Legislature(1995 - 1996)

03/18/1995 10:05 AM STA

Audio Topic
* first hearing in first committee of referral
+ teleconferenced
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
txt
 HSTA - 03/18/95                                                               
 HB 201 - PRISONER LITIGATION AND APPEALS                                    
                                                                               
 LAURIE OTTO, Deputy Attorney General, Criminal Division,                      
 Department of Law, presented HB 201.  She explained the Criminal              
 Division, under her supervision, is comprised of District                     
 Attorney's Offices, the Department of Public Safety, and the                  
 Department of Corrections.  When Governor Knowles took office he              
 instructed her to find areas where she could cut back, and she                
 realized the area of corrections' litigations had seen a 20                   
 percent increase every year for the past 6 years.  In looking at              
 what other states had done, she discovered this has been a                    
 growing problem nationwide, with bored prisoners filing                       
 recreational litigation.  She added if "you or I" file a civil                
 suit, we pay filing fees and are at financial risk, whereas a                 
 prisoner is indigent, pays no filing fees, and is at no financial             
 risk.  Other states, New York being the first, have imposed                   
 minimal filing fees on prisoners, even if they are indigent.  New             
 York saw a 50 percent decrease in the number of cases filed.                  
 This is the first focus of HB 201.  It imposes a filing fee of 20             
 percent of the 6-month average monthly balance in a prisoner's                
 inmate account, thus creating a financial stake on the part of                
 the person filing a lawsuit.  She added HB 201 also requires a                
 signed statement that the suit is not malicious or frivolous or               
 brought in bad faith.                                                         
                                                                               
 Number 686                                                                    
                                                                               
 MS. OTTO continued, the second focus of HB 201 is to put some                 
 finality in judgments in criminal cases by stating requests for               
 post-conviction relief must be filed within two years of the date             
 of conviction or within one year after the conclusion of an                   
 appeal, and by placing a limit on the number of relief                        
 applications which can be filed in state court.  Throughout the               
 bill, she said, they have tried to balance prisoners' rights of               
 access to the courts in cases of legitimate need while getting                
 the state out from under the burden of having to respond to                   
 excessive petitions.                                                          
                                                                               
 MS. OTTO concluded that third, the bill puts a limit on sentence              
 appeals filed by prisoners, aiming at appeals the courts do not               
 usually accept, but which "clog up the system and cost a lot of               
 money."                                                                       
                                                                               
 TAPE 95-30, SIDE A                                                            
 Number 000                                                                    
                                                                               
 MS. OTTO added if a prisoner tries to withdraw a plea before                  
 sentence, it is treated the same as in current law.  If a                     
 prisoner tries to withdraw a plea after sentencing, it is moved               
 into the time limits just outlined in the section on                          
 post-conviction relief applications.                                          
                                                                               
 Number 036                                                                    
                                                                               
 REPRESENTATIVE GREEN commented it sounded like a good bill, and               
 asked if a person convicted for 20 years could not request                    
 reduction of sentence.                                                        
                                                                               
 MS. OTTO replied if a person makes an agreement with the state to             
 plead guilty with the understanding the sentence cannot exceed 20             
 years, that person cannot file an appeal to have the sentence                 
 reduced to less than 20 years.                                                
                                                                               
 Number 084                                                                    
                                                                               
 REPRESENTATIVE GREEN made a motion to move HB 201 from committee              
 with individual recommendations and zero fiscal notes.  Hearing               
 no objection, the bill passed out of committee.                               
                                                                               

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