The Office of Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC) today announced that the House passed by voice vote her D.C. Courts and Public Defender Service Act (S.1379) and is expected to get the President's signature. The non-controversial but important bill passed the Senate in July, where it was sponsored by Sen. Daniel Akaka (D-HI). It passed the House by voice vote in 2010, so Congresswoman Norton asked Chairman Darrell Issa (R-CA) to forgo committee mark-up and expedite the bill's path to the House floor this time. On the floor today, she said she particularly appreciated Chairman Issa's effort, who moved even before super storm Sandy highlighted the importance of the bill. The section that could have been affected by the storm, which barely missed the District, authorizes certain judges to delay court proceedings, without penalty, in the event of a natural disaster, terrorist attack, or other emergency, and allows judicial conferences to be held biennially or annually, mirroring an authority already granted to Federal courts. The bill also clears the path for the federally funded Public Defender Service for the District to purchase professional liability insurance for its attorneys, staff, and board members, a necessity for the practice of law, and it reduces the required term of service for judges in the Superior Court's Family Court Division from five years to three, easing efforts to recruit able judges.
"Super storm Sandy shows us what an impact disasters, both natural and man-made, can have on a community and is a prime example of why my D.C. Courts and Public Defender Service Act is essential," Norton said. "My thanks to Rep. Darrell Issa, Chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform committee, for his leadership in seeing to it that this bill got to the House floor during the lame duck session, and to Senator Daniel Akaka, the bill's Senate sponsor."