Quick Legislative Session

The 2014 Georgia General Assembly met from January 13 to March 20.  Each year, the AOC monitors legislation affecting the Georgia judiciary.  Below is a sampling of legislation that passed.   The Governor has 40 days to sign or veto legislation. A full report on this year’s enacted legislation, will be published at http://w2.georgiacourts.gov/enactedlegislation/
 
Several Judicial Council-supported bills passed and are awaiting the Governor’s signature.
 
altHB 438 (Court referred alternative dispute resolution programs) increases sums for alternative dispute resolution programs from $7.50 to $10.00 in addition to other legal costs at the courts discretion.
 
HB 742 (Judgeships) creates one additional judgeship each for the Coweta and Waycross Judicial Circuits.
 
HB 1000 (Tax Intercept) establishes a process by which delinquent court fines and fees can be deducted from the debtor’s state income tax refund;  allows courts to submit unpaid fine and fee data for debts greater than $25.00 to the Administrative Office of the Courts. The AOC may then consolidate the unpaid debt information and submit it to the Georgia Department of Revenue, which will deduct the unpaid fine/fees from state income tax refunds. The Department will send the deducted funds to the AOC for distribution to the requesting court.
 
Two bills supported by the Judicial Council did not pass.
 
SB 332 which would have increased the contempt penalty magistrate court judges can impose and SB 345 which would have changed provisions for a technology fee to be collected under certain circumstances did not pass out of the Senate.
 
Other pertinent legislation:
 
Private Probation
 
HB 837 authorizes judges to use county and municipal probation services providers to supervise misdemeanor and county and city ordinance offenders in the same manner as the judges of the superior courts use state probation services as a way to supervise felony offenders.
 
The bill also removes “county or municipal court” in relation to jurisdiction of probation matters as well as adding a list of terms and conditions for probation that the probationer shall follow including avoiding injurious and vicious habits, remaining in a specified location, and wear a device capable of tracking the location of the probationer. HB 837 allows judges to toll warrants when all efforts have been exhausted to find a running probationer while adding to the Code section an effective date for the tolling of the sentence and discussing related fines and time already served on probation.
 
Juries
HB 776 (Jury List) - amends Title 15, Code Sections 21-2-231, 31-2A-4, 35-3-33, and 40-5-2, and Title 42 of the O.C.G.A., relating to courts, lists of persons convicted of felonies, persons identified as noncitizens, persons declared mentally incompetent, and deceased persons; clarify information to be provided in order to compile state-wide master jury lists and county master jury lists; to change provisions relating to the eligibility of persons to serve on a jury; to repeal conflicting laws; abolishes jury commissioners.
 
HB 1078 (Juries, grand juries) clarifies the type of jury and juror by inserting the words “trial or grand.” It also requires the presiding judge consult with the district attorney before choosing a sufficient number of persons to serve as grand
jurors. It permits the presiding judge and the district attorney to examine prospective grand jurors as to their qualifications to serve prior to empaneling, swearing, and charging the grand jury.
 
Accountability Courts
SB 320 (Veterans courts) allows for the creation of veterans courts as a subset of accountability courts.

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