A blog of the Philadelphia Bar Association’s Criminal Justice Section

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Sessions

The House and Senate meet on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday.

Public hearings on abolishing Traffic Court scheduled for March 22 at the Bar Association

The House Judiciary Committee will conduct public hearings on Senate Bill 333 would amend the Constitution to abolish the Philadelphia Traffic Court.  Senate Bill 334 would transfer the functions of Traffic Court to a newly created Traffic Division of the Philadelphia Municipal Court.  The hearing will be March 22 at 10 a.m. at the Philadelphia Bar Association, 11th Floor, 1101 Market Street.

Bill Passed

On March 13, the House passed by a vote of 196-0, House Bill 286 (Kula-D-Fayette) which would enact the Uniform Child Abduction Prevention Act.  The bill was sent to the Senate.  Click for House Fiscal Note.  In a memorandum sent to her colleagues, Representative Kula wrote:

All too often, parents or guardians kidnap children during contentious custody hearings or divorce proceedings. In fact, according to the United States Department of Justice, family abduction is the most prevalent form of child abduction in the United States. The Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention’s 2002 report on missing children estimated that 203,900 children were victims of a family abduction in 1999. Of that number, 117,200 were missing from their caretakers. My legislation will amend Title 23 (Domestic Relations) of Pennsylvania’s Consolidated Statutes to add a new chapter, Chapter 52 – Uniform Child Abduction Prevention.

The overall purpose of this legislation is to create guidelines for courts to follow in custody disputes that involve a parent or guardian deemed at risk of abducting their child. During these disputes courts would be able to consider a number of risk factors for abduction such as previous attempts to abduct the child, engagement in domestic violence, stalking or child abuse or neglect and the refusal to follow a child custody determination. If the court determines there is a risk of abduction, the court shall enter an abduction prevention order. This order must include the measures and conditions to prevent the abduction of the child, giving due consideration to the custody and visitation rights of the parties. In addition, if a court finds that there is a credible risk that the child is imminently likely to be wrongfully removed, the court may issue an ex parte warrant to take physical custody of the child.

The Uniform Child Abduction Prevention Act was promulgated by the Uniform Law Commission (ULC) in 2006 to assist states in enacting family child abduction statutes. Since that time, a number of states have passed some version of the law, including Alabama, Florida, Nevada and Tennessee. Now is the time for Pennsylvania to join these states and help to safeguard our most vulnerable citizens – our children.

Resolution introduced to impeach Justice Orie Melvin

House Resolution 159 (Grell-R-Cumberland and Sabatina-D-Philadelphia) was introduced calling for an investigation into the impeachment of convicted Supreme Court Justice Joan Orie Melvin.  The resolution was sent to the Judiciary Committee.  Click for report from Tribune Live.

Judicial Retirement

The House Judiciary Committee meets April 18 to hold a hearing on   House Bill 79 (Harper-R- Montgomery) which would amend the Constitution to raise the mandatory retirement age for judges from 70 to 75.

Maryland legislature votes to end death penalty

Having passed both houses, the Governor is expected to approve the bill abolishing the death penalty.  This bill would make Maryland 18th  state–and the first state south of the Mason-Dixon line–without a death penalty.  Maryland has five people on death row.  The last execution in Maryland was in 2005.   Click for report from Washington Post.

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