House bill would rewrite Art.V

first_img March 15, 2001 Gary Blankenship Senior Editor Regular News House bill would rewrite Art.V Senior Editor A proposed constitutional amendment that would do away with all judicial nominating commissions, require appellate judges up for retention to get a two-thirds approval rate, and dismantle The Florida Bar has been proposed in a rewrite of Article V introduced in the Florida House. HJR 627, by Rep. Fred Brummer, R-Apopka, would allow the governor to fill directly all appellate vacancies with the consent of the state Senate. It would also set a two-year minimum limit on writs of habeas corpus and give the legislature vastly increased powers over court procedural rules. And those are only some of the changes in the 36-page measure. Bar President Herman Russomanno said many of the changes in bill are “troubling” and some of the proposals would have the state revert to systems and practices which were purposefully changed decades ago to provide accountability and remove politics from the system. “Floridians expect fairness and impartiality in the court system and their expectations are justified and attainable,” Russomanno said. “But the efforts to stampede the judicial branch and the legal profession with unwarranted changes such as those proposed in HB 627 are completely contrary to what Floridians clearly want.” Bar President-elect Terry Russell said the bill ignores several past problems with the judiciary and court system that the current constitution fixes. “It’s regressive,” he said. Tallahassee attorney Barry Richard, the Bar’s outside counsel, said the overall effect of the proposal would be to increase the influence of politics in the court system. “This resolution would set our state back 100 years,” Richard said. “It would remove all checks on the politicization of judicial selection, place incumbent judges at the whim of the legislature or any groups of persons dissatisfied with a particular decision, and significantly reduce the independence of the judiciary, a critical element in the maintenance of a just and democratic society,” Richard said. The Bar has also picked up indications that the House Committee on Judicial Oversight could consider Brummer’s bill early in the Regular Session, which opened March 6 as this News went to press. At deadline, no companion bill had been introduced in the Senate. As a constitutional amendment, it must get a two-thirds vote in both the House and Senate before it can be submitted to voters next year. Russomanno also said in many respects the Bar was “stunned” by the bill, particularly in that it addresses many issues studied extensively by legislative directive in recent years by the 1995 Article V Task Force, the 1997-98 Constitution Revision Commission and the 2000-01 Supreme Court Workload Study Commission. HJR 627 makes changes throughout Article V. One provision appears aimed at Secretary of State Katherine Harris’ actions in last year’s disputed election that were challenged in court. A new subsection (b) in Section 1 provides that there must be some legal or equitable claim for a court to issue a quo warranto writ. It also limits cases when those writs could be used, which apparently would drastically limit citizens’ ability to challenge a public official’s action in court. The language specifically provides: “The power to issue a writ of quo warranto does not establish power to review any right, power or duty of a public official other than the right to hold the particular office claimed by such official, and the writ of quo warranto shall not be used for any purpose except to test a person’s authority to continue holding an office when challenged by competing claimant to such office.” The section would also allow the legislature by law to set a statute of limitation on the writs. Other sections on specific courts’ powers affect habeas corpus writs. The amendment adds language that judges may issue the writs “provided that such writs are subject to statutes of limitation of not shorter than two years from the final judgment or mandate on direct appeal in a criminal case.” Judicial Restraint Several other sections are aimed at restricting the power and activities of the courts. Section 1 would have language added that, “Subject to any additional limits in this constitution, the jurisdiction of such courts shall extend only to actual cases in law, equity, admiralty and maritime jurisdiction, and to actual controversies arising under the constitution and the laws of the State of Florida and of the United States.” Richard noted that could be read to eliminate the court’s authority to issue declaratory judgments and also to exercise oversight of the practice of law. The legislature also would be given power in that section to designate that a district court of appeal could exercise statewide jurisdiction “respecting any subject matter granted. . . by general law.” Richard said this provision could be read that the legislature could assign a matter to a DCA to the exclusion of the Supreme Court. Some observers have suggested the legislature could use the section to create a statewide court of criminal appeals. Court procedural rules “may not be inconsistent with statutes in place at the time of adoption of such rules, shall be revised to conform to subsequently adopted statutes that regulate substantive rights, and may be repealed by general law. Rules adopted pursuant to this section shall neither abridge, enlarge, nor modify the substantive rights of any litigant, but additional rulemaking power may be expressly delegated to courts by general law.” Richard noted that language eliminates the distinction between substantive and procedural rules and allows the legislature to write court rules. He said there has not been any criticisms or problems with rules that would justify such a change. Dropped from the constitution would be a provision requiring a two-thirds vote of both the House and Senate to override a court rule. The court would be allowed to issue advisory opinions on the request of the attorney general or governor, but opinions issued at the request of the governor “shall not be binding upon any party not voluntarily participating in such proceeding.” The measure would also limit the original jurisdiction of the Supreme Court to items enumerated in the constitution, including judicial discipline. Section 9 of Article V would be rewritten. Currently, when the Supreme Court certifies the need for new judges or to reduce judges, the legislature can change the number, but it requires a two-thirds vote. The bill would simply allow the legislature to set the number of judges by law, including the number in each circuit and county court. The Supreme Court would be able to make recommendations on increasing or decreasing the number of judges and also on changing the district and circuits. The proposed revision did keep the number of Supreme Court justices at seven. Retention Upped Section 10 would be changed to require that Supreme Court justices and district court of appeal judges get a two-thirds “yes” vote in their merit retention referenda. That could have a potentially devastating impact on the First District Court of Appeal and substantial impacts on other appellate courts. While all three First DCA judges on last November’s ballots would have been retained, it would have been very close if they were retained with 68 to 69 percent of the vote. However, all six judges on the 1998 merit retention ballot and all four on the 1996 ballot would have lost, as they garnered 63 to 64 percent “yes” votes less than the 66.67 required in the proposed amendment. Results from 1994 were not immediately available, but in 1992, all six First DCA judges on the ballot would have lost, as well as all five on the ballot in the Fifth DCA and two in the Second DCA. In 1992, there was organized opposition to then Chief Justice Rosemary Barkett and she wound up with 60.9-percent approval a landslide by most standards, but not enough under the bill. In addition, the other three justices on the ballot Justice Major B. Harding and former Justices Ben F. Overton and Parker Lee McDonald would have fallen short of the two-thirds vote, by one to less than two percent. As Richard noted, “Judges, who among public officers should be the least sensitive to public opinion, would be made more subject to the sway of public sentiment than executive or legislative officers.” Trial judges would remain elected, but midterm vacancies, as well as all vacancies on the appellate courts, would be filled directly by the governor without using judicial nominating commissions. Those appointments would be subject to “the advice and consent of the Senate.. . . ” The Article V provisions setting up the JNCs and governing their actions would be stricken under Brummer’s measure. The bill provides that if the Senate is not in session when the appointment is made and does not call itself into session to consider a nomination within 30 days, then the nomination is deemed approved. If the Senate is in session and fails to confirm a nominee within 30 days, then the nomination is rejected, unless Senate rules allow for an exemption. If judges find their jurisdiction and powers limited, they could become more politically active. Brummer’s bill would constitutionally override judicial canons that prevent judges from becoming involved in partisan politics or expressing their views on issues likely to come before them on the bench. The bill specifically provides, “No judicial rule of conduct or other court rule may limit the political rights of candidates for election or appointment to judicial office, including, but not limited to, serving a political organization, endorsing or opposing other candidates for public office, making speeches, attending political functions, or making statements with respect to issues; however such limits consistent with other provisions of this constitution may be imposed by general law.” The amendment, while not mentioning it by name, would do away with or substantially reduce The Florida Bar by changing Section 15. That revised section would allow the legislature to assume at least some oversight of the profession. The section provides that the Supreme Court would have exclusive jurisdiction over admission and discipline for those practicing, according to a new phrase added to the section, “before the courts of this state.” Also added to the section is this provision: “The cost of such regulation and discipline shall be funded by appropriations, disciplinary penalties, and fees paid to the Supreme Court as authorized by general law. No attorney may be required to pay dues to any organization and no fees may be otherwise assessed by the court as a condition to admission to practice law before the courts of this state. The professional practice of law other than before the courts of this state may be regulated by general law.” “This provision would eliminate the Bar as an arm of the Supreme Court and make the court’s ability to regulate [the] practice [of law] entirely dependent upon the willingness of the legislature to fund the regulation,” Richard wrote. With the Judicial Qualifications Commission, the Bar’s four lawyer appointments would be taken away and given to the legislature. Among other changes proposed in Brummer’s bill are: • An addition to Section 14 that, “Any prevailing party in any civil proceeding or any defendant convicted in any criminal proceeding may be assessed, as provided by general law, the full cost of all services utilized and expenses incurred in such proceeding as determined by the clerk of the circuit or county court, to the extent that such services or expenses are provided by appropriations, fees, or service charges.. . . Such assessments may be enforced as any money judgment or tax obligation.” • An addition to Section 3(b)(5) that when a case is certified to the Supreme Court as being of great public importance, “the district court’s jurisdiction shall be retained unless and until the Supreme Court issues an order accepting jurisdiction.” • The opt-in, opt-out merit selection plan for trial judges added to the constitution in 1998 by voters would be stricken. (That was a two-part process. The voter approval in 1998 set up a referendum in every circuit and county last November, on whether voters wanted to continue electing their trial judges or switch to a merit system. By a decisive margin in every jurisdiction, voters chose to continue with elections.) • A provision of Section 14 that says courts have no power to fix appropriations would be changed to read that courts “have no power to fix or order any modification of appropriations.” • The requirement that one Supreme Court justice come from the jurisdiction of each of the five district courts of appeal would be removed. • The section that allows retired judges over the age of 70 to sit in temporary assignments would be removed. • Various requirements to hold law-related offices, such as judgeships, or elected state attorneys or public defenders, would remain unchanged except that those office-holders would not be required to be Florida Bar members. Instead they would have to be “authorized to practice law in Florida.”center_img House bill would rewrite Art.Vlast_img read more


RTS Becomes R2Sonic Norwegian Distributor

first_imgNorwegian subsea equipment provider Rental & Technology Services (RTS) has been appointed as the exclusive distributor of R2Sonic in Norway.RTS will back R2Sonic’s expansion into Norway by providing knowledgeable and personalized support.Helge Knutsen, managing director, RTS, said: “As one of the early adopters, we have been supplying R2Sonic multibeam echosounders to our customers in the rental market for many years, and with great results and feedback from our customers. We are now delighted to work more closely with R2Sonic, a true innovator in the subsea industry, as their Norwegian distributor. This will enable us to further enhance our product range and keep the promise to our customers to deliver the finest available subsea technology at any given time.”Cris Sabo, VP of sales at R2Sonic, added: “It is crucial for us to be close to our customers. Our priority is to provide a second-to-none experience to our end-users, which combines leading-edge and innovative products with outstanding customer service. Partnering with RTS gives us the opportunity to strengthen our presence in Norway and ensure exceptional customer support.“last_img read more


Department of Education says schools will remain open unless weather deteriorates

first_imgThe Department of Education says that unless the Met Éireann weather warning is upgraded to Status Red, schools will remain open. It is up to each individual school to decide whether or not to open this morning.A spokesperson for the Department says: “It’s entirely up to the board of management whether a school opens or closes due to snow.“Only in a red weather alert situation would there be a nationwide closure of schools.” A Status Yellow weather advisory is currently in effect for Donegal, as Met Éireann forecast high seas which may lead to an increased risk of coastal flooding. This warning is valid until 9am this morning. Heavy seas are also forecast off the coast of Galway, Leitrim, Mayo, Sligo, Clare, Cork, Kerry and Limerick.A wind warning is also in place for Donegal, and is valid until the early hours of tomorrow morning.Currently, Donegal Daily has received no reports of school closures this morning.  If you would like to send us your closure notices/road reports, please email info@donegaldaily.comStorm Fionn: Morning travel delays expected following overnight snowfallDepartment of Education says schools will remain open unless weather deteriorates was last modified: January 17th, 2018 by Elaine McCalligShare this:Click to share on Facebook (Opens in new window)Click to share on Twitter (Opens in new window)Click to share on LinkedIn (Opens in new window)Click to share on Reddit (Opens in new window)Click to share on Pocket (Opens in new window)Click to share on Telegram (Opens in new window)Click to share on WhatsApp (Opens in new window)Click to share on Skype (Opens in new window)Click to print (Opens in new window) Tags:Department of EducationdonegalSCHOOLstorm fionnlast_img read more