Gavel Grab

Archive for the 'State Court News' Category

Martin Appointed Chief Justice of N.C. Supreme Court

In North Carolina, where the governor selects the Chief Justice, Gov. Pat McCrory has given that appointment to Justice Mark Martin.

Martin has the longest seniority on the bench, according to a WUNC report, and the governor followed tradition in naming him Chief Justice. He will succeed Chief Justice Sarah Parker, who is stepping down. Read more

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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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Rumblings of Threat to Impeach Justices in Tennessee

justices_22442There’s no action yet, but there are rumblings in Tennessee of a possible bid to impeach three state Supreme Court justices who were retained by voters in a closely watched election this month.

According to a blog of the Knoxville News Sentinel, serial litigant John Jay Hooker, a longtime foe of Tennessee’s merit system for selecting judges, has gotten assurances from some legislators that they will seek impeachment next year.

A Davidson County grand jury met earlier this year with lawyer Hooker and subsequently voiced questions about the legality of the Judicial Performance Evaluation Commission (see Gavel Grab for background about JPEC.) Hooker plans to ask the grand jury to issue a report stating the three incumbent justices were on the Aug. 7 retention ballot illegally. 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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Opinion: Cohesion of Michigan Supreme Court

Justices Robert P. Young Jr. and Bridget McCormack published an op-ed on The Detroit News summarizing the Michigan Supreme Court’s achievements of the past year.

The piece emphasizes the court’s unity rule, which consists of nearly 40 percent of their opinions. They note that dissents were not divided along the party lines and therefore, the court is governed by the law instead of politics.

The two justices also provide statistics that show high satisfaction of the public who used the court service. Furthermore, they point out its success in reducing costs and improving efficiency for both the courts and related government agencies.

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New Process Ahead for Hearing Challenges to N.C. Laws

A little-discussed provision in a budget approved by the North Carolina legislature will change the way state courts weigh challenges to the constitutionality of laws passed by the General Assembly.

The legislation requires three-judge panels, instead of a lone Superior Court judge, to decide the merits of lawsuits challenging the constitutionality of laws passed by the legislature. The Chief Justice of the Supreme Court is to pick the three judges. The budget bill containing the provision was signed into law on Thursday by Gov. Pat McCrory, according to the Associated Press.

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Panel Recommends Three Finalists for Kansas High Court

The Supreme Court Nominating Commission, having completed interviews in public of 13 applicants, recommended three finalists for an opening on the Kansas Supreme Court to Gov. Sam Brownback.

The recommended candidates included Court of Appeals Judge Caleb Stegall, who had previously served as counsel to Brownback and whose nomination to the appeals court last year proved controversial; Court of Appeals Judge Karen Arnold-Burger and state District Judge Merlin Wheeler, according to the Associated Press. Read more

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Timeliness of Kansas High Court Questioned by Some Applicants

Kansas_quarter,_reverse_side,_2005The Supreme Court Nominating Commission began interviewing applicants for a high court vacancy in public on Monday, at a time the court continued to draw attention over its recent voiding of death sentences given two brothers.

A Topeka Capital-Journal article said some of the applicants, including Court of Appeals Chief Judge Thomas Malone, voiced criticism of the state Supreme Court over the time it took to decide the cases of Jonathan and Reginald Carr (see Gavel Grab). The case had been pending before the Supreme Court for 10 years, the article said.

It was the first time the interviews of high court applicants were held in public. The screening commission will recommend finalists to Gov. Sam Brownback, who will make his first appointment to the court. Read more

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Limits on Collective Bargaining Upheld by Wisconsin Court

The Wisconsin Supreme Court, in a 5-2 ruling on Thursday, upheld Gov. Scott Walker’s “Act 10,” enacted by the legislature to dismantle collective bargaining for most public workers.

Justice Michael Gableman wrote for the majority, “No matter the limitations or ‘burdens’ a legislative enactment places on the collective bargaining process, collective bargaining remains a creation of legislative grace and not constitutional obligation. The First Amendment cannot be used as a vehicle to expand the parameters of a benefit that it does not itself protect.”

According to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, the opinion “found that collective bargaining over a contract with an employer is not a fundamental right for public employees under the constitution. Instead, it’s a benefit that lawmakers can extend or restrict as they see fit.”

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Kansas Governor ‘Stunned’ by Court’s Voiding Death Sentences

KansasKansas Gov. Sam Brownback said he was “stunned” by a state Supreme Court ruling that overturned death penalty sentences handed two brothers in a notorious quadruple killing.

The Supreme Court, in a 6-1 ruling, also invalidated three out of four capital murder convictions against the brothers, Jonathan and Reginald Carr, according to the Associated Press. The court pointed two procedural problems during the joint trial of the brothers.

“They were convicted by a jury of their peers in front of an elected local judge,” Brownback said. “Today’s ruling unnecessarily reopens wounds of a tragic moment in Wichita’s history.” Read more

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