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The Plotkin Analysis: judicial substitution in criminal cases; right to refuse probation; access to juvenile records; hearsay at preliminary hearings

I will periodically include a brief description of pending legislation that affects the State Public Defender’s practice.  With the Legislature’s regular session having ended on March 16, I wanted to summarize a couple of bills that either passed in the closing days of session, or bills that failed to pass.

One bill failing to pass was Senate Bill 74/Assembly Bill 109.  As originally drafted, this legislation would have eliminated judicial substitution in criminal cases.  Two different amendments were offered that would have preserved judicial substitution but in one case would have required a non-specific reason for the request and in the other would have required a statutorily prescribed reason.  The Senate amendment was not approved by the Assembly and vice versa.

 Also not receiving concurrence was Assembly Bill 284 which would have eliminated the right to refuse probation at sentencing.  We have offered to coordinate a meeting of criminal justice system participants from the bill author’s home county to talk about the best approach to the underlying issues the bill was trying to address.

 After significant input from the SPD and others, Senate Bill 173 received an affirmative vote from the Legislature and is on its way to the Governor for his signature.  In the final version, SB 173 provides limited access to limited types of juvenile records.  The access it provides is also given to SPD staff.

 In hour 30 of the 33 straight hours of debate in the Assembly before adjournment, final concurrence was given to Senate Bill 399, which allows for the use of hearsay at preliminary hearings.  Following the opposition that the SPD expressed during the legislative process, we will now request that the Governor veto the bill.

 All told, there are nearly 20 bills pending signature or veto by the Governor that would directly affect SPD clients or our mission.  As they are signed, I will be sure to provide updates.

 The responses all session from SPD staff on the real world implications of introduced legislation have been invaluable in providing information to the Legislature.  Thank you!

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