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

PaCapitol

Session schedule

Senate

October 26, 27, 28

November 16, 17, 18

December 7, 8, 9

House

October 26, 27, 28

November 4, 5, 9, 10, 16, 17, 18, 23, 24, 25 (Non-Voting)

December 7, 8, 9, 14, 15, 16

Bills moving

State Police Escorts: Senate Bill 748 (Argall-R-Schuylkill) eliminating State Police escorts for super load vehicles was referred into and out of the House Rules Committee and concurred in by the House.  The bill now goes to the Governor for his action.  A summary and House Fiscal Note are available.

Firearms Sentences: House Bill 1632 (Stephens-R-Montgomery) further providing for sentences for crimes committed with firearms (sponsor summary) was reported from the House Judiciary Committee and is now on the House Calendar for action.

Firearms Sentences: House Bill 44 (Saccone-R- Allegheny) further providing for sentences for offenses committed with firearms was amended and reported from the House Judiciary Committee and is now on the House Calendar for action.

Merit Selection Of Judges: House Bill 1336 (Cutler-R-Lancaster) providing for merit selection of judges was amended and reported from the House Judiciary Committee and is now on the House Calendar for action.

Crimes Against Elderly: House Bill 1601 (Vereb-R-Montgomery) further providing for sentences for offenses committed on public transportation was amended and reported from the House Judiciary Committee and is now on the House Calendar for action.

Public hearings

October 27– Senate Judiciary Committee meets to consider Senate Bill 851 (Greenleaf-R-Montgomery) providing further penalties for human trafficking and prostitution (sponsor summary), Senate Bill 976(Greenleaf-R-Montgomery) further providing for definitions and exemptions related to wiretapping and electronic surveillance related to police officer body cameras (sponsor summary),  Rules Room. Off the Floor.

October 28– Senate Local Government Committee meets to consider Senate Bill 997 (Alloway-R-Franklin) providing for sanctuary cities and the reporting of immigration status (sponsor summary).  Room 461.  10:30 a.m.

(Source:  Crisci Associates PA Capitol Digest)

PennLive:  House Judiciary Committee votes for merit selection of appellate judges

By CHARLES THOMPSON, PennLive, October 20, 2015

The state House Judiciary Committee gave supporters of merit selection of state appellate court judges a rare, albeit preliminary, victory Tuesday.

The committee voted 16-11 to endorse a proposed amendment to the Pennsylvania Constitution that would replace the current election of state judges with a merit selection process.

The vote was historic in that it was the first time this reform – a long-held objective of court reformers and many professional legal groups – has passed at any level in the General Assembly since 1993.

But it may not be the last.

Co-sponsor Rep. Bryan Cutler, R-Drumore Twp., said House Republicans plan to caucus on the bill next week. With enough support, he said, a floor vote could be scheduled later this fall.

Under the plan, a bipartisan commission of lawyers and lay people chosen by the governor and legislative leaders would convene to build a short list of candidates for appointment to each of the three appellate courts.

The governor would make nominations to seats on the bench from that list.

Upon confirmation by the state Senate, any new judge would be seated for a four-year term. He or she then would face statewide retention votes for additional 10-year terms, just as incumbent judges do now.

County judges and magisterial district judges would continue to be elected by voters.

The committee vote is the first step in a long journey for the measure sponsored by Cutler and Madeleine Dean, D-Montgomery County.

As an amendment to the Constitution, the language has to be approved by the full House and Senate in two successive sessions of the General Assembly, and then win ratification by voters in a statewide referendum.

The earliest that statewide ballot could be taken is 2017.

Still, Tuesday’s vote, and the near-term promise of further action, was celebrated by reformers who have long argued the current practice of electing statewide judges puts too much weight on factors like ballot position, political connections and raising money for television commercials.

The fundraising factor is especially troubling to many critics of the current system since it puts judicial candidates in the awkward position of raising money from attorneys and special interests that eventually will be before them in court.

Lynn Marks, executive director of Pennsylvanians for Modern Courts, noted Tuesday’s vote was especially timely in a year when a hotly-contested race for three state Supreme Court seats may break spending records.

“This is the perfect storm for reform,” Marks said. “We are in the midst of a historic Supreme Court election with vacancies caused by the bad behavior of justices, millions of dollars of campaign contributions by special interests, negative ads, and public confidence of the court system severely tarnished.

“We are heartened that legislators of both parties agree that it’s time for change.”

Tuesday’s committee majority was built on the support of 12 Republicans and four Democrats. Seven Democrats and four Republicans voted no, with the opponents mostly citing a reluctance to take any vote away from the public.

Cutler attributed Tuesday’s win – a similar bill was tabled at the committee level in 2012 – to steady, person-to-person education of individual lawmakers on the proposed reforms and how they would work.

Click for the rest of the report from PennLive

November 13 is deadline to comment on changes to rules on expungements and scheduling preliminary hearings.

Click for Notice of Rule Making on expungements.

Click for Notice of Rule Making on preliminary hearings.

October 28 in history—Congress passes Volstead Act over President Wilson’s veto providing for enforcement of Prohibition

images

Click for report from history.com

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