Sunday, February 02, 2014
Ind. Courts - Check out the newest 2014 summaries of bills of interest to the judiciary
Check out the fourth weekly installment of the valuable Legislative Update for the 2014 legislative session, from The Indiana Judicial Center.
This week's reports are dated Jan. 31. Keep scrolling down to see those from the earlier weeks of this year's session.
The "summaries of bills of interest to the judiciary heard this week in committee" are still of bills in the first house committee. But that changes with the coming week.
The discussion on several bills caught my attention, and the entire list deserves careful reading:
- SB 395, bail, which is on the 2nd reading calendar Monday.
- SB 109, which is on the 2nd reading calendar Monday, removes the current mandatory retirement age of 75 years for appellate judges and allows appellate judges to retire at the age that judges of the circuit and superior courts are required to retire (which currently is never).
ILB: Of interest here is this ILB post from last year when a similar effort was made. One wonders why, if the GA intends to change the age for appellate court retirements, they do not do so directly ...
- SB 366, Marion County small claims courts, which is on the 2nd reading calendar Monday. Here is part of the committee discussion:
Judge Spear of the Perry Township Small Claims Court explained that the bill will allow small claims judges administer their own courts by having the ability to adopt their own rules. Judge Rehme of the Lawrence Small Claims Court, and Judge Kitley, Franklin Township Small Claims Court, also testified in support of the bill. Mr. Stephen Lerch, a consumer collection attorney, testified in support of the bill. Mr. Jonathan Sturgill, attorney and president of the Indiana Creditors Bar Association, testified in support of the bill.ILB: This is a much clearer and more detailed report than the one the ILB gave on Jan. 30th. The bill as now amended would attempt to address the myriad problems reported with the small claims courts over the past several years simply by eliminating any supervision of these courts, other than from the small claims judges themselves. A review of the testimony above shows how the various interests line up on this approach.
Judge Rosenberg, Marion County Circuit Court, testified that he believed the bill is premature and urged the committee to have a county-wide perspective for operations regarding rules, practices and operations. Judge Rosenberg further explained that Marion County has solicited assistance from the National Center for State Courts on this issue.
Judge Baker, Indiana Court of Appeals, at the request of Chief Justice Dickson, explained that a small claims court task force has issued a report to the Indiana Supreme Court concerning the small claims court in Marion County becoming a part of the superior court. Judge Baker requested a “time out” for the bill, so that continuing processes can be addressed and expertise through the National Center for State Courts can be utilized. Judge Baker would like a summer study committee to be convened to review small claims court issues. Regarding the garnishment provisions, Judge Baker supports judges continuing to have discretion.
A second amendment was introduced, and adopted by consent, sending certain issues in the bill (while not stripping the bill) to a summer study committee related to: (1) small claims court administration; (2) the jurisdictional amount in small claims actions; and (3) venue and the distribution of judicial resources in small claims actions. Those three issues were sent to the commission on courts or another appropriate legislative committee for further review. The amended bill passed 5-4.
- The House Courts and Criminal Code Committee heard HB 1006, authored by Rep. Steuerwald, that reconciles technical and substantive conflicts between HEA 1006-2013 (the criminal code revision bill) and other bills touching on criminal law. This is the “cleanup” bill for the penal code reform legislation passed last year and going into effect July 1, 2014. (Note that the 2014 “cleanup” bill has been given the same number – HB 1006 – as the 2013 reform bill had, so that now references are being made to “HEA 1006-2013” and “HB 1006-2014.”) Author Rep. Steuerwald presented the bill. He pointed out that the cleanup bill had been approved in December by the Criminal Law and Sentencing Policy Study Committee. This bill passed the House on Jan. 28th.
[ILB: The summary then lists substantive amendments from the study committee, and the many more changes made during the course of the committee meeting. One of those was "Amendment 4". Here is the discussion.]
The fourth amendment contained changes that are more controversial and was adopted by an 8-2 vote. The amendment:
(1) reduces the “enhancing circumstance” “drug-free” zone from a 500 foot radius to a 250 foot radius but eliminates any requirement that children be shown to have been reasonably expected to be present, and restores family housing complexes and child care facilities to the list of places protected by the zones;The Indiana Prosecuting Attorneys Council and several prosecutors testified in favor of the bill provided amendment 4 was adopted.
(2) adds as an “enhancing circumstance” that the offense was committed in “the physical presence” of a child under 18, knowing the child was present and might be able to hear or see the offense;
(3) changes the penalty levels for dealing in cocaine, narcotic drugs, or methamphetamine from Level 5 up to Level 4 for under 3 grams, from Level 4 up to Level 3 for 3 to 10 grams, from Level 3 to Level 2 for over 10 grams, and eliminates the Level 2 offense category for amounts over 28 grams;
(4) amends the suspension statute to provide that the “minimum sentence” for Level 2 and Level 3 felonies for offenders with a prior unrelated felony conviction cannot be suspended, but also adds an exception to provide that sentences for Level 2 and 3 IC 35-48-4 drug offenses are fully suspendible even if the offender has a prior felony;
(5) provides that the minimum sentence for any murder or Level 1 felony cannot be suspended;
(6) reduces the “drug free” zone for specific drug offenses from a 500 foot radius to a 250 foot radius and adds child care facilities to the list of places protected by the zones;
(7) provides that persons convicted of Level 6 felonies will earn a day of credit time for each day served, instead of a day of credit time for every three days served.
The Public Defender Council said that he could not support the bill with amendment 4 due to the increases in drug crime penalties.
Chief of Staff for the DOC noted the DOC’s concern about the legislation’s credit time changes and sentence increases having the effect of significantly increasing DOC prisoner population. He presented revised DOC estimates based on the bill’s impact without including the amendment 4 drug crime penalty increases. Those estimates were that the DOC would need funding in 2017 for a new facility, and for another facility in 2019, at an estimated capital cost of 140 million for each facility and an additional operating cost per new facility of 40 million annually. He also estimated that the increases in advisory sentences would require increases in DOC appropriations next year, along with additional funds for housing increases in 2015.
Rep. McMillan observed that these DOC estimates do not contemplate a major expansion of community corrections programs for offenders, an expansion he said he would have legislators consider.
Rep. Matt Pierce observed that with these new estimates, and the amendment 4 changes, the fiscal impact of the reform legislation sentencing changes would have to be reevaluated while the bill works its way through this legislative session. Rep. Pierce said that the increases in amendment 4 for the drug crime sentences amounted to such a step backward from the original aims of the reform project that he would not support the bill with those changes.
After discussing the bill and the amendments, the Committee voted 8-2 to adopt amendment 4 and passed the bill as amended with a vote of 9-1.
ILB: There has been much press on HB 1006, nearly all of it, including this story Feb. 2 in the Muncie Star-Press, reflecting the interests of the Indiana Prosecuting Attorneys Council.
Posted by Marcia Oddi on February 2, 2014 10:21 AM
Posted to Indiana Courts