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Amendment would give Legislature rules oversight

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Amendment would give Legislature rules oversight

A constitutional amendment that would take court procedural rulemaking authority away from the Supreme Court and give it to the Legislature has been introduced in a House subcommittee that has been studying the issue.

PCB CVJS 11-01 would amend Art. V, Sec. 2, of the constitution. A second bill, PCB CVJS 11-02 would create legislation implementing the amendment, if it eventually passes the Legislature and is approved by voters.

Currently, Art. V, Sec. 2, provides that the Supreme Court has the authority to adopt practice and procedure rules for the court, and the Legislature may repeal any rule by a two-thirds vote of both chambers. It also includes some technical language about the court and the district courts of appeal submitting questions on military law for an advisory opinion to a special military appellate court.

The amendment repeals all of that, and instead specifies: “No court shall have the power, express or implied, to adopt rules for practice and procedure in any court. Court rules of practice and procedure may be recommended by the Supreme Court to be adopted, amended or rejected by the legislature in a manner prescribed by general law. If there is a conflict between general law and a court rule, the general law supersedes the court rule.”

The accompanying enacting legislation reaffirms that in any conflict between statutes and procedural rules, statutes prevail.

It also creates a judicial conference to recommend rules to the Legislature. The conference will be made up of the Supreme Court chief justice, the five district court of appeal chief judges, and one circuit chief judge from the jurisdiction of each DCA. The conference would create 10 subcommittees, corresponding with each of the current 10 procedural rule areas.

Interestingly, the bill requires the court system to have a website presence for the judicial conference and that the conference must have an online form that allows anyone to propose a rule amendment.

When any subcommittee wishes to propose a rule amendment, it must be published and the committee must also create and publish an estimate of the fiscal impact of the amendment. That publication must be at least 30 days before the committee acts on the amendment.

The judicial conference will review all subcommittee amendments and then make recommendations to the Supreme Court, which in turn will make recommendations to the Legislature by December 1, to tentatively become effective the following July 1. Rules would only be effective if they are approved by the Legislature meeting in regular session between December 1 and July 1 and did not enact any “legislation rejecting or amending the proposed rule.”

Other provisions of the bill include:

• Rules governing the admission to and regulation of the practice of law would not be covered, as long as none of those rules conflict with statutes.

• Any rule of evidence or any rule which requires payment of any court cost or fee would not become effective unless affirmatively approved by the Legislature.

• Local rules, administrative orders, forms, and jury instructions “are not required to be affirmed by the Legislature, but may be repealed or amended by general law.”

• If allowed by the judicial conference, inferior courts may enact local rules as long as they do not affect any substantive rights or conflict with general law, or require payment of any cost or fee unless allowed by general law. Administrative orders from inferior courts are subject to the same strictures.

• Exempted from the law would be internal operating procedures of the courts including personnel rules as long as they are consistent with general law, and orders and policies related to the assignment of cases to judges of a panel of judges.

The bills will be heard in the House Civil Justice Subcommittee February 23. As this News went to press, no similar measure has been introduced or discussed in the Senate.

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