Archives for February 2015

Judges Renew Calls For Immigration Court Reform

After a period of relative quiet, the immigration judges facing hundreds of thousands of cases are speaking out, calling for help amid a crisis. A new NPR report explains that “… as Congress debates the fate of President Obama’s immigration policies, the nation’s immigration court system is bogged down in delays exacerbated by the flood of unaccompanied minors who crossed the southern border last summer. The administration made it a priority for those cases to be heard immediately. As a result, hundreds of thousands of other cases have been delayed until as late as 2019.”

NPR adds that “even before this past summer’s surge of unaccompanied minors seeking asylum, the immigration courts were already clogged, says Judge Dana Leigh Marks, president of the National Association of Immigration Judges. There were too many cases for too few judges, and adding in the cases of the unaccompanied minors only made matters worse. There are currently more than 429,000 cases pending in the courts with just 223 judges.

The “judges” are not part of the usual judicial system, but are actually employees of the Justice Department – that means, for example, that they could not hold government agents – really, their co-workers – in contempt of court during one of the hearings. Read more here:

Kansas Court Reform Headed To Courts

The Kansas effort to decentralize court budgets has brought a lawsuit. Gov. Sam Brownback signed the new law last year despite strong opposition led by state Chief Justice Lawton Nuss. The new systemshifted control of district courts’ budgets from the Kansas Supreme Court to each district court’s chief judge. The state-vs.-local court funding argument is common across the nation.

The Wichita Eagles explains that “…Proponents said district court judges were better suited to make budgetary decisions for their courts, while critics said the bill weakened the state’s unified court system. The Supreme Court retained its power to set the funding amount for each district court. The lawsuit argues that the legislature violated separation of powers  guaranteed in the state constitution.

Read more here.

State Courts’ Image On The Upswing  

A new poll shows that public perception of state courts is improving on all fronts, but people would really, really prefer to skip a trip to the courthouse and use the Internet when at all possible.

The National Center for State Courts (NCSC) commissioned the  2014 State of State Courts Poll, asking 1,000 registered voters last November to weigh in questions ranging from procedural fairness and customer service to judges’ work hours and salaries. Not surprisingly, the group notes that “… the GBA report concludes that public doubts about political influence and bias represent the greatest threat to public confidence in the courts.”

Read more.

Judge Halts Obama’s Immigration Order

When President Obama took executive action on immigration policy, one concern was that legal action would delay or even halt his plans. That’s come to pass, with a federal judge in Texas blocking the action to give a 26-state coalition more time to pursue its lawsuit against the measures. The White House says it will appeal, but such is the danger of congressional inaction – we head to the executive branch and, eventually, the courts.

In response to the judge’s order, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security said it would halt preparations for a program to protect parents of U.S. citizens or legal permanent residents until further notice. Read the Associated Press report here.

CM Publisher Has HuffPo Piece On GOP Civil Tort Priorities

Courts Monitor Publisher Sara Warner has published a Huffington Post story with her take on recent developments involving the New York Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver. She notes that “… the new Republican-controlled congress rolled up its sleeves and rolled out its agenda over the last week, and along with immigration and budget issues it turns out “asbestos litigation reform” is an apparent priority. The powerful House Judiciary Committee held a formal hearing in Washington in what amounts to a national campaign targeted at bankruptcy transparency – but fueled largely by both a landmark federal case out of North Carolina and the ongoing New York scandal involving the arrest of state assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver.”