Wednesday, February 10, 2010

"sifting through haystacks of legislative history searching for the needle of legislative intent"

Alaska Supreme Court Chief Justice Walter Carpeneti gave the Annual State of the Judiciary Address to the Joint House and Senate at 11 am this morning.  He began by acknowledging the need for separation of powers, but today emphasized the importance of cooperation and collaboration.  

This is well worth listening to and today I figured out how to embed Gavel to Gavel video. [Turns out to just be audio.]

Basically he said:

  • We're set up to have separation of powers and that's important  but  today he's going to focus on our interrelationships though
  • Introduced Supreme Court Colleagues
  • Reasons why the court sometimes seems aloof
    • required by law not to talk about cases
    • must be impartial, not influenced by public opinion, political pressure 
  • Gave examples of Court System Collaborating with other branches
    • Criminal Justice Working group - with members including Commissioners and court employees, meet 8 times a year to resolve minor problems that balloon into much bigger and more expensive problems.  
      • One example:  Not enough space for attorneys to talk to clients, so the attorneys began calling for hearings just so they could talk to their clients, but that triggered very expensive response to set up the often unnecessary hearings
      • Two example:  Working on astounding 66% recidivism rate
        • Judicial Council and ISER research project to reduce the  - first couple of days out of prison the highest risk.  
        • Alaska offender reentry task force. 
    • Court system reaching out to schools 
      • holding oral arguments at high schools 
      • youth court support
      • work with teachers
    • Color of Justice program 
    • Mini Lunch seminars with legislators
  • Recognizing the Alaska Judicial Council 
    • evaluates applications for judicial office
    • Evaluates judges standing for retention
    • Volunteers do enormous work and make ours "one of the finest and most professional court system in the world"
  • The numbers 
    • Court is 1% of the State Budget - 800 employees  44 locations
    • Compare to US Supreme Court
      • US -  9 justices,  77 opinions per year  or @ 8/judge
      • AK Supreme Court - 5 justices, 110 opinions or @ 22/judge
      • AK Appeals  - 3 justices, 65  opinions or @ 22/judge
    • Trial courts
      • Alaska Superior Court:  500 cases per judge per year
      • Federal District Court:   200 cases per judge per year
  • The Odds
    • Here he looked at Alaska's tiny 700,000 population within a country of over 300 million, yet five national justice related organizations are headed by Alaskans this year - what are the odds that would happen?
      • National Association of Women's Judges - Dana Fabe
      • National Appellate Court Clerks - Marilyn May
      • National Conference of State Court Administrators - Stephanie Cole
      • National Association of Law Librarians - Catherine Lemann
      • Chair of the National Center for State Courts’ Consortium for Language Access to Courts - Brenda Aiken.
 As I was trying to verify the names on that final list, I discovered the text of his speech is at the Alaska Supreme Court Site.

[Pictures of Justices standing for the introductions:  1.  Stowers; 2. Christen;  3. Winfree;  4. Fabe]

[Update:  I forgot to connect to the haystack reference.  It's in Chief Justice Carpeneti's speech:

These mini law seminars will address topics identified by you as particularly helpful to your work crafting the laws of our state. It is our hope that they will also help members of the judiciary learn more about the legislative process — a process that can seem as mysterious to us as the legal process must sometimes seem to you. As someone who has spent many hours of my judicial career sifting through haystacks of legislative history searching for the needle of legislative intent, I very much look forward to these sessions and am confident that they will be mutually beneficial.]

1 comment:

  1. Read your notes and listened to 20 minutes of Alaska SC Chief Justice Carpeneti's address. Replying to his early comments on foundation issues, we often see the world through our culture. It's fascinating to read the commentary on 'separation of powers' here in the UK and the rest of Europe. Let's just say they are not entirely persuaded to the US system.

    Responding to another comment of Chief Justice Carpeneti, it is my experience and reading that the US court system has not and does not work outside politics, nor the economics of its day.

    Going back to governance, the parliamentary governmental system, with its residual taint of aristocracy, vests sovereignty in parliament alone and it works more-or-less as well or badly as the US system. So is one system better than the other today? As you know, Steve, that requires a complex review, although I can say that my childhood American civics has come into reflective conflict.

    In my defense (to American readers), I'm not (nor intend to be) a monarchist. I remain, as they say on this side of the pond, a solid republican...even as I pray HRH leave to become her subject in two more years.

    And so more ancient regimes continue. Cheers!


Comments will be reviewed, not for content (except ads), but for style. Comments with personal insults, rambling tirades, and significant repetition will be deleted. Ads disguised as comments, unless closely related to the post and of value to readers (my call) will be deleted. Click here to learn to put links in your comment.