Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC) said she believes that Senate passage of her D.C. Courts and Public Defender Service Act is the boost she needs to get the House to pass this non-controversial but important piece of legislation quickly. Norton got the bill through the House in 2010 by voice vote, and she will seek its quick passage in the House. The bill, introduced by Senator Daniel Akaka (D-HI), chairman of the Subcommittee on Oversight of Government Management, the Federal Workforce, and the District of Columbia, allows judicial conferences to be held biennially or annually, mirroring an authority already granted to Federal courts. The bill also authorizes certain judges to delay court proceedings, without penalty, in the event of a terrorist attack, natural disaster, or other emergency, and it reduces the required term of service for judges in the Superior Court's Family Court Division from five years to three, thereby easing the effort to recruit judges. It also clears the way for the federally funded Public Defender Service for the District to purchase professional liability insurance for its attorneys, staff, and board members.
"I am pleased that the Senate passed my bill to give the D.C. courts and the Public Defender Service the tools they need to better serve District residents," Senator Akaka stated. "I am confident that my friend, Representative Norton, will fight for its final passage in the House."
"The D.C. Courts and Public Defender Service Act is as non-controversial as it is vital to the law enforcement community of the District," Norton said. "The bill provides D.C. courts with the flexibility and cost savings other federal courts already have, eases the process of recruiting Family Court Division judges, and shields public defender lawyers from personal liability. I am relieved that some of the serious consequences the bill seeks to avoid have not yet arisen but we should avoid further unnecessary risks to the city's judicial system."