JQC disclosure bill finds new life

first_img March 15, 2002 Assistant Editor Regular News JQC disclosure bill finds new life Amy K. Brown Assistant EditorAfter voting down a bill to make all complaints against judges public, the House Judicial Oversight Committee returned less than a week later and unanimously passed the bill — with an amendment specifying that Judicial Qualification Commission files will become public only after the commission determines whether to file charges.The proposed committee bill was filed as HB 1981 and has been placed on the calendar for consideration by the full House. Because the measure would amend the constitution, the bill must travel through both houses, then come before voters on the November 2002 ballot before becoming law.As this News went to press, the Senate Judiciary Committee amended SJR 162 to include language identical to the House resolution. The original provisions of SJR 162, which allowed for direct gubernatorial appointment of all appellate judges with Senate confirmation and then set terms limits of 16 years for the Supreme Court, was struck.The revamped bill passed 5-1, with Sen. Skip Campbell, D-Tamarac, voting against it.As in the previous House committee meeting, JQC chair and First District Court of Appeal Judge Jim Wolf argued against the provision.“The damage you are doing to the process is unimaginable,” Wolf said. He added that the proposed amendment still does not protect the identities of those who file the complaints.“The complaining witnesses against lawyers are clients who will probably never have to see that lawyer again,” he told the committee. “The complaining witnesses we get are lawyers. . . colleagues of that judge, court personnel who have to sit in the courtroom of that judge.”According to committee Chair Larry Crow, R-Palm Harbor, the amendment will “open proceedings upon findings of no probable cause,” but allows the legislature to create a public records exemption to prevent the release of information about the initial complainant or intimate details of the case.The amendment also provides for a legislative re-examination of the issue during the next session.Rep. Jack Seiler, D-Ft. Lauderdale, said he felt comfortable opening up JQC files “after the fact,” and added, “Perhaps it will better the public’s perception.”But Wolf argued the bill is not the safest solution and suggested the committee include compromise language in the bill to publicize only a summary of the JQC files with names of complainants and witnesses removed.Crow answered, “All of the concerns of Judge Wolf can be addressed in the next legislative session.”center_img JQC disclosure bill finds new lifelast_img

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *