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Archive for the ‘Politics’ Category

Judge Robert Pleus Jr., has retired from the Florida Supreme Court.  Under Florida’s Constitution, the Judicial Nominating Commission (“JNC”) is required to submit a certified list of judges to the Governor to fill the vacancy.  After Judge Pleus’s retirement, the JNC convened and then submitted a list to Governor Charlie Crist.  Governor Crist rejected the list, noting it did not include enough minority candidates.  The JNC reconvened, but resubmitted the original list.  The Florida Supreme Court noted that the Florida Constitution required the Governor to fill the vacancy from the certified list.  The Florida Constitution provided no mechanism for the Governor to reject the certified list or make a selection outside of the list.  For the full story, click here.

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For a discussion of the problems I found with the bill, click here.  For a discussion of the committee meeting regarding the bill, click here.

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Legislators have put forward HB 1611, which would allow house committees to broadcast their meetings over the internet, as a measure to increase transparency in committee meetings.  As a techno-nerd, I think this is a great idea (although with a $40,000 a year price tag, I’m not sure this is really the best time to invest in the technology that will probably be obsolete in a few years).  As an attorney, I have a few qualms.

Arkansas attorneys routinely have to argue about what a certain law means, and there are several methods of phrasing these arguments.  Generally, the best place to start is by talking about what the law says–the words used by the General Assembly in passing the law.  In other states, you could also go to the legislative history of the law, which is what members of the house and senate said about the bill when it was being debated.  Arkansas doesn’t have “legislative history” in this sense because there is no official publication of what’s said.

Occasionally, a person or group will record a debate or hearing in the house or senate and have that proceeding transcribed unofficially.  I’ve seen attorneys try to offer these unofficial transcripts as evidence of legislative history, but this kind of evidence is generally inadmissible.  First, it’s not official or sanctioned by the General Assembly.  Second, it’s not fair.  The group that is putting forward the unofficial version cannot provide the entire legislative history (not just one committee meeting or hearing) to opposing counsel to review.  The true legislative history of a bill is expansive and would contain all of the opposing viewpoints of the legislators as the bill moved through the General Assembly.  Having legislative history can only be fair if all of it is available to everybody.

Under HB 1611, a house committee can broadcast its meetings over the internet.  It sounds simple enough, but it could create the problem discussed above.  Although the proposed law doesn’t say that that the broadcast constitutes official legislative history, it would be very easy to argue this based on the existence of the law itself.  But there is no way to cure the fairness problem with allowing access to a minute excerpt of legislative history.  The bill addresses house committees only and does not provide access to any debates or hearings in the senate.  Further, the bill is discretionary.  A house committee can broadcast, or it can chose not to.

I still think this is a good bill, but I would add another sentence stating, “Broadcasting of any house committee proceedings is not intended to create legislative history.”  I think this language would solve the problems I’ve addressed above, while still allowing for transparency in house committee meetings.  Also, it’s likely that this bill is just the first step in making all proceedings in the General Assembly accessible to everyone (true legislative history).  Once the methods have been tested, and everyone has equal access, then the General Assembly could choose to make such broadcasting official legislative history.

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According to the complaint, the Pennsylvania legislature conspired with the executive and judicial branches to pass pay increases for all three branches.  When citizen groups challenged the law, their lawsuit was dismissed because of lack of standing.  Because the citizen groups were complaining of a “generalized, abstract grievance shared by all Pennsylvanians,” they could not show how the legislation had harmed them individually.  For the complete story, click here.

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I found an interesting blog article explaining in more detail.  Click here to check it out.

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I first learned of this interesting development a few weeks ago when I stumbled upon the blog New World Liberty.  While this is not the normal sort of blog I would read, I was intrigued by the discussion nonetheless.  I happened upon the blog again today, with its updated version of the article I first read.  I clicked on the link for Arkansas and was taken to the Arkansas legislature home page and found the proposed law.

I’m somewhat taken aback by the stark language used:

THAT the State of Arkansas hereby claims sovereignty under the Tenth Amendment to the Constitution of the United States over all powers not otherwise enumerated and granted to the federal government by the Constitution of the United States.

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that this resolution serve as Notice and Demand to the federal government, as our agent, to cease and desist, effective immediately, mandates that are beyond the scope of these constitutionally delegated powers.

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that it is the position of the State of Arkansas that all compulsory federal legislation that directs states to comply under threat of civil or criminal penalties or sanctions or requires states to pass legislation or lose federal funding be prohibited or repealed.

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that the clerk of the House of Representatives distribute a copy of this resolution to the President of the United States, the President of the United States Senate, the Speaker of the United States House of Representatives, the Speaker of the House and the President of the Senate of each state’s legislature of the United States of America, and each member of the Arkansas Congressional delegation.

State sovereignty has always been an intriguing proposition to me.  I wonder why states are deciding to do this now?

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Texas Supreme Court Justice Nathan Hecht publicly endorsed Harriet Miers’ nomination to the United States Supreme Court, which led to charges against him by the Texas Commission on Judicial Conduct.  Hecht’s attorneys, the Jackson Walker law firm, charged him a reduced rate for their representation.  Then, the Texas Ethics Commission fined Hecht $29,000 for the “contribution” made by Jackson Walker, which exceeded the $30,000 limit for law firm contributions.  For the full story, click here.

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