Jan 152015
 

Courthouses can be vulnerable to acts of violence because they are located in accessible and centralized locations. Courts need proper security procedures, technology, personnel and facilities to protect people, property and the integrity of the judicial process. Advocates say that while there is no one solution to all courthouse security problems, court administrators must have emergency management plans in place and be prepared to collaborate with law enforcement and emergency agencies during a crisis.

Some people believe television coverage of court proceedings, including criminal trials, would help Americans better understand this part of our judicial process. They also say broadcasting court proceedings will allow Americans to observe public trials without having to travel to the courthouse. Televised-trial opponents claim TV coverage is often shallow and preoccupied with sensationalism. They say cameras will detract from the reverence of trial proceedings.

Although the overwhelmingly vast majority of our judges are beyond reproach, there are occasional cases of judicial misconduct. Judicial misconduct occurs when a judge acts in a way that is considered unethical or violates the judge’s obligations of impartiality. These actions include prejudicial conduct, accepting bribes, obtaining special treatment for friends or relatives, maltreatment of litigants or attorneys, and violating other mandatory standards of judicial conduct. A judicial investigative committee is a panel of judges convened to investigate a judicial misconduct complaint. However, these committees are very rare. Only 18 of the nearly 1,500 judicial misconduct complaints filed in our Courts between 2004 and 2007 resulted in the formation of a judicial investigative committee.

Pending Legislations:

S.445 & H.R.953 – Courthouse Safety Act of 2013

S.405 & H.R.917 – Sunshine in the Courtroom Act of 2013

S.575 & H.R.1203- Judicial Transparency and Ethics Enhancement Act of 2013

I oppose reforming current courtroom policy and wish to defeat S.445 & H.R.953, S.405 & H.R.917 and S.575 & H.R.1203

I support carrying out a training and technical assistance program to teach employees of state, local, and tribal law enforcement agencies how to anticipate, survive, and respond to violent encounters during the course of their duties, including duties relating to security at state, county, and tribal courthouses; improving safety and security in state and local courts; giving local courts access to excess federal security equipment, including metal detectors and screening equipment, and wish to pass S.445 & H.R.953

I support authorizing the presiding judge of a U.S. appellate court or U.S. district court to permit the photographing, electronic recording, broadcasting, or televising to the public of court proceedings over which that judge presides, except when such action would constitute a violation of the due process rights of any party, and wish to pass S.405 & H.R.917

I support establishing the Office of Inspector General (OIG) for the Judicial Branch of the U.S. government, to be headed by an Inspector General appointed by the Chief Justice; requiring the OIG to: conduct investigations of alleged misconduct in the judicial branch, including the Supreme Court; conduct and supervise audits and investigations; and prevent and detect waste, fraud, and abuse, wish to pass S.575 & H.R.1203

 Posted by at 12:00 am
Jan 152015
 

Pro se, or “for oneself,” legal representation is defined as advocating on one’s own behalf before a court rather than being represented by an attorney. A defendant or plaintiff may represent themselves in any civil court proceeding or as a defendant in a criminal case. Due to the high costs of lawyers, it is estimated that only 30% of the legal problems of low-income households and 40% of those of moderate-income households are brought to the justice system. Americans now represent themselves in nearly 50% of all court cases and this number is growing. Pro se defenses are often used in family courts that involve divorce, child custody, visitation or probate. People also represent themselves when a disputed amount of money is too small to justify hiring a lawyer. In 2010, pro se litigants filed more than 25% of all court actions, including 90% of all prisoner petitions and 10% of all non-prisoner petitions, which were filed in our federal court system. Self representation supporters claim this option has historical precedent, is a personal right, and saves the poor from the expense of having to hire a lawyer. Critics claim pro se defenses should not be allowed in most court proceedings. They say that litigants who lack the skill and expertise to properly present their case puts undue strain on court resources. They claim it is difficult for a judge to conduct an impartial trial when only one party is represented by counsel without, in effect, becoming the other party’s lawyer. Many think unbundled legal services, in which a lawyer and client agree to limit the involvement of an attorney in a case, also has the potential to reduce legal costs. This option reduces the amount of time an attorney spends on a case, along with their fee. In these cases, the client is responsible for the aspects of a case an attorney is not involved with. Most consumers use unbundled services for issues related to business law, family law and estate planning. Some do-it-yourself online legal document companies also are beginning to offer these unbundled legal services.

Pending Legislation: None

I oppose reforming current self representation policy

I support identifying a legislator who will sponsor a bill to create clinics at law schools to teach unbundled legal services to students and encourage future lawyers to use this practice

 Posted by at 12:00 am
Jan 152015
 

DNA analysis of crime scene evidence can now conclusively determine if that evidence matches the person imprisoned for the crime. This evidence was not available to many wrongly-convicted people during their original trial. DNA evidence has been used to exonerate at least 18 Americans on death row -some within days of their scheduled execution. The convictions of more than 310 other inmates have also been overturned after DNA evidence was analyzed. Advocates say there are innocent people currently languishing in prison that can be helped by this technology. However, it could be some time before this help arrives as there is a backlog of 350,000 DNA samples in homicide and rape cases waiting to be examined. More than 200,000 samples collected from convicted offenders have also yet to be examined and cataloged. The FBI’s DNA database contains more than 10 million profiles of people convicted of crimes. It has been instrumental in more than 200,000 crime investigations since it became operational in 1998.

Pending Legislation:

S.822 – Justice for All Reauthorization Act of 2013

I oppose reforming current wrongful conviction policy and wish to defeat S.822

I support authorizing grant programs for the enforcement of crime victims’ rights; including DNA training and education for law enforcement officers, sexual assault forensic exams, DNA research and development, identification of missing persons and improving the quality of legal representation for indigent defendants in capital cases; providing incentives to states to establish a reasonable process for resolving claims of actual innocence; helping states defray the costs of post-conviction DNA; extending the authorization of appropriations through 2018 for the Debbie Smith DNA Backlog Grant Program, and wish to pass S.822

 Posted by at 12:00 am