UK to review judicial salaries and working conditions

The Times of London reports that the United Kingdom’s Senior Salaries Review Body (SSRB) will review the pay and working conditions for the country’s judges, in light of ongoing difficulties in recruiting qualified judicial candidates.  The Times explains:

A judicial attitudes survey has found low morale among existing judges because of the erosion of their pay levels, and in particular their pension, increased administrative workload and poor working conditions.

The review, announced yesterday, will look at three areas: the judicial salary structure and whether this can be simplified; the way in which judicial leadership should be rewarded and incentivised, and judicial recruitment, retention and motivation.

The study findings are expected to be released in June 2018.

Former Alabama Chief Justice Sue Bell Cobb throws her hat into Governor’s race

Sue Bell Cobb, who served as Chief Justice of Alabama from 2007 to 2011, announced last week that she is running for Governor of the state.  She becomes the second Alabama Chief Justice in as many months to seek an elected position in another branch.

Cobb has considerable campaign experience from her days on the judiciary.  In 2006, she was involved in the most expensive judicial race in the nation, spending more than $2.6 million to win the Chief Justiceship.  Since leaving the court, she has spoken out against money in judicial politics, although not against judicial elections themselves.

Two additional observations.  First, Cobb appears to be a deeply religious woman, and her announcement and website are rife with religious themes.  Those same themes came through during her 2006 judicial campaign.

Second, Cobb had this to say about her retirement from the court system in 2011: “My chief obligation as the top administrator of the court system was to secure adequate funding from the legislature for the judiciary. I became very concerned that, because of the partisanship within the legislature, I would be unable to succeed in that most important responsibility.”

It will be interesting to see if, and how, these themes manifest themselves in the upcoming gubernatorial race.

Major controversy brews over judicial appointment in Ireland

A significant political controversy appears to be brewing in Ireland after the outgoing Taoiseach (prime minister), appointed Attorney General Maire Whelan to a seat on the country’s second highest court. Minority parties in the government, including Fianna Fail and Sinn Fein, have charged that the appointment violated established procedures. It also appears that Whelan never sought the post.

Continue reading “Major controversy brews over judicial appointment in Ireland”

Three Australian ministers may face contempt charges for criticizing judges

In Australia, the Supreme Court of Victoria has order three government ministers and two journalists to appear before it to explain why they should not face contempt charges for eroding trust in the legal system.  One minister reportedly said that “Labor’s continued appointment of hard-left activist judges has come back to bite Victorians.”  Another allegedly warned that the courts “should not be places for ideological experiments in the face of global and local threats from Islamic extremism.”

The linked article offers as excellent explanation of the two forms of contempt available in Australia.  Although these proceedings are apparently quite rare, they are still shocking to American sensibilities. First Amendment protections and respect for vigorous political speech would make prosecution of this sort unthinkable.

I would welcome any readers more knowledegable than I in Australian jurisprudence (not a high bar) to offer thoughts in the comments.

Pennsylvania state court will not schedule criminal trials in July and August

The Luzerne County, Pennsylvania courts will not be scheduling criminal jury trials during the summer months, prompting concern from local officials about a potentially burgeoning prison population.

Scheduling criminal trials during the summer has become increasingly difficult because parties involved often have planned vacations, including attorneys, witnesses, experts who must provide testimony, and prospective jurors, Shucosky said.

Instead of being forced to continue proceedings due to scheduling conflicts, court officials opted to shift the focus and concentrate primarily on non-jury trials, guilty pleas and negotiated plea bargains during the two months, he said.

Court officials expect a large number of cases will be resolved through this effort, allowing some inmates to get out of prison or start serving sentences instead of awaiting adjudication. Many minor cases result in guilty pleas with a sentence of time already served, Shucosky noted.

Hmm.

 

Two-thirds of South Korean judges want to televise court hearings

A new poll finds that 67 percent of judges in South Korea favor broadcasting judicial proceedings for major criminal cases, as long as the presiding judge gives permission.

From the Korea Herald:

The OCA didn’t mention any specific case in the latest survey but appeared to be collecting the opinions of ordinary judges amid growing public calls for live TV broadcasts of the ongoing trials of former President Park Geun-hye, her longtime friend Choi Soon-sil and Samsung Electronics Vice Chairman Lee Jae-yong.

Amid enormous public interest in their unprecedented corruption and influence-peddling scandals, there have actually been moves to lift the current ban on TV broadcasts of court hearings.

The current Supreme Court rules allow the filming before the trial begins but do not permit recording, taping or broadcasting after the trial begins.

 

Louisville, Kentucky court system comes under fire for delays, lazy judges

As late as the 1930s, the federal court system was in administrative disarray.  District (trial) judges were geographically dispersed and unaccountable to any centralized body.  There were no meaningful statistics on judicial workload or output.  Even chief judges rarely communicated or shared ideas among each other.  It took two decades of tireless work from Chief Justices William Howard Taft and Charles Evans Hughes to build a centralized bureaucratic system and create a national culture of accountability.

Nearly a century later, some state courts are apparently still facing the same challenges.  A new study of the Louisville, Kentucky courts reveals a “chaotic” system characterized by unequal judicial workloads, pervasive delay, and limited judicial accountability.  In particular, the study noted that “there is a ‘local legal culture’ in Jefferson County where cases are not expected to be resolved quickly.”

Continue reading “Louisville, Kentucky court system comes under fire for delays, lazy judges”