Legislature(2005 - 2006)BUTROVICH 205

02/08/2006 08:30 AM JUDICIARY

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                    ALASKA STATE LEGISLATURE                                                                                  
              SENATE JUDICIARY STANDING COMMITTEE                                                                             
                        February 8, 2006                                                                                        
                           8:48 a.m.                                                                                            
MEMBERS PRESENT                                                                                                               
Senator Ralph Seekins, Chair                                                                                                    
Senator Charlie Huggins, Vice Chair                                                                                             
Senator Gene Therriault                                                                                                         
Senator Hollis French                                                                                                           
Senator Gretchen Guess                                                                                                          
MEMBERS ABSENT                                                                                                                
All members present                                                                                                             
COMMITTEE CALENDAR                                                                                                            
SENATE BILL NO. 10                                                                                                              
"An  Act relating  to liability  for destruction  of property  by                                                               
unemancipated minors; and providing for an effective date."                                                                     
     HEARD AND HELD                                                                                                             
SENATE BILL NO. 237                                                                                                             
"An  Act   increasing  the  number   of  superior   court  judges                                                               
designated   for  the   third  judicial   district,  to   provide                                                               
additional  superior  court  judges  at  Anchorage,  Palmer,  and                                                               
Kenai; and providing for an effective date."                                                                                    
     HEARD AND HELD                                                                                                             
CS FOR HOUSE BILL NO. 41(FIN)                                                                                                   
"An  Act relating  to  minimum periods  of  imprisonment for  the                                                               
crime  of  assault in  the  fourth  degree committed  against  an                                                               
employee of  an elementary, junior  high, or secondary  school or                                                               
certain contractors of  school districts who were  engaged in the                                                               
performance of school duties at the time of the assault."                                                                       
     SCHEDULED BUT NOT HEARD                                                                                                    
PREVIOUS COMMITTEE ACTION                                                                                                     
BILL: SB 10                                                                                                                   
SHORT TITLE: PARENTAL LIABILITY FOR CHILD'S DAMAGE                                                                              
SPONSOR(s): SENATOR(s) GUESS, DYSON                                                                                             
01/11/05       (S)       PREFILE RELEASED 12/30/04                                                                              
01/11/05       (S)       READ THE FIRST TIME - REFERRALS                                                                        
01/11/05       (S)       HES, JUD                                                                                               
01/19/05       (H)       HES AT 1:30 PM SENATE FINANCE 532                                                                      
01/19/05       (S)       Heard & Held                                                                                           
01/19/05       (S)       MINUTE(HES)                                                                                            
01/26/05       (S)       HES AT 1:30 PM BUTROVICH 205                                                                           
01/26/05       (S)       -- Meeting Canceled --                                                                                 
04/04/05       (S)       HES AT 1:30 PM BUTROVICH 205                                                                           
04/04/05       (S)       Heard & Held                                                                                           
04/04/05       (S)       MINUTE(HES)                                                                                            
04/06/05       (S)       HES AT 1:30 PM BUTROVICH 205                                                                           
04/06/05       (S)       Scheduled But Not Heard                                                                                
04/11/05       (S)       HES AT 1:45 PM BUTROVICH 205                                                                           
04/11/05       (S)       Moved CSSB  10(HES) Out of Committee                                                                   
04/11/05       (S)       MINUTE(HES)                                                                                            
04/12/05       (S)       HES RPT CS FORTHCOMING 2DP 3NR                                                                         
04/12/05       (S)       DP: DYSON, OLSON                                                                                       
04/12/05       (S)       NR: WILKEN, ELTON, GREEN                                                                             
04/13/05       (S)       HES CS  RECEIVED NEW TITLE                                                                             
01/19/06       (S)       JUD AT 8:30 AM BUTROVICH 205                                                                           
01/19/06       (S)       Scheduled But Not Heard                                                                                
01/24/06       (S)       JUD AT 8:30 AM BUTROVICH 205                                                                           
01/24/06       (S)       Scheduled But Not Heard                                                                                
01/25/06       (S)       JUD AT 8:30 AM BUTROVICH 205                                                                           
01/25/06       (S)       Heard & Held                                                                                           
01/25/06       (S)       MINUTE(JUD)                                                                                            
02/01/06       (S)       JUD AT 8:30 AM BUTROVICH 205                                                                           
02/01/06       (S)       Heard & Held                                                                                           
02/01/06       (S)       MINUTE(JUD)                                                                                            
02/08/06       (S)       JUD AT 8:30 AM BUTROVICH 205                                                                         
BILL: SB 237                                                                                                                  
SHORT TITLE: ADDITIONAL JUDGES FOR THIRD DISTRICT                                                                               
SPONSOR(s): RULES BY REQUEST OF THE GOVERNOR                                                                                    
01/13/06       (S)       READ THE FIRST TIME - REFERRALS                                                                        
01/13/06       (S)       JUD, FIN                                                                                               
01/31/06       (S)       JUD AT 9:30 AM BUTROVICH 205                                                                           
01/31/06       (S)       <Bill Hearing Postponed>                                                                               
02/08/06       (S)       JUD AT 8:30 AM BUTROVICH 205                                                                         
WITNESS REGISTER                                                                                                              
Senator Gretchen Guess                                                                                                          
Alaska State Capitol                                                                                                            
Juneau, AK  99801-1182                                                                                                          
POSITION STATEMENT:  Sponsor of SB 10                                                                                         
Gail Voitlander, Chief Assistant Attorney General                                                                               
Tort's and Worker's Compensation Section                                                                                        
Department of Law                                                                                                               
PO Box 110300                                                                                                                   
Juneau, AK  99811-0300                                                                                                          
POSITION STATEMENT:  Commented on SB 10                                                                                       
Tony Newman, Program Officer                                                                                                    
Department of Juvenile Justice                                                                                                  
Department of Health & Social Services                                                                                          
PO Box 110601                                                                                                                   
Juneau, AK  99801-0601                                                                                                          
POSITION STATEMENT:  Commented on SB 10                                                                                       
Anne Carpeneti, Assistant Attorney General                                                                                      
Department of Law                                                                                                               
PO Box 110300                                                                                                                   
Juneau, AK  99811-0300                                                                                                          
POSITION STATEMENT:  Commented on SB 10                                                                                       
Brad Thompson, Director                                                                                                         
Division of Risk Management                                                                                                     
Department of Administration                                                                                                    
PO Box 110200                                                                                                                   
Juneau, AK  99811-0200                                                                                                          
POSITION STATEMENT:  Commented on SB 10                                                                                       
Susan Parkes, Deputy Attorney General                                                                                           
Department of Law                                                                                                               
PO Box 110300                                                                                                                   
Juneau, AK  99811-0300                                                                                                          
POSITION STATEMENT:  Introduced SB 237                                                                                        
Chris Christianson, Deputy Administrative Director                                                                              
Alaska Court System                                                                                                             
303 K St.                                                                                                                       
Anchorage, AK  99501-2084                                                                                                       
POSITION STATEMENT:  Commented on SB 237                                                                                      
ACTION NARRATIVE                                                                                                              
CHAIR  RALPH   SEEKINS  called  the  Senate   Judiciary  Standing                                                             
Committee meeting to  order at 8:48:03 AM.  Present were Senators                                                             
Hollis French,  Charlie Huggins, Gretchen Guess,  and Chair Ralph                                                               
          SB 10-PARENTAL LIABILITY FOR CHILD'S DAMAGE                                                                       
[At  the  beginning  of  this meeting  of  the  Senate  Judiciary                                                               
Standing Committee,  the computer running the  recording software                                                               
suddenly rebooted. This  caused the recording of  the first seven                                                               
minutes of  the meeting  to be  lost. A  backup recording  can be                                                               
found  by  following the  link  provided  below. The  minutes  do                                                               
reflect the meeting in its entirety.]                                                                                           
CHAIR RALPH SEEKINS announced SB 10 to be up for consideration.                                                                 
SENATOR  GRETCHEN GUESS,  sponsor,  moved to  adopt CSSB  10(JUD)                                                               
version \O as the working  document before the committee. Hearing                                                               
no objections, the motion carried.  She said during the last bill                                                               
hearing the committee made the  decision to hold the state liable                                                               
in the  same manner  the bill  holds parents  liable for  acts of                                                               
vandalism committed by their children.  The key problem phrase is                                                               
"state's custody," which has brought  about some concern from the                                                               
Department of Law. She said her  intent was that the state should                                                               
be held  liable only once  parental rights have  been terminated.                                                               
She  advised  the  committee that  she  brought  three  different                                                               
amendments for  members to consider  and would introduce  them at                                                               
the proper time.                                                                                                                
Senator Gene Therriault joined the committee.                                                                                   
ANNE  CARPENETI, Assistant  Attorney General,  Department of  Law                                                               
(DOL), advised the  committee that the State of  Alaska does have                                                               
concerns regarding SB 10, which  would hold the state responsible                                                               
for  children in  its custody  in  the same  manner that  parents                                                               
would  be held  responsible for  children in  their custody.  She                                                               
explained that the state is not  in the same position as a parent                                                               
since the state  takes custody of children  who commit delinquent                                                               
acts  and  also  children  who have  suffered  long-term  abusive                                                               
The state  takes custody of  children due to many  instances and,                                                               
she  maintained, these  children are  in  no way  similar to  the                                                               
average child  who is  under parental  care. The  state generally                                                               
focuses on putting  children in the least  restrictive setting in                                                               
order to help them recover from  whatever has brought them to the                                                               
state's custody. The concern is that  if the state is held liable                                                               
for acts of  the children somewhere somebody will  be thinking in                                                               
terms of liability.                                                                                                             
TONY  NEWMAN,  Program  Officer,  Division  of  Juvenile  Justice                                                               
(DJJ), said the  impact of the state's liability  would be mostly                                                               
of personal liability, which is  an issue with the torts section.                                                               
He offered to answer questions.                                                                                                 
8:48:21 AM                                                                                                                    
GAIL  VOITLANDER, Chief  Assistant  Attorney  General, Torts  and                                                               
Worker's Compensation Section, Civil  Division, Department of Law                                                               
(DOL), advised  the committee the  division has  serious concerns                                                               
about the  scope of liability that  SB 10 would impose  under the                                                               
sponsor's current and proposed amendments. She said:                                                                            
     The  policy   conflict  has   to  deal   with  statutes                                                                    
     affecting  children who  are adjudicated  delinquent as                                                                    
     well as  those having  to do with  children in  need of                                                                    
     aide. The law is looking  toward placement in the least                                                                    
     restrictive setting in  order to further rehabilitation                                                                    
     for those  who are adjudicated delinquents  and to help                                                                    
     best rehabilitate children who are  in need of aide who                                                                    
     have been  removed from oftentimes  incredibly damaging                                                                    
     atmospheres at home.                                                                                                       
MS. VOITLANDER  continued the term  "state's custody"  includes a                                                               
number of  situations, such as  children who have  been initially                                                               
removed  from  their  home  under  federal law  and  have  to  be                                                               
returned  to the  home under  a trial  setting with  supervision.                                                               
Although they are  in state's custody, they are also  in the day-                                                               
to-day custody  of the parents. They  may also be in  the custody                                                               
of relatives  or in  foster care, both  of which  are technically                                                               
under state's  custody. They  may be children  in group  homes or                                                               
private institutions or in a  state facility. The term includes a                                                               
wide variety of situations.                                                                                                     
There  are  approximately  2,500 children  currently  in  state's                                                               
custody. As  currently written, the  bill would expose  the state                                                               
to potential liability up to  $15,000 in property damage for each                                                               
of the 2,500 children.                                                                                                          
8:52:02 AM                                                                                                                    
In  addition  to the  state  responding  directly to  third-party                                                               
claims,  the  potential  amendment  labeled  24-LS0115\O.1  would                                                               
allow the following  situation: There could be  payments that are                                                               
made by insurance companies on  behalf of the insured parents who                                                               
then would  attempt to recoup  the monies  that they paid  on the                                                               
homeowner's  policy  from  the  state.  The  potential  amendment                                                               
labeled 24-LS0115\O.2 would  affect up to 250  children and would                                                               
still  create issues  of insurers  seeking to  recoup the  monies                                                               
they have paid from the state.                                                                                                  
The potential  amendment labeled  24-LS0115\O.3 would  remove the                                                               
amendment imposed  on the bill the  week prior and take  the bill                                                               
back  to status  quo  in terms  of the  state,  which means  that                                                               
victims of  property damage  look to  the children,  the parents,                                                               
and their insurance for compensation.                                                                                           
8:55:46 AM                                                                                                                    
The  fiscal  impact  to  the  state,  even  with  a  conservative                                                               
estimate  that only  five to  ten percent  of the  children would                                                               
generate a  claim, would still  mean very serious money  that the                                                               
state  would be  liable for.  Concerns over  the previous  fiscal                                                               
note submitted  by the DOL have  been addressed and the  note was                                                               
corrected. The previous fiscal note  was operating on the premise                                                               
that the state was being  made liable for restitution in juvenile                                                               
adjudication   cases  for   crimes  against   persons  and   that                                                               
conflicted with  certain state's  immunities and  put the  DOL in                                                               
conflict  situations. Since  that  was never  the  intent of  the                                                               
sponsor, the department submitted a replacement fiscal note.                                                                    
8:58:19 AM                                                                                                                    
MS. VOITLANDER offered to answer questions.                                                                                     
SENATOR  GUESS  clarified in  the  case  of  a child  in  state's                                                               
custody  with parental  rights intact,  the  parents would  still                                                               
have liability. It  is not the case that if  parental rights have                                                               
been terminated that  the parents would have a  liability. In the                                                               
case   of  property   damage,  if   parental  rights   have  been                                                               
terminated, the  $15,000 cannot be  recouped from the  parents or                                                               
the juvenile for equal protection reasons.                                                                                      
The potential amendment labeled  24-LS0115\O.1 would clean up the                                                               
previous amendment  to the bill. The  potential amendment labeled                                                               
24-LS0115\O.2   reflects   the   state's   liability   but   only                                                               
termination of  parental rights. The potential  amendment labeled                                                               
24-LS0115\O.3 would remove all the state liability.                                                                             
SENATOR  GUESS  said those  are  the  three potential  amendments                                                               
before the committee  and she and Senator Dyson  trust the Senate                                                               
Judiciary Committee to make a good decision.                                                                                    
9:00:48 AM                                                                                                                    
CHAIR SEEKINS recognized that the  state prefers to put minors in                                                               
the  least restrictive  setting but  he questioned  the potential                                                               
impact to  society. Counselors  have suggested  that is  the best                                                               
way for the  child to head toward normalcy. On  the other hand, a                                                               
problematic  child  could  cause  considerable  damage  to  other                                                               
people or  property. He  said it  appears that in  the case  of a                                                               
runaway child  there would  be no responsibility  on the  part of                                                               
the parents.                                                                                                                    
9:02:47 AM                                                                                                                    
SENATOR GUESS  advised the committee  that the  runaway situation                                                               
was  language that  was worked  out four  years ago  with Senator                                                               
Dyson  in  the  Senate  Health,  Education  and  Social  Services                                                               
Standing Committee.  The bill sponsors  made the decision  not to                                                               
change it. It  was a policy call at that  time by the Legislature                                                               
to not hold parents liable for runaway children.                                                                                
MR. NEWMAN  said he thought  it would be constructive  to provide                                                               
the committee  with a  description of the  types of  damages that                                                               
occur for  children in state's  custody. In fiscal year  2005 the                                                               
Office   of   Children's  Services   (OCS)   and   the  DJJ   had                                                               
approximately 2,500 juveniles in  state's custody. Twenty-four of                                                               
those  children caused  approximately  $21,000  worth of  damages                                                               
while in state's  custody; $10,000 of which was  done in juvenile                                                               
facilities  and  $11,000 was  done  on  the  outside by  the  OCS                                                               
placement  kids.  Not  one  individual bit  of  damage  was  over                                                               
$5,000. Most of  them were in the hundreds of  dollars range. The                                                               
state typically  paid for the  damages and the youth  was brought                                                               
to court  and ordered  to pay the  restitution. In  addition, the                                                               
juveniles  are routinely  required  to work  off  the damages  in                                                               
community service.                                                                                                              
MR.  NEWMAN expressed  concern  over  the bill  and  said if  the                                                               
juvenile  were  held  responsible  for restitution  and  s/he  is                                                               
incarcerated,  it would  take longer  for the  restitution to  be                                                               
repaid overall.                                                                                                                 
9:06:22 AM                                                                                                                    
SENATOR GUESS  responded the  victim, in this  case the  State of                                                               
Alaska, would  always have the  ability to waive  restitution and                                                               
come up with an alternative plan.  Under SB 10, instead of having                                                               
the state  or the court make  that judgment, the victim  would be                                                               
allowed to  waive restitution. The  DJJ would not change  the way                                                               
it handles cases.                                                                                                               
MR. NEWMAN  wondered what  the process  would be  in the  case of                                                               
when the state is both the  victim and the prosecutor. He said it                                                               
would set up a conflict.                                                                                                        
9:07:39 AM                                                                                                                    
SENATOR FRENCH noted  Mr. Newman informed the  committee that one                                                               
percent  of the  children  in state's  custody  caused damage  in                                                               
fiscal year 2005 yet Ms.  Voitlander testified that the vandalism                                                               
rate was 10 percent. He asked Ms. Voitlander to respond.                                                                        
9:09:02 AM                                                                                                                    
MS. VOITLANDER responded  Mr. Newman was speaking  about one very                                                               
small  component  of  the  exposure  that SB  10  makes.  He  was                                                               
confining his  numbers to DJJ kids  in a youth facility  and only                                                               
the claims that are brought  informally by a foster parent. There                                                               
is  a  regulation  that  caps the  property  damage  that  foster                                                               
parents  can   request  at  $5,000  and   that  includes  several                                                               
limitations.  For  example  if the  homeowner  has  an  insurance                                                               
policy they  must file a  claim with them. Under  regulations the                                                               
homeowner  has  to  get  the property  damage  covered  by  their                                                               
Mr. Newman's numbers also do  not reflect third-party claims such                                                               
as claims by a school district  or a neighbor. His $21,000 number                                                               
is reflective  of the very narrow  group of those locked  down in                                                               
DJJ custody  and those in state  custody through OCS in  a foster                                                               
home where  the juvenile did  damage to  the foster home  and the                                                               
foster parent  has asked the state  to pay restitution up  to the                                                               
$5,000  regulation. The  difference  is that  exposure for  third                                                               
party  claims  would create  a  far  greater liability  than  Mr.                                                               
Newman's $21,000 number.                                                                                                        
9:12:43 AM                                                                                                                    
SENATOR  FRENCH asked  Ms. Voitlander  how she  came up  with her                                                               
vandalism  rate  estimate  for the  2,500  juveniles  in  state's                                                               
MS. VOITLANDER said  it was a conservative estimate  based on Ms.                                                               
Carpeneti's  previous testimony.  Juvenile delinquents  and child                                                               
in need of  aide (CINA) children tend to  have serious behavioral                                                               
SENATOR FRENCH  said he could  appreciate that they  were talking                                                               
about a population at risk  but he remained speculative about the                                                               
data that she was citing.                                                                                                       
MS. VOITLANDER  responded she was  making a rough  estimate based                                                               
on  familiarity  with  the  population   and  working  with  risk                                                               
9:15:34 AM                                                                                                                    
CHAIR SEEKINS  expressed concern over the  differing estimates of                                                               
potential liability  and said  he has  not previously  been aware                                                               
that there is as high a potential as Ms. Voitlander suggests.                                                                   
MS.  VOITLANDER responded  most of  the losses  are traditionally                                                               
covered  by insurance,  such  as car  insurance  when a  juvenile                                                               
steals a  car or  homeowner insurance when  a juvenile  damages a                                                               
home. State  claims managers  would be able  to testify  to those                                                               
9:17:39 AM                                                                                                                    
CHAIR SEEKINS asked for discussion among the committee members.                                                                 
SENATOR  HUGGINS  expressed  concern  that  the  state  could  be                                                               
vulnerable for exploitation.                                                                                                    
CHAIR  SEEKINS asked  Ms. Carpeneti  whether  foster parents  are                                                               
required  to  obtain  and  maintain a  liability  policy  on  the                                                               
actions of a foster child.                                                                                                      
MS. CARPENETI said she did not know.                                                                                            
MS.  VOITLANDER  responded  that  OCS  has  not  required  foster                                                               
parents  to  have  a  homeowner policy  nor  a  liability  policy                                                               
because it  is already  difficult to  recruit foster  parents and                                                               
they  don't always  own  homes. Homeowners  are  required by  the                                                               
mortgage company  to hold  a homeowners policy  and many  of them                                                               
cover  not  only  the  asset   but  also  general  liability  and                                                               
negligent acts that result in personal injury.                                                                                  
9:22:32 AM                                                                                                                    
CHAIR  SEEKINS said  the intent  of the  bill is  to find  a good                                                               
balance for the liability.                                                                                                      
SENATOR HUGGINS asked for clarification  over who would be liable                                                               
in the case of the foster parent.                                                                                               
SENATOR GUESS explained  it would depend on whether  the case was                                                               
adjudicated in criminal court or  went through civil court. Under                                                               
24-LS0115\O.1  it  would  be the  state's  liability.  Under  24-                                                               
LS0115\O.2 it would be the  responsibility of the natural parents                                                               
if the parental rights were not terminated.                                                                                     
SENATOR FRENCH posed  a hypothetical situation of  a child living                                                               
in  a  foster  home  and  burns   down  a  house.  The  child  is                                                               
responsible  for   the  first  $5,000,  the   natural  parent  is                                                               
responsible for  the next  $15,000 and  the child  is responsible                                                               
for the rest.                                                                                                                   
SENATOR GUESS  said that would  be the case  under 24-LS0115\O.2.                                                               
The logic is  that in the situation where families  are trying to                                                               
get   back   together,   the  parent   would   still   have   the                                                               
responsibility even if that child had been taken away.                                                                          
9:26:13 AM                                                                                                                    
SENATOR HUGGINS  said he was  struggling with holding  the parent                                                               
responsible when the child is out of their direct control.                                                                      
MS.  VOITLANDER referred  the committee  to  AS 34.50.020(a)  and                                                               
     Damages  for   which  parents  are  liable   should  be                                                                    
     apportioned  by  the  court  without  regard  to  legal                                                                    
     custody but with due consideration  for the actual care                                                                    
     and custody  provided by the  parent. That is  a factor                                                                    
     that the court considers.                                                                                                  
For example, she continued, there  could be a situation where the                                                               
parents  are  in  the  process  of divorce  and  one  parent  has                                                               
physical care  and custody of  the teenager and the  other parent                                                               
resides elsewhere.  While that parent still  has parental rights,                                                               
they do not have day-to-day  custody and the court would consider                                                               
that fact.                                                                                                                      
9:28:21 AM                                                                                                                    
SENATOR  FRENCH  said nevertheless  the  parents  would still  be                                                               
liable for $15,000 worth of the damages.                                                                                        
MS. VOITLANDER  asserted the  court would take  all of  that into                                                               
account and determine whether either parent was liable.                                                                         
9:29:39 AM                                                                                                                    
BRAD THOMPSON, Director, Division  of Risk Management, Department                                                               
of Administration (DOA), informed  the committee that the statute                                                               
was revised in  1995 to clarify that the actual  care and custody                                                               
of the  minor was  required for  the parent  to be  held strictly                                                               
liable. Thus  far the state has  no claim history because  of the                                                               
protection of the third party  claim. In the administrative code,                                                               
there  is  a  method  for  the  foster  parent  to  come  to  the                                                               
Department   of   Health   and   Social   Services   (DHSS)   for                                                               
reimbursement.  Mr. Thompson  read from  the administrative  code                                                               
and said, "Modest  damages and lost costs are normal  in the care                                                               
of children  and are included  in the standard rate,  however the                                                               
division will  in its  discretion reimburse  a foster  parent for                                                               
damages  and loss  up to  $5,000 under  [certain] circumstances."                                                               
The agency  has been making that  remedy to the foster  parent as                                                               
an  additional  benefit to  them  because  of the  services  they                                                               
9:32:10 AM                                                                                                                    
SENATOR FRENCH clarified  that remedy is for when  a foster child                                                               
damages the  property of the  foster parent. He asked  the remedy                                                               
for when a foster child damages a neighbor's property.                                                                          
MR.  THOMPSON replied  there is  no  remedy. As  proposed in  the                                                               
bill, the state would be  responsible for damages for some things                                                               
that  currently  are  protected  by   insurance.  He  said  in  a                                                               
situation where  a group of  juveniles cause property  damage and                                                               
one  of them  is in  state's custody,  that is  the one  that the                                                               
insurer would go after to recover the damages.                                                                                  
9:34:03 AM                                                                                                                    
CHAIR SEEKINS asked  Mr. Thompson his experience  on losses where                                                               
claims are made.                                                                                                                
MR. THOMPSON  said the  state has had  notices of  incidences but                                                               
due to the existing statute they  do not have to respond to them.                                                               
The  agency  did   recently  pay  the  $5,000   limit  under  the                                                               
administrative code on  an incident of vandalism  to an uninsured                                                               
CHAIR SEEKINS announced a brief recess at 9:35:05 AM.                                                                         
9:47:34 AM                                                                                                                    
CHAIR SEEKINS announced that the  committee would continue on the                                                               
bill the following day. He held SB 10 in committee.                                                                             
          SB 237-ADDITIONAL JUDGES FOR THIRD DISTRICT                                                                       
9:48:09 AM                                                                                                                    
CHAIR RALPH SEEKINS announced SB 237 to be up for consideration.                                                                
SUSAN PARKES,  Deputy Attorney General, Department  of Law (DOL),                                                               
informed the  committee that Attorney  General David  Marquez had                                                               
hoped to  testify and  take responsibility for  the bill  but was                                                               
not available this  morning. She spoke in his behalf.  Due to his                                                               
recent  appointment as  attorney  general, Mr.  Marquez has  been                                                               
traveling around Alaska  and meeting with all the  judges. SB 237                                                               
was  prompted   by  his  recognition  of   the  heavy  caseloads,                                                               
particularly in the criminal division, and the case backlog.                                                                    
9:50:16 AM                                                                                                                    
The  purpose and  intent of  the bill  is to  alleviate the  case                                                               
backlog in  the Alaska  court system.  She expressed  support for                                                               
the bill and  said after 20 years with the  DOL she could testify                                                               
that cases are  more complex and the system is  more complex than                                                               
in the  past. For example,  deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) is  now a                                                               
part of  many cases  and not just  sexual assault  cases. Waiting                                                               
for  lab   results,  expert  testimony  notifications,   and  the                                                               
increased  use  of technology  slows  cases  down. Everything  is                                                               
becoming   more  technical   and   even   expert  testimony   and                                                               
qualifications are being litigated now.                                                                                         
9:53:42 AM                                                                                                                    
Complex cases  today involve white-collar crime,  computer crime,                                                               
and methamphetamine  laboratory (meth  lab) cases. The  number of                                                               
items taken into evidence and  the complexity of how the evidence                                                               
has to  be bagged and  tagged and  dealt with in  court increases                                                               
the amount of time that it takes the case to get to trial.                                                                      
Victim's  rights have  significantly impacted  cases as  well and                                                               
slows them  down. Prosecutors are  now required to meet  with the                                                               
victim  and talk  to  them  about the  case.  This is  definitely                                                               
appropriate but it slows the process down.                                                                                      
9:55:25 AM                                                                                                                    
The  Alaska State  Legislature has  created  new felonies,  which                                                               
adds additional pressure  on the court system.  Since 1965 Alaska                                                               
has  seen a  65 percent  increase in  felony referrals  and a  15                                                               
percent increase in misdemeanor  referrals. Currently in superior                                                               
court there are more cases than can  be tried. This is known as a                                                               
"trailing calendar."  Petitions to revoke felony  probation is up                                                               
as well and those have to be handled by the superior court.                                                                     
9:57:37 AM                                                                                                                    
Palmer is  the number one  priority for additional judges  due to                                                               
the population  explosion and  the accompanying  crime explosion.                                                               
The  dramatic increase  in felony  referrals in  the Palmer  area                                                               
shows in  the numbers.  In 2002 there  were 595  felony referrals                                                               
and in 2005 it was up to  869. Again, the complexity of the cases                                                               
significantly impacts  the caseload and takes  significantly more                                                               
time to process through the courts.                                                                                             
9:59:42 AM                                                                                                                    
Palmer's  trailing calendar  currently has  161 felony  cases set                                                               
for trial with  only two superior court judges to  try them. Keep                                                               
in mind  these two  judges try criminal  cases part  time because                                                               
they  have the  child in  need of  aide (CINA)  caseload and  the                                                               
civil caseload.  They are  so overloaded  they are  holding night                                                               
10:00:47 AM                                                                                                                   
SENATOR CHARLIE HUGGINS asked Ms.  Parkes the number of judges in                                                               
each section of the state.                                                                                                      
MS. PARKES  said Palmer  and Kenai each  have two  superior court                                                               
judges. She deferred the Anchorage total to Mr. Christianson.                                                                   
10:01:29 AM                                                                                                                   
CHRIS CHRISTIANSON, Deputy  Administrative Director, Alaska Court                                                               
System said Anchorage currently sports 13 superior court judges.                                                                
MS. PARKES mentioned that the  trailing calendar in Anchorage has                                                               
over 300  cases pending trial  and four  judges to try  them. The                                                               
trailing calendar  in Kenai is  167 cases pending trial  with two                                                               
10:04:11 AM                                                                                                                   
Another  impact  is  the  relationship   within  the  Alaska  Bar                                                               
Association.  There  are  rarely  trials where  the  defense  and                                                               
prosecution work  together. There  is animosity, a  different way                                                               
of doing  business, and  cases don't resolve  as quickly  as they                                                               
should. She urged the committee to support the bill.                                                                            
10:06:18 AM                                                                                                                   
SENATOR  HUGGINS   asked  whether   the  City  of   Palmer  could                                                               
accommodate more than one additional judge.                                                                                     
MS. PARKES indicated it could.                                                                                                  
MR.  CHRISTIANSON  added  the Palmer  courthouse  was  originally                                                               
built with  three courtrooms.  Two courtrooms  were added  on six                                                               
years ago  and last year  the Legislature appropriated  the money                                                               
to add two  more courtrooms but the work hasn't  begun due to the                                                               
current  high  price  of  steel. Population  in  the  valley  has                                                               
increased dramatically and is moving  away from Palmer and up the                                                               
Parks Highway.                                                                                                                  
10:09:18 AM                                                                                                                   
Discussions with the DOL, the  Department of Corrections, and the                                                               
Department of Public  Safety show that eventually  the state will                                                               
have to open a separate court in the Wasilla area.                                                                              
SENATOR HUGGINS asked Mr. Christianson  whether the Palmer system                                                               
could support two additional judges.                                                                                            
MR. CHRISTIANSON said he was not sure there was the space.                                                                      
10:11:31 AM                                                                                                                   
SENATOR GRETCHEN  GUESS suggested  the committee expand  the bill                                                               
to provide for a second additional  judge in the Palmer area once                                                               
the courtroom space becomes available.                                                                                          
MR. CHRISTIANSON  said that  it could be  years before  they have                                                               
additional space.                                                                                                               
SENATOR GUESS  asked Mr. Christenson  whether the  increases with                                                               
the bill would meet current needs.                                                                                              
MR. CHRISTIANSON said  it would take care of  Kenai and Anchorage                                                               
but that  Palmer, with  its continued  growth, would  continue to                                                               
have additional needs.                                                                                                          
10:14:30 AM                                                                                                                   
SENATOR GUESS asked the condition of the Southeast Alaska area.                                                                 
MR. CHRISTIANSON said the Southeast  area has not experienced the                                                               
population growth  that the South  Central area has.  Also, while                                                               
Juneau does show a high caseload, not that many go to trial.                                                                    
MS.  PARKES  added that  the  feedback  from the  Southeast  area                                                               
indicates  they are  doing fine.  Also  there is  a good  working                                                               
relationship  between  the  prosecution   and  the  defense.  The                                                               
caseloads have gone up but they are managing them.                                                                              
10:18:52 AM                                                                                                                   
SENATOR GUESS  asked Ms. Parkes  whether the findings  section of                                                               
the bill was necessary.                                                                                                         
MS. PARKES replied the purpose  was to make clear the legislative                                                               
10:20:16 AM                                                                                                                   
SENATOR HOLLIS  FRENCH concurred  that the  Anchorage courthouses                                                               
were extremely  busy. He  noted the fiscal  note was  quite large                                                               
and he urged Ms. Parkes  and Mr. Christianson to properly prepare                                                               
for a possible challenge.                                                                                                       
SENATOR GUESS moved Amendment 1.  Remove Section 1. She suggested                                                               
the committee draft  a letter of intent to accompany  the bill so                                                               
that the intent is clear.  Hearing no objections, Amendment 1 was                                                               
CHAIR SEEKINS moved Amendment 2. Add one additional superior                                                                    
court judge to the fourth judicial district of Fairbanks.                                                                       
10:22:30 AM                                                                                                                   
Hearing no objections, Amendment 2 was adopted.                                                                                 
CHAIR SEEKINS advised the people who were waiting to testify                                                                    
that they were not needed. He held SB 237 in committee.                                                                         
10:23:56 AM                                                                                                                   
There being no further business to come before the committee,                                                                   
Chair Seekins adjourned the meeting at 10:24:12 AM.                                                                           

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