The Texas House of Representatives has given preliminary approval to a bill that would create a judicial security division and would fund training for court security. The bill was named to honor Judge Julie Kocurek, who was severely injured after being shot outside her home in 2015. Texas Chief Justice Nathan Hecht pushed for the bill’s passage during his State of the Judiciary speech in February.
Speaking to the Seventh Circuit Bar Association, Justice Elena Kagan told attendees that she was proud of the way the Supreme Court handled the prolonged vacancy crisis in the wake of Justice Antonin Scalia’s death in February 2016. She particularly praised Chief Justice Roberts for working to guide the Court toward a concrete resolution in cases which initially suggested a 4-4 split. From the Indiana Lawyer story:
During the 419 days the Supreme Court operated with an even number on the bench, the eight justices worked to find common ground so the court could issue majority opinions. Kagan said she and her colleagues learned to keep talking, listening and persuading as well as being open to persuasion.
She noted in a particularly polarizing time in American politics, the Supreme Court’s ability to find common ground offers a broader lesson.
“I think courts do model behavior,” Kagan said. “They teach people about reasoned decision-making and they teach people about collegiality. And when they’re working at their best, they also teach people about bridging differences and reaching agreement in places where you might not expect to find it.”
The Federal Judicial Center has updated and enhanced its interactive database on federal case filings, covering civil and criminal cases from 1970 to the present, appeals from 1971 to the present, and bankruptcy filings from 2008 to the present. This is undoubtedly a valuable asset for court researchers.
The Philippine Judges Association (PJA) has nominated court administrator Jose Midas Marquez to an open seat on that country’s Supreme Court. Marquez has also served as a law clerk and a public information officer. In announcing the nomination, the PJA noted that Marquez “brought significant innovations and reforms in the dispensation of justice in the first and second level courts.”
There have been instances of American judges going straight from administrative positions to judgeships, but rarely is familiarity with the court’s internal procedures a selling point to Congress and state nominating commissions. Perhaps it should be.
Pennsylvania voters will go to the polls this coming Tuesday to choose their state judges in their traditional odd-year, contested, partisan elections. Here are some of the late-breaking stories from across the state:
- The Philadelphia Democratic City Committee has had a rough few days. First, it endorsed ten candidates for what it thought was ten open positions on the Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas (the state trial court). But the state Supreme Court subsequently cut the number of open seats to nine, leaving the Committee with one too many endorsements. Meanwhile, the Philadelphia Bar Association announced its intent to hand out flyers with its own endorsements — based on neutral evaluations, not party affiliation — at the same times and locations as the Democratic City Committee.
- The Philadelphia Inquirer has the lowdown on every judicial candidate in the city (Democrat and Republican) here.
- 24 candidates are vying for six judgeships in Northampton County. The job pays $90,000 per year, requires the judge to perform weddings and handle traffic tickets. A law degree is not required.
- Candidates in a single trial court race in Westmoreland County have collectively spent more than $268,000 — nearly twice what the job pays.
- As we reported earlier this week, Martin Sheen continues to stump for one judge seeking reelection. Nothing particularly wrong with that, although Sheen has seen fit to blur the endorsement lines between his real identity and that of the president he once played on TV.
- An Erie newspaper has editorialized against the current election system, noting that it is “no way to staff a competent bench.”
- And the Reading Eagle offers an editorial endorsement of the Pennsylvania Bar’s candidate evaluations.
Finally, in a very positive development, the proposed legislation to shift Pennsylvania from partisan judicial elections to a merit selection system gained some traction when the House Judiciary Committee approved a measure to place the issue before the voters. There is still a long road ahead, but it can be done. And voters in other states have proven more than capable of understanding the benefits of merit selection.
Tuesday should be interesting.
On Monday, the President nominated ten individuals for federal judgeships — five on the circuit courts of appeal, four on the district courts, and one on the U.S. Court of Claims. Three of the ten (Joan Larsen of Michigan, David Stras of Minnesota, and David Nye of Idaho) currently sit on state courts — Larsen and Stras on their state supreme courts, and Nye on his state’s trial bench.
The value of state court experience for federal judges has not been discussed much, but it should be. An intimate knowledge of state law and state court operations is surprisingly useful for the federal bench. And appointing federal judges from the state courts has valuable ripple effects for the states as well. More after the jump.
In advance of this month’s statewide judicial elections, actor Martin Sheen has appeared on YouTube and television, advocating for the reelection of Pennsylvania judge Joseph Cosgrove. That Sheen would support Cosgrove is not surprising: they are apparently old friends and political allies, and Cosgrove evidently represented Sheen for time when he was in private practice.
But the ads are not just an endorsement from Martin Sheen, the actor. Sheen deliberately blurs the line between his real-life persona and that of Josiah Bartlet, the fictional president from “The West Wing.” Here is the YouTube endorsement, featuring a “decree” signed by Bartlet.