal court operations, the state courts located in Des Moines, Washington reported a 300 percent increase in case filings after the city implemented red light cameras.

The impact of the cameras was “much greater than we anticipated,” [Judge Lisa Leone] told [the city] Council.

The judge said she was “so impressed with every single” member of her staff.

“Just today (May 11) there was a line out the door … every clerk was on the phone taking the time for every one who has questions about the cameras or anything else.”

 

Kentucky’s failed attempt at judicial redistricting — and what it means for the rest of the country

I reported three months ago on a judicial redistricting bill that passed the Kentucky Senate, and seemed destined to pass. It would have reallocated judgeships within the state for the first time in 124 years. But the bill eventually died in the House.

Governing has an excellent post-mortem, noting:

Kentucky’s experience illustrates a problem that many state legislatures have faced: Even when most lawmakers recognize a need to address a judicial workload imbalance, they may not be willing to fix it if it means the communities they represent would lose judges. At least three states have tried to tackle the issue in the past few years, and none has successfully implemented a plan yet.

For anyone interested in pressures placed on legislators and the related impact on courts, the entire article is a must-read.