Busy Legislative Session Yields Changes for Judiciary

The 2012 Georgia General Assembly met from January 9 to March 29.  Each year, the AOC monitors legislation affecting the Georgia judiciary.   Below is a sampling of legislation that passed.   A full report on this year’s enacted legislation can be found at http://bit.ly/K0e9Ec.
 
HB 1176 Criminal Justice Reform Act
• Requires the Judicial Council to establish standards and practices for drug and mental health courts; requires the Judicial Council to certify that courts are following these standards and practices in order for the courts to be eligible to receive state funds, unless the Judicial Council grants a waiver for good cause (15-1-15).

Also, requires the Judicial Council to conduct peer reviews of drug court divisions on a periodic basis; requires the Administrative Office of the Courts to maintain an electronic information system capable of aggregating drug court data.
• Raises felony thresholds in property crimes.
• Makes changes to appeals, criminal procedures, mandatory reporting, record restrictions, and penal institutions.
 
HB 100 creates the Georgia Tax Tribunal as an independent and autonomous division within the Office of State Administrative Hearings.
 
SB 356 adds additional judgeships for the Bell-Forsyth and the Piedmont circuits; also includes a provision for the election of the chief judge of the Gwinnett Judicial Circuit.
 
Other pertinent legislation:
 
State Courts
SB 236 allows a judge to issue a limited driving permit to a participant in a Drug/DUI Court program after a 120 day suspension period.
 
Probate Courts
HB 534 reduces the population threshold for a Title 6 Probate Court from 96,000 to 90,000.
 
HB 850 allows a judge to require national criminal background checks for persons seeking to become a guardian or conservator. Effective 4/16/12.
 
Municipal Courts
SB 351 requires all judges exercising municipal court jurisdiction to complete mandatory training within one year after the date of his or her election or appointment.
 
SB 352 authorizes municipal courts and courts exercising municipal court jurisdiction to create the office of prosecuting attorney of the municipal court.

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