PA 16-211—SB 350

Judiciary Committee

AN ACT CONCERNING THE APPOINTMENT OF FAMILY SUPPORT MAGISTRATES

SUMMARY: Starting January 1, 2017, this act changes the way family support magistrates are selected by requiring the (1) governor to nominate, rather than appoint, them and (2) legislature to approve the governor's nominees in the same way it currently approves judges. It increases the term of a family support magistrate from three to five years and allows those currently serving to complete their terms unless removed from office. Family support magistrates establish and enforce child and spousal support orders.

The act requires the Judicial Review Council to submit to the governor and the Judiciary Committee recommendations on nominations for reappointment of family support magistrates and provide the committee with information on complaints about magistrates in the same way the council already does for judges.

The act also makes conforming changes.

EFFECTIVE DATE: January 1, 2017

APPOINTMENT PROCEDURE AND TERMS

Starting January 1, 2017, the act requires the governor to nominate and the legislature to appoint nine family support magistrates to serve five-year terms. Under prior law, the governor appointed the nine magistrates to serve three-year terms without legislative approval.

Under the act, family support magistrates serving on December 31, 2016 continue to serve until their three-year terms expire, unless they are removed from office as the act provides. They must continue to serve after their terms expire until (1) a successor is appointed or (2) the legislature does not approve their reappointment.

The act allows the governor to nominate family support magistrates for reappointment. Under prior law, he could reappoint them.

By law, unchanged by the act, the governor may remove family support magistrates for cause, and the magistrates are subject to the same admonishment, censure, suspension, and removal procedures as judges (CGS 51-51h et seq. , see BACKGROUND).

Nomination and Approval Process

Under the act, the legislature must refer each of the governor's nominees for family support magistrate to the Judiciary Committee, without debate. The committee must report on a nomination to the House and Senate (1) within 30 legislative days after referral and (2) at least seven legislative days before the legislature adjourns. (A legislative day is any day that either chamber meets, whether in regular or technical session. ) This is the same procedure the law provides for the nomination of judges (CGS 2-40).

Under the act, each nomination must be made by a separate resolution, and the House and Senate must vote on each nominee by a roll call vote. The governor must submit another nomination to the legislature within five days after he has been notified that a nominee failed to win the approval of both chambers.

Filling Interim Vacancies

As under existing law for the appointment of judges, if the governor seeks to fill a vacancy for a family support magistrate when the legislature is not in session, the act requires him to first submit the name of the proposed nominee to the Judiciary Committee. The committee, on the call of either chairperson, may hold a special meeting within 45 days to approve or disapprove the nominee by a majority vote.

If the committee finds it cannot complete its investigation (see below) and act on the proposed appointment within the 45-day period, it may extend the period by 15 days and must notify the governor, in writing, that it is doing so.

As under existing law for judges, if the committee fails to act on the nomination within either the 45-day period or any 15-day extension, the act deems a nominee approved.

Investigation of Nominees

As with existing law for judges, the act allows the Judiciary Committee, before a public hearing on a family support magistrate and at the chairpersons' request, to hire someone to investigate the nominee's suitability for the position. The investigator must report his or her findings to the committee. The report is confidential and not subject to public disclosure. The investigator must be paid an amount determined by the Legislative Management Committee for each day of the investigation.

CHIEF FAMILY SUPPORT MAGISTRATE

By law, the chief family support magistrate is appointed by the chief court administrator to supervise the Family Support Magistrate Division. The act requires that the chief family support magistrate serving in that capacity on December 31, 2016 continue to serve until his or her term expires, unless the (1) chief court administrator designates a successor or (2) chief magistrate is removed from office or fails to win legislative approval under the act.

JUDICIAL REVIEW COUNCIL

Under prior law, the Judicial Review Council submitted to the governor its recommendations on the reappointment of a family support magistrate whose term was about to expire. Under the act, the council must instead submit, to both the governor and the Judiciary Committee, its recommendations on the governor's nomination for reappointment of such a family support magistrate.

The council must also provide information to the committee on any complaint filed against a family support magistrate and the investigation and disposition of the complaint, including any confidential information, in the same way it already provides this information for the reappointment of judges to the governor, the committee, and the Judicial Selection Commission.

BACKGROUND

Family Support Magistrates

By law, a family support magistrate must be experienced in family law and have practiced law for five years before appointment. A family support magistrate must devote full time to his or her duties as a magistrate and cannot engage in the private practice of law (CGS 46b-231(f)).

OLR Tracking: MK; JO; VR; cmg