Several interesting and important developments have taken place in state courts this past week. Among them:
- The Chief Judge of the Hennepin County (Minnesota) District Court announced that the court has a backlog of 3,000 cases that must be resolved by 2023. Nearly 90 percent of those cases are criminal matters. Meanwhile, the COVID-19 pandemic has led to 89 percent of all court hearings being held remotely.
- New Hampshire has a new state court administrator. Dianne Martin was most recently the Chair of the state’s Public Utilities Commission, and has worked in and with the state colurt system for nearly twenty years.
- And Idaho’s state court administrator has been named in a federal lawsuit filed by Courthouse News Service, alleging that the state’s practice of posting new case filings impermissibly delays public and media access to new case information. Courthouse News Service has filed similar lawsuits against other court administrators in the past, each time alleging that the court’s default position should be to provide immediate electronic access once a matter is filed.
New Hampshire’s court system is expanding the reach of its electronic filing program, with the addition of civil cases and name-change cases this year. It’s a relatively small amount of new cases (3700), at least in comparison to larger jurisdictions, but it shows the growth and success of the overall New Hampshire program. Of particular interest to transparency enthusiasts is that kiosks in every courthouse allow the public to access the electronic filings of any non-sealed case.
Last June, former New Hampshire Superior Court judge Patricia Coffey sued the state, seeking an annual pension of nearly $90,000 and pension back pay of nearly $400,000, in addition to ongoing health insurance. Coffey resigned her position in 2008 after she was suspended for helping her husband create a false trust to hide assets. She was also found to have violated the state’s canons of judicial ethics by receiving a salary from a private company while on the state judicial payroll.
Coffey moved to California, but continued to make payments into the state pension system, and demanded full benefits once she was age-eligible in 2015. The state pension board denied her application.
Coffey is seeking a jury trial, but last week the state moved to dismiss the case altogether. That motion is pending before the federal court.
Judge Paul Moore, who is alleged to have doctored his state judicial evaluations, resigned yesterday. The resignation is effective immediately.
No word yet on what will become of the formal complaint against Judge Moore, which was last month by the state’s Supreme Court Committee on Judicial Conduct.