Judiciary Committee

JOINT FAVORABLE REPORT

Bill No.:

HB-5495

Title:

AN ACT CONCERNING ENHANCED PENALTIES FOR THREATENING A JUDGE.

Vote Date:

3/21/2016

Vote Action:

Joint Favorable Substitute

PH Date:

3/18/2016

File No.:

530

SPONSORS OF BILL:

Judiciary Committee

Representative William Tong

REASONS FOR BILL:

Following a recent case in which the life of a judge was threatened, and recognizing the important role that judges have in upholding the rule of law, this bill hopes to further discourage individuals from threatening the lives of the judges and send a message that such conduct is unacceptable.

SUBSTITUTE LANGUAGE

Adds family support magistrate referees and probate court judges to the legislation.

RESPONSE FROM ADMINISTRATION/AGENCY:

Patrick L. Carroll, Chief Court Administrator, Judicial Branch says that while the branch does not believe that judges as individuals are entitled to be treated differently, the branch is concerned about the court system as an institution and their judges embody that institution. He states that his judges believe in the first amendment but when free speech crosses over to a threat it is a different matter. Language that is designed to intimidate and harass are an assault on the rule of law. He goes on to suggest some revisions to the bill.

NATURE AND SOURCES OF SUPPORT:

International Brotherhood of Police Officers testified that while we have been losing judicial marshals to attrition and budget shortfalls, our courthouses have become increasingly more busy. They testified that we cannot invite people to our courts unless we can ensure that all people will be safe and ensure their cases will be handled fairly and efficiently.

NATURE AND SOURCES OF OPPOSITION:

Hector Morera does not believe this bill is required because judges already have an inordinate amount of power for which they are granted absolute immunity. He questions whether the intent of the bill is to intimidate “disgruntled” litigants from speaking out about alleged incidents of abuse that occur in the court system. He testified that judges have court marshals that afford them protection and that there is no evidence that judges fear for their lives. He contends that the bill only serves to scare litigants.

Reported by: Adam Skowera

Date: April 8, 2016