Judiciary Committee

JOINT FAVORABLE REPORT

Bill No.:

SB-1438

Title:

AN ACT CONCERNING NOTICE OF CERTAIN PROBATE COURT HEARINGS AND THE FILING OF CERTAIN REPORTS.

Vote Date:

4/11/2007

Vote Action:

Joint Favorable Substitute

PH Date:

3/30/2007

File No.:

SPONSORS OF BILL:

Probate Assembly

REASONS FOR BILL:

Currently, when notices are being sent by the Probate Court by certified mail, parties are rejecting or neglecting to accept them. Also, presently there is a discrepancy in the statutes concerning the time probate judges' have to file an income report.

SUBSTITUTE LANGUAGE:

Amends the current method for delivering or servicing notice of certain probate court hearings from certified mail to first class mail.

RESPONSE FROM ADMINISTRATION/AGENCY:

Judge James J. Lawlor, Probate Court Administrator, Office of the Probate Court - The purpose is to ensure that those parties are notified and to document that fact in the court file. However, in many cases the certified mail notices are not claimed. In some cases, the parties are fearful of accepting certified mail from a court. So, the results do not justify the time and expense involved in issuing certified mail notice.

This bill would allow certain notices to be delivered by first class mail rather than certified mail. The court would, of course, have the discretion to provide a more customized notice, such as a personal service or certified mail, if warranted.

This bill would also clarify a discrepancy in the statues concerning the time for filing probate judges' income reports. Judges are required to file an annual report of their income with the Office of Probate Court Administrator.

The time for filing is addressed in two different places in the statutes. One requires the reports be filed by March 1st and one requires the reports to be filed by April 1st, the date we currently use. This bill would resolve the disparity and require all courts to file their annual income reports by March 1st. This change would have the additional benefit of enabling the Administrator's Office to begin auditing the courts finances sooner. It would also assist the Administrator's Office in preparing its budget, which must be completed by April 1st.

NATURE AND SOURCES OF SUPPORT:

Nothing Submitted

NATURE AND SOURCES OF OPPOSITION:

Judge Stuart Case, Probate Judge, District of Hampton- This bill is unwise and unnecessary, since the Probate Court Administration has demonstrated, that even with its present bloated bureaucracy (which we courts pay for), it has not been consistently able in recent months to meet even its present schedules. This year, without telling the judges, the Administration took a calculation of WWL (present system in which courts' compensation is determined, call weighted workload system) of its own for the entire year, based on what was in the CMS (Case Management System) system, even though the system had not been in use for more than a few months. Whether because of improper training, or faulty programming, or both, the Administration came up with a figure about 30% lower than my own calculations, and challenged me to prove them wrong. The administration relented and accepted our figure, giving us only a couple of weeks to file our Income Report, one of the reports in question. Late filing subjects us judges to interest and other penalties. When I filed my Income Report last week, using the corrected and agree WWL, it was bounced back to me, for revisions based on the original WWL! At this writing, two days before the filing deadline, the matter still is not resolved!

Clearly one hand at the Administrator's Office does not know what the other hand is doing. Until these problems are worked out, there is no point in changing the deadlines.

Judge Deborah M. Pearl, Probate Judge, District of Essex- Sec. 4. (b), (c), (d) reduces due process for notice provisions from certified mail to regular first class mail.

We oppose changing filing and payment dated from first day of April to March. To date the Probate Court Administrator's office is undergoing problems with electronic tally system and does not get final tally numbers to the probate courts in a timely manner. Final tally numbers continue to be problematic due to inadequacies with probate administration equipment and collection of data from the courts.

Reported by: Sarah E. Kolb

Date: 4/15/07