S. 1379: D.C. Courts and Public Defender Service Act of 2011

S. 1379

D.C. Courts and Public Defender Service Act of 2011

Date
December 12, 2012 (112th Congress, 2nd Session)

Staff Contact
Sarah Makin

Floor Situation

On Wednesday, December 12, 2012, the House is scheduled to consider S. 1379, the D.C. Courts and Public Defender Service Act of 2011, under a suspension of the rules requiring a two-thirds majority vote for passage. The bill was introduced by Sen. Daniel Akaka (D-HI) on June 18, 2012, and referred to the Committee on Oversight and Government Reform.  On July 9, 2012, the bill passed in the Senate, with an amendment, by voice vote.

Bill Summary

The bill would amend certain administrative authorities of the District of Columbia courts, and authorize the District of Columbia Public Defender Service to provide professional liability insurance its employees.

The bill would grant the District of Columbia (DC) Courts and Public Defender Service (PDS) administrative flexibility in several areas.  The bill would authorize the DC Superior Court and Court of Appeals to hold judicial conferences either annually or biennially, eliminating the current mandate that they always hold such conferences every year; requires magistrate judges to attend these judicial conferences; authorizes the DC Courts to toll or delay judicial deadlines in certain emergency situations such as natural disasters; and allows the DC Courts to be reimbursed by the DC Government for certain office expenses.  It would also give the DC PDS authority to purchase liability insurance for its attorneys and changes the term for Family Court judges from five years to three years.

Background

According to Senate Report 178, this legislation would grant the District of Columbia (DC) Courts and Public Defender Service (PDS) greater administrative flexibility in several discrete areas. The bill authorizes the DC Superior Court and Court of Appeals to hold judicial conferences either annually or biennially, eliminating the current mandate that they always hold such conferences every year; requires magistrate judges to attend these judicial conferences; authorizes the DC Courts to toll or delay judicial deadlines in certain emergency situations such as natural disasters; and allows the DC Courts to be reimbursed by the DC Government for certain office expenses. It also gives the DC PDS authority to purchase liability insurance for its attorneys and changes the term for Family Court judges from five years to three years.

Cost

S. 1379 would change the District of Columbia Official Code that governs the D.C. Courts system and the office of the public defender.  Based on information provided by the court system, CBO estimates that the proposed changes would not have a significant effect on the federal budget.  Enacting the bill would not affect direct spending or revenues; therefore, pay-as-you-go procedures do not apply.

Under current law, the budget of the D.C. Courts system, including the Public Defender Service, is funded by federal appropriations, and its expenditures are recorded on the federal budget.  Among other changes, the bill would authorize the D.C. Courts to accept reimbursement from the District of Columbia government for certain equipment, services, and supplies.  Such reimbursements would be credited to the appropriation for the D.C. Courts system, and CBO estimates that any net effect on the federal budget would be negligible.