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Public Statements

DC Courts and Public Defender Service Act of 2011

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC


Ms. NORTON. Mr. Speaker, I yield myself such time as I may consume, and I thank the gentleman from Utah for his kind remarks.

(Ms. NORTON asked and was given permission to revise and extend her remarks.)

Ms. NORTON. I rise today in strong support of the D.C. Courts and Public Defender Service Act of 2011. I would like to thank Senator Joe Lieberman, the chair of the Senate Homeland Security Committee, which has jurisdiction over the District of Columbia, and particularly Senator Daniel Akaka, the chair of the Senate Subcommittee on Oversight and Government Management and the Senate sponsor of the bill, the Federal Workforce and the District of Columbia for ushering the bill through subcommittee and committee and getting it passed by voice vote.

Both Senators Lieberman and Akaka are retiring this year. They each will leave rich legacies of accomplishment to the Nation, and both Senator Lieberman and Senator Akaka have always been good friends of the District of Columbia. They will be very much missed in both Chambers by all of us, I know, but particularly by the residents of the District of Columbia.

S. 1379 is an important bill for the administration of justice in the District of Columbia. It will allow the chief judge of the superior court or the court of appeals to delay judicial proceedings in the event of a natural disaster, terrorist attack, or other emergency. It is clear that the Nation's capital is at risk to such emergencies. Most recently, Hurricane Sandy, the unprecedented storm that devastated the east coast, and was expected to hit the District much harder than what actually occurred.

S. 1379 also allows the chief judge of the court of appeals to hold judicial conferences biennially rather than annually as required by current law.

This option is common sense, considering the increase in the use of electronic communication today and the significant cost savings involved.

The bill also allows the D.C. courts to enter into reimbursable agreements with the D.C. government for equipment, supplies, and other services, a measure to assure that reimbursement costs do not come from congressional appropriations.

The bill reduces the term of service, from 5 to 3 years, required of judges of the family court division of the superior court, a policy aimed at easing recruitment of able judges to the family court division.

In addition, the bill authorizes the Public Defender Service for the District of Columbia, a federally funded government agency, to purchase professional liability insurance for its attorneys, staff, and board members, which is, of course, indispensable to all who practice law today.

Mr. Speaker, I urge my colleagues to join me in supporting this bill.

I want to thank the gentleman from Utah for his work on this bill, and I particularly want to thank the chairman of the full committee, Mr. Issa, who went to great lengths to make sure that this bill, in fact, made the agenda of the Congress and who has been so important to understanding and making sure that particularly minor D.C. bills like this received quick treatment and, I must say, in addition to his work on very important bills for the District of Columbia that are still in progress like our budget autonomy bill.

With that, Mr. Speaker, I have no further speakers, and I yield back the balance of my time.


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