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

PaCapitol

Session Schedule

The House and Senate have recessed until June 2.

On the Governor’s desk

The following bills were given final approval by the Senate and House and are now on the Governor’s desk for action–

Lawyer Background Checks: Senate Bill 894 (Alloway-R-Franklin) requiring criminal background checks for lawyers. A summary and House Fiscal Notice are available.  The Governor signed the bill into law as Act 43.

Reporting Of Child Abuse: Senate Bill 31 (Fontana-D-Allegheny) further requiring reporting of suspected child abuse was reported from the Senate Rules Committee and was concurred in by the Senate.  A summary and House Fiscal Note are available.  The bill now goes to the Governor for his action.  WARNING:   THIS BILL PRESENTS PROBLEMS FOR LAWYERS.   READ IT CAREFULLY.

Source:  Crisci Associates Capitol Digest

Bills moving

House

Trafficking In Infants: House Bill 2088 (Hackett-R-Delaware) trafficking in infants was reported out of the House Appropriations Committee and passed by the House.  A summary and House Fiscal Note are available.  The bill now goes to the Senate for action.

Senate

Indigent Legal Defense: Senate Bill 979 (Greenleaf-R- Montgomery) establishing the PA Center for Effective Indigent Defense Legal Representation was referred to the Senate Appropriations Committee.

Source:  Crisci Associates Capitol Digest

Committee hearings

May 13– House Judiciary Committee holds a hearing on House Bill 30 (Petrarca-D- Westmoreland) further providing for organ donation– sponsor summary.  Room 205 Ryan Building.  10:00.

June 10– Senate Law and Justice Committee holds a hearing on an amendment to Senate Bill 1182(Folmer-R-Lebanon) on legalization of medical marijuana.  LTBA. 10:00.

Source:  Crisci Associates Capitol Digest

Reassignment of Judges

On May 6, the Supreme Court reassigned Judges Anne Marie B. Coyle, Paul P. Panepinto and Paula A. Patrick from the Trial Division to Family Court Division through December 31, 2014 “to address the backlog of custody cases.”

Supreme Court promulgates new criminal rules

Click for Order

Click for Revised Rules

Click for Final Report

House Judiciary Committee holds hearing on restitution

The House Judiciary Committee Monday held a hearing to discuss ways in which to improve the collection of restitution in the Commonwealth, according to Majority Chair Ron Marsico (R-Dauphin).

“Restitution is an important part of the criminal justice system for a few reasons. Not only is restitution intended to make crime victims financially whole, but it is also a way of showing those who commit crimes the financial consequences of their wrongful acts,” said Rep. Marsico. “During my tenure here as a member of the House, I have seen members of this committee and members of the House work hard at finding ways to maximize the restitution that crime victims are supposed to receive. The Restitution Task Force now has some ideas on that very topic to share with us.”

The Restitution in Pennsylvania Task Force was convened by the Pennsylvania Office of the Victim Advocate in collaboration with the Center for Schools and Communities. The task force brought together key stakeholders, agencies and organizations from across all stages of victim restitution work. The task force conducted a thorough review of restitution processes at the state and local level in order to identify gaps and develop recommendations to maximize the justice systems’ effectiveness.

“Restitution is intended to help a victim of crime become fiscally whole while demonstrating the financial consequences of criminal acts to those who commit the crime and are found guilty, but also to those who consider committing future crimes,” said Thomas Caltagirone (D-Berks), Minority Chair of the Committee.

“The testimony received at the hearing illustrated the need to develop a comprehensive plan to make restitution more effective and efficient,” Rep. Caltagirone said. “We heard from crime victims who explained the difficulty they have receiving restitution ordered by the courts, and in some cases it has taken years to even receive a fraction of the amount ordered. If we do nothing, victims of crime will continue to be re-victimized. We must take action to correct the problems with the system.”

The task force set forth its recommendations in a final report. The report includes 47 recommendations, which are intended to form a comprehensive approach to improving restitution practices at both the county and state levels. Many of these recommendations are operational in practice, so they don’t require legislative action. But others do appear to require legislation for their implementation.

Those recommendations include:

— Establishing a mandated minimum percentage threshold for deductions from inmate personal accounts for both county correctional facilities and the Department of Corrections;

— Making wage attachment a higher priority than it currently is in law by moving it to follow divorce payments and child support payments;

— Authorizing courts to order wage attachment for defendants who have been found in contempt for nonpayment of restitution, costs or fines;

— Authorizing courts to order wage attachment for defendants who have the ability to pay restitution, costs or fines; and

— Enacting legislation to require the Department of Revenue and Pennsylvania Lottery to pay any state judicial debt to include overdue restitution, costs or fines from any state income tax refunds and, or lottery winnings.

“At today’s hearing, we were joined by a group of experts in this field, as well as a secondary victim of crime herself. Mrs. Carla Kringer has, unfortunately, experienced firsthand the unfairness of our current system of restitution,” said Rep. Marsico. “It has been six years since restitution was issued to her family and in that time, they have received one-sixth of the total amount. This is frustrating and unfair for victims who are simply seeking justice in the system. We must change that.”

Jennifer Storm, victim advocate of the Commonwealth and chair of the Restitution in Pennsylvania Task Force testified that a few legislative changes should be made to improve the system, such as:

— Establishing a mandated minimum percentage threshold for deductions from inmate personal accounts for both county correctional facilities and the Department of Corrections.

— Making wage attachment a higher priority than it currently is in law by moving it to follow divorce payments and child support payments.

— Authorizing courts to order wage attachment for defendants who have been found in contempt for nonpayment of restitution, costs or fines.

— Authorizing courts to order wage attachment for defendants who have the ability to pay restitution, costs or fines.

— Enacting legislation to require the Department of Revenue and Pennsylvania Lottery to pay any state judicial debt to include overdue restitution, costs or fines from any state income tax refunds and/or lottery winnings.

“We are certainly going to take a closer look at the suggestions made at today’s hearing and figure out what will work legislatively,” said Rep. Marsico. “Many other states have established similar laws and they seem to be working well. After we research this further, we will put forth a plan that makes sense for Pennsylvania.”

A copy of the Restitution Task Force Final Report is available online.

Source:  Crisci Associates Capitol Digest

 

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