Texas House passes court security bill

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.

Justice Kagan: Supreme Court did “pretty darn well” with just eight justices

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.”

 

Federal Judicial Center unveils enhanced database of historical docket data

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.

Court administrator nominated to Supreme Court of Philippines

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.

Roundup on Pennsylvania’s judicial elections

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:

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.

Several new federal judicial nominees have state court experience, and that’s great news

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.

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Imaginary president stumps for real judicial candidate

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.

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