Legislature(2019 - 2020)BELTZ 105 (TSBldg)

02/24/2020 01:30 PM JUDICIARY

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Audio Topic
01:32:12 PM Start
01:32:52 PM SB55
02:20:01 PM Adjourn
* first hearing in first committee of referral
+ teleconferenced
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
Heard & Held
-- Public Testimony --
                    ALASKA STATE LEGISLATURE                                                                                  
              SENATE JUDICIARY STANDING COMMITTEE                                                                             
                       February 24, 2020                                                                                        
                           1:32 p.m.                                                                                            
MEMBERS PRESENT                                                                                                               
Senator John Coghill, Chair                                                                                                     
Senator Peter Micciche, Vice Chair                                                                                              
Senator Shelley Hughes                                                                                                          
Senator Lora Reinbold                                                                                                           
Senator Jesse Kiehl                                                                                                             
MEMBERS ABSENT                                                                                                                
All members present                                                                                                             
COMMITTEE CALENDAR                                                                                                            
SENATE BILL NO. 55                                                                                                              
"An Act relating to judges of the court of appeals; and                                                                         
providing for an effective date."                                                                                               
     - HEARD & HELD                                                                                                             
PREVIOUS COMMITTEE ACTION                                                                                                     
BILL: SB 55                                                                                                                   
SHORT TITLE: TEMP. APPOINTMENTS TO COURT OF APPEALS                                                                             
SPONSOR(s): SENATOR(s) WILSON                                                                                                   
02/13/19       (S)       READ THE FIRST TIME - REFERRALS                                                                        
02/13/19       (S)       JUD                                                                                                    
03/11/19       (S)       JUD AT 1:30 PM BELTZ 105 (TSBldg)                                                                      
03/11/19       (S)       Heard & Held                                                                                           
03/11/19       (S)       MINUTE(JUD)                                                                                            
03/15/19       (S)       JUD AT 1:30 PM BELTZ 105 (TSBldg)                                                                      
03/15/19       (S)       Moved CSSB 55(JUD) Out of Committee                                                                    
03/15/19       (S)       MINUTE(JUD)                                                                                            
03/18/19       (S)       JUD RPT CS 1DP 2NR 1AM SAME TITLE                                                                      
03/18/19       (S)       DP: HUGHES                                                                                             
03/18/19       (S)       NR: MICCICHE, SHOWER                                                                                   
03/18/19       (S)       AM: KIEHL                                                                                              
03/18/19       (S)       FIN REFERRAL ADDED AFTER JUD                                                                           
03/27/19       (S)       FIN AT 9:00 AM SENATE FINANCE 532                                                                      
03/27/19       (S)       Heard & Held                                                                                           
03/27/19       (S)       MINUTE(FIN)                                                                                            
04/04/19       (S)       FIN AT 9:00 AM SENATE FINANCE 532                                                                      
04/04/19       (S)       Moved CSSB 55(FIN) Out of Committee                                                                    
04/04/19       (S)       MINUTE(FIN)                                                                                            
04/05/19       (S)       FIN RPT CS 3DP 4NR SAME TITLE                                                                          
04/05/19       (S)       DP: VON IMHOF, HOFFMAN, WILSON                                                                         
04/05/19       (S)       NR: STEDMAN, MICCICHE, SHOWER, OLSON                                                                   
02/19/20       (S)       RETURNED TO JUD COMMITTEE UC                                                                           
02/24/20       (S)       JUD AT 1:30 PM BELTZ 105 (TSBldg)                                                                      
WITNESS REGISTER                                                                                                              
SENATOR DAVID WILSON                                                                                                            
Alaska State Legislature                                                                                                        
Juneau, Alaska                                                                                                                  
POSITION  STATEMENT: Speaking  as  prime  sponsor, presented  the                                                             
sectional analysis for SB 55, version S.                                                                                        
NANCY MEADE                                                                                                                     
General Counsel                                                                                                                 
Office of the Administrative Director                                                                                           
Alaska Court System                                                                                                             
Anchorage, Alaska                                                                                                               
POSITION STATEMENT:  Answered questions during the  hearing on SB
ACTION NARRATIVE                                                                                                              
1:32:12 PM                                                                                                                    
CHAIR  JOHN   COGHILL  called   the  Senate   Judiciary  Standing                                                             
Committee meeting to order at 1:32  p.m. Present at call to order                                                               
were  Senators  Kiehl,  Reinbold,   Hughes,  Micciche  and  Chair                                                               
          SB 55-TEMP. APPOINTMENTS TO COURT OF APPEALS                                                                      
1:32:52 PM                                                                                                                    
CHAIR COGHILL announced the consideration  of SENATE BILL NO. 55,                                                               
"An  Act  relating  to  judges  of  the  court  of  appeals;  and                                                               
providing for an effective date."                                                                                               
He explained that  SB 55 was returned to this  committee from the                                                               
Senate Rules Standing Committee for modification.                                                                               
1:33:20 PM                                                                                                                    
SENATOR  MICCICHE moved  to adopt  the committee  substitute (CS)                                                               
for  SB  55,  work  order 31-LS0485\S,  Fisher,  2/20/20  as  the                                                               
working document.                                                                                                               
CHAIR COGHILL objected for an explanation.                                                                                      
1:34:02 PM                                                                                                                    
SENATOR DAVID  WILSON, Alaska State Legislature,  Juneau, Alaska,                                                               
speaking as prime sponsor of SB  55, said this bill would provide                                                               
a solution  to the backlog of  cases at the court  of appeals. He                                                               
reviewed the sectional analysis  of the committee substitute (CS)                                                               
for SB 55, version U to S. He said:                                                                                             
      Section 1 would add a permanent fourth judge to the                                                                       
     Court of Appeals. This position would be filled by the                                                                     
     normal process as described in [AS 22.07.010].                                                                             
      Section 2 will change the effective date [to July 1,                                                                      
He  said  the  previous  version   U  would  have  established  a                                                               
temporary two  year appointment  to the  court of  appeals. After                                                               
discussing  this  with  the agency,  and  hearing  Chief  Justice                                                               
Bolger's and  the Department of  Law's comments about  the number                                                               
of anticipated  new cases,  he felt this  was a  more appropriate                                                               
approach. The  fourth judge will provide  additional resources if                                                               
judges recuse themselves when conflicts  of interest occur and to                                                               
hear  cases  and  write  opinions to  help  address  the  court's                                                               
1:35:38 PM                                                                                                                    
SENATOR REINBOLD  said changing  the status  of the  fourth judge                                                               
from temporary to  permanent raises a red flag to  her. This bill                                                               
would  also  add four  positions  at  a  time of  fiscal  crisis.                                                               
Employees are often  added to agencies to  address work backlogs,                                                               
but these  positions are never  removed, so it  grows government.                                                               
She expressed frustration.                                                                                                      
CHAIR   COGHILL  recalled   that   the  legislature   anticipated                                                               
increased costs when  it increased the penalties  with passage of                                                               
[HB 49].                                                                                                                        
1:36:57 PM                                                                                                                    
SENATOR  HUGHES  observed  that  cases  in  the  appellate  court                                                               
currently  experience  delays. She  said  we  know that  settling                                                               
cases timely is  much better for the victims but  she wonders how                                                               
this would affect the delays going forward.                                                                                     
SENATOR  WILSON deferred  to the  representative from  the Alaska                                                               
Court System.                                                                                                                   
1:37:45 PM                                                                                                                    
SENATOR REINBOLD expressed concern about  the cost and impacts to                                                               
citizens  and businesses  [with passage  of Senate  Bill 91].  It                                                               
adversely impacted  the public and  businesses and the  court was                                                               
in  the same  situation then.  She supported  the repeal  of that                                                               
bill  because  public  safety  is   the  state's  most  important                                                               
mandate.  Passage of  HB 49  reverts to  pre-Senate Bill  91. She                                                               
said the court of  appeals did not need a judge  then so why does                                                               
the court need one now.                                                                                                         
CHAIR COGHILL  said the committee  could review the  fiscal note.                                                               
He said public testimony was  previously closed, but he scheduled                                                               
public testimony for today.                                                                                                     
1:39:41 PM                                                                                                                    
NANCY  MEADE,  General  Counsel,  Office  of  the  Administrative                                                               
Director,  Alaska  Court  System,  Anchorage,  Alaska,  said  she                                                               
understood the  question to be  how much more quickly  will cases                                                               
be processed  with the  additional judge.  She said  it currently                                                               
takes three  years from  the time  an appeal  is filed  until the                                                               
final disposition and that timeframe  is not really acceptable to                                                               
the  public.  However,  the  delays  are  often  attributable  to                                                               
factors  outside  of the  court's  control.  For example,  delays                                                               
happen when the attorneys have  not fully prepared the cases. She                                                               
said she cannot estimate how much  faster it will be, but if half                                                               
of the delay is due to the court,  adding a judge could cut it by                                                               
a quarter.  With passage of  SB 55, version  S, each of  the four                                                               
judges  will handle  75 percent  of  the cases  filed instead  of                                                               
three  judges handing  all the  cases. She  anticipated that  the                                                               
court will be able to speed up the process.                                                                                     
SENATOR HUGHES  asked what the  delay was pre-Senate Bill  91 and                                                               
if the delay has picked up.                                                                                                     
MS. MEADE confirmed that the  delay in final disposition of cases                                                               
has grown  steadily since 2011.  That was pre-Senate Bill  91 and                                                               
prior  to passage  of other  criminal law  changes but  the exact                                                               
reason for the  increase was difficult to pin  down. She reported                                                               
that in 2011,  the number of cases issued per  judge per year was                                                               
50 and that increased to  90 decisions in 2018. Adding additional                                                               
law  enforcement,   higher  case  filings,  and   more  difficult                                                               
decisions  due  to  substantial   changes  in  criminal  law  has                                                               
exacerbated the  caseload. At the  same time, several  new judges                                                               
were  appointed to  the court  of appeals,  some from  the public                                                               
defender's office. The  court had a new judge  appointed in 2012,                                                               
in 2013, and in 2018 or  2019. This means that these judges often                                                               
have conflicts of interest because  they previously worked on the                                                               
cases  appealed  to the  court.  One  appointed judge  previously                                                               
worked in the  Department of Law appellate  division for criminal                                                               
cases, so that individual could  not preside over some cases. She                                                               
acknowledged that the gap has grown since then.                                                                                 
1:43:28 PM                                                                                                                    
SENATOR  REINBOLD   expressed  concern   about  the   three  year                                                               
timeframe for  disposition of  cases because  it doesn't  seem to                                                               
meet the  constitutional standard for  a speedy trial.  She asked                                                               
why  the cases  take so  long  and if  it is  because the  public                                                               
defenders are asking for delays.  She recalled that some court of                                                               
appeals  judges  come  from  the  public  defender's  office  and                                                               
questioned  why   these  judges  are  not   being  selected  from                                                               
prosecutors. She  expressed concern about supporting  the bill if                                                               
empowers more public defense.                                                                                                   
MS. MEADE responded that the basic  reason for the three year lag                                                               
time was because everyone in  the system is overworked, including                                                               
the prosecutors and public defenders  who prepare the briefs. She                                                               
advised that the speedy trial  rule applies to the district court                                                               
and superior  court trials, but  not to  the court of  appeals or                                                               
the Alaska Supreme Court. She  reiterated that three years is not                                                               
a  satisfactory  timeframe  for  anyone,  including  the  judges.                                                               
However,  given their  caseload, the  judges cannot  do the  deep                                                               
analysis  and  consideration of  cases  any  faster. Second,  the                                                               
public defender  and prosecutors  cannot brief cases  faster. She                                                               
said she  does not  have a  breakout of  who asks  for additional                                                               
time, but it  is often a stipulation between the  two parties. In                                                               
any event, the attorneys need  adequate time to fully brief their                                                               
cases. She  said the  decisions at the  appellate level  are much                                                               
more  legally intense  and require  substantial analysis,  so the                                                               
delays are issues  for the whole criminal  justice system. Third,                                                               
she said  she did not  mean to imply  that most court  of appeals                                                               
judges come  from public  defenders, but those  who apply  at the                                                               
court of appeals are attorneys  interested in and have experience                                                               
in criminal  law. The court  of appeals only deals  with criminal                                                               
cases.  These  judges can  come  from  anywhere in  the  criminal                                                               
justice system.  Generally, those with experience  and background                                                               
come from prosecutors or public defenders.                                                                                      
1:47:23 PM                                                                                                                    
SENATOR KIEHL asked about caseloads  for each of the three judges                                                               
serving on  the court of  appeals. He recalled  earlier testimony                                                               
that each  judge writes 50  opinions per year, which  would total                                                               
150  opinions. He  suggested  that adding  a  fourth judge  would                                                               
probably not get  them to 50 cases per year,  but probably closer                                                               
to  67  or  68 cases  per  year.  He  asked  whether this  was  a                                                               
manageable caseload.                                                                                                            
MS. MEADE  answered that the  court has requested funding  for an                                                               
additional  staff  attorney  to   serve  the  court  of  appeals.                                                               
Currently, the  court system has  cobbled together funding  for a                                                               
staff attorney  and pro  tem assistance  for the  court. Further,                                                               
the court system has asked  for additional funding, but will drop                                                               
the request if  this bill passes. They will  maintain the request                                                               
for a  staff attorney  to handle the  more routine  petitions for                                                               
review or  prepare cases for the  judges' consideration. Finally,                                                               
the  court  anticipates that  adding  one  judge would  make  its                                                               
caseload more manageable.                                                                                                       
SENATOR KIEHL asked  if adding the fourth judge is  to keep up or                                                               
to catch up.                                                                                                                    
MS.  MEADE responded  both. Initially,  the court  will struggle,                                                               
she said.  These three judges work  six or seven days  a week and                                                               
rarely take any  vacations to avoid further  delays in decisions.                                                               
By adding  the forth judge, the  court hopes to meet  its backlog                                                               
within  three years.  At that  point  these judges  would have  a                                                               
manageable workload.                                                                                                            
1:50:04 PM                                                                                                                    
SENATOR  REINBOLD wondered  if  the court  needs  odd numbers  to                                                               
serve to avoid split decisions.                                                                                                 
MS. MEADE  responded that  the court would  handle its  cases the                                                               
way most appellate  courts in the country  operate. She explained                                                               
that  these  judges  would  serve  on  three  judge  panels.  For                                                               
example, judges  A,B, and  C would  handle January  cases, judges                                                               
B,C, and D  would handle February cases, and judges  C,D, A would                                                               
handle March cases. Each judge would  sit in on 75 percent of the                                                               
cases, thereby affording them more time to work on cases.                                                                       
SENATOR  REINBOLD  asked  where  the  court  of  appeals  members                                                               
MS. MEADE answered  that the court of appeals  consists of Judges                                                               
Allard,  Wollenberg,  and  Harbison. Judge  Harbison  resides  in                                                               
Fairbanks  and  Judges Wollenberg  and  Allard  live and  sit  in                                                               
Anchorage. These judges  conduct much of their  business by video                                                               
conference,  she  said.  Judge  Harbison's  background  is  as  a                                                               
superior court judge, and perhaps  as a district court judge. She                                                               
did not recall  her service prior to serving as  a superior court                                                               
judge.  She  has served  for  a  substantial  amount of  time  in                                                               
Fairbanks. Judge  Wollenberg was appointed  in 2017 and  she came                                                               
from public defender agency. In  2012, Governor Parnell appointed                                                               
Chief Judge Allard,  and prior to her appointment,  she served as                                                               
a staff attorney at the court of appeals.                                                                                       
1:52:43 PM                                                                                                                    
SENATOR  MICCICHE said  he supported  the original  bill but  was                                                               
struggling  [with the  committee substitute].  Originally, SB  55                                                               
was  for a  temporary judge  without staff.  Version S  would add                                                               
$300,000  plus   for  the  judge   and  three   additional  staff                                                               
positions. He  asked whether the department  thought about trying                                                               
to  limit this  to one  staff.  He expressed  concern with  three                                                               
additional staff to serve the judge.                                                                                            
MS.  MEADE explained  that each  judge  serving on  the court  of                                                               
appeals has  two law clerks  and one judicial assistant.  The new                                                               
judge would  require the  same support. The  fiscal note  for the                                                               
two year  temporary judge  was estimated  at $275,000.  The House                                                               
Finance subcommittee for the court  system added $233,000 for the                                                               
court of  appeals. This  bill represents  an increase  of $60,000                                                               
above  the pending  funding. The  additional funding  would allow                                                               
the  fourth judge  to  operate at  the same  level  as the  other                                                               
judges and avoid  being handicapped by not having a  law clerk to                                                               
do the legal research.                                                                                                          
1:55:20 PM                                                                                                                    
SENATOR  MICCICHE  said he  thought  the  increase is  the  same,                                                               
whether the  funding is included  in the  budget or the  bill. If                                                               
the legislature does not support  either funding, the agency will                                                               
not receive an increase. He  said he understood her concerns, but                                                               
things are tight.                                                                                                               
MS. MEADE  explained the  court system's  rationale for  a longer                                                               
term  permanent judge.  As Chief  Justice  Bolger mentioned,  the                                                               
trial  courts have  received  a record  number  of felony  cases,                                                               
perhaps  1,000 more  cases. The  more  cases filed  at the  trial                                                               
level, the  larger the  pool of  cases that  can come  before the                                                               
appellate  courts. Similarly,  the  trial rate  for felony  cases                                                               
also increased last  year, which adds to the  potential number of                                                               
cases  for  appeal.  Many  cases   could  be  dismissed  or  plea                                                               
bargained,  but several  factors  lead to  more appellate  cases.                                                               
First, the  trial rate has  led to a  larger number of  cases for                                                               
the  court. Second,  the district  attorneys  have received  more                                                               
oppositions  in   the  last  several   years.  Third,   more  law                                                               
enforcement activity also leads to  more arrests and filings. She                                                               
provided a  snapshot of currently  pending superior  court felony                                                               
cases  from July  1, 2016  to  July 1,  2020, which  showed a  42                                                               
percent  increase.  She said  the  court  system anticipates  the                                                               
court of  appeals' caseload will  continue to grow.  Anytime laws                                                               
change,  the  courts  experience  more  novel  issues,  and  more                                                               
unsettled  areas of  law. The  transition between  different laws                                                               
also leads  to questions about  which version of the  law applies                                                               
to  each  case  under  consideration.  She  concluded  that  this                                                               
problem is not diminishing.                                                                                                     
1:58:20 PM                                                                                                                    
SENATOR  MICCICHE related  his understanding  that  the court  of                                                               
appeals only  handles cases in  which defendants  were convicted.                                                               
He asked for the impacts for delays at the court of appeals.                                                                    
MS. MEADE  replied the  court primarily  considers the  impact on                                                               
the public. When  cases are reversed or remanded by  the court of                                                               
appeals, it is problematic for  prosecutors because they may need                                                               
to  retry  the  cases  and  locating  witnesses  is  problematic.                                                               
Victims  are  informed  when their  perpetrator  has  an  ongoing                                                               
appeal  and  they  cannot  obtain   closure  until  the  case  is                                                               
finished. This  is the impetus for  the court to work  as quickly                                                               
as possible on its cases.                                                                                                       
1:59:59 PM                                                                                                                    
SENATOR  HUGHES asked  if the  court system  requested additional                                                               
funds in the  fiscal note it submitted for HB  49. She also asked                                                               
for the  staffing levels  when the court  of appeals  judges were                                                               
handling 50 cases per judge per year.                                                                                           
MS. MEADE  answered that  in 2011, the  staffing levels  were the                                                               
same as  today with a  caseload of 90  cases per judge  per year.                                                               
She  said she  was  almost  certain the  court  did  not ask  for                                                               
additional resources in its fiscal note for HB 49.                                                                              
2:00:57 PM                                                                                                                    
SENATOR REINBOLD asked  what types of cases the  court of appeals                                                               
handles. She  related a scenario in  which an eight year  old was                                                               
strangled by  a 50 year old  man. The perpetrator received  an 18                                                               
month sentence with  18 months suspended. She  asked whether that                                                               
is the type of case that is appealed to the court of appeals.                                                                   
MS. MEADE replied  she was not familiar with  that specific case.                                                               
She explained  that the court  of appeals hears cases  related to                                                               
all criminal matters. These cases  are either merit appeals, such                                                               
that the defendants  were found guilty but say they  were not; or                                                               
sentence  appeals,  in  which defendants  believe  the  penalties                                                               
imposed  were excessive.  The court  also accepts  other criminal                                                               
matters,  including  juvenile  delinquency, appeals  about  bail,                                                               
petitions to  revoke probation,  and post-conviction  relief. She                                                               
said the judges  must sentence someone within  the parameters set                                                               
by statute.  Further, penalties depend  on the type of  crime, so                                                               
criminally negligent homicide would  be considered at a different                                                               
level of crime than manslaughter  or murder. She highlighted that                                                               
if the defendant was convicted  of criminally negligent homicide,                                                               
the sentence would  be lower than one might  expect. Further, the                                                               
penalties imposed would  also depend on whether the  case went to                                                               
trial or if it was a  plea bargain, because judges are limited in                                                               
what  can be  changed in  plea  bargains since  the parties  have                                                               
agreed to the terms.                                                                                                            
2:04:13 PM                                                                                                                    
SENATOR REINBOLD asked what percentage  of court of appeals cases                                                               
are appealed by  the victims and what percentage  are appealed by                                                               
the defendants.                                                                                                                 
MS.  MEADE  answered that  in  the  vast  majority of  cases  the                                                               
defendant  is  dissatisfied  with  what  happened  at  the  trial                                                               
courts. She  said the victim  is involved through  the Department                                                               
of Law, who always enforces the criminal laws.                                                                                  
CHAIR  COGHILL  added that  the  defendant  would be  the  person                                                               
appealing because that person receives the sentence.                                                                            
SENATOR REINBOLD  said the  more she hears  about this  bill, the                                                               
less  she  likes it.  She  remarked  that  she  is tired  of  the                                                               
defendant  having all  these constitutional  rights. The  victims                                                               
might  be dead,  so  their constitutional  rights  are gone.  The                                                               
defendant  has  continual  rights  to appeal.  She  said  she  is                                                               
inclined  to step  back if  this  bill will  empower or  embolden                                                               
defendants to appeal.                                                                                                           
2:05:51 PM                                                                                                                    
CHAIR COGHILL agreed  that victims struggle. He  said quite often                                                               
victims do  not get a  remedy. However, the system  allows people                                                               
constitutional rights, including the right  to an appeal. He said                                                               
sometimes the courts or jury may  get it wrong. He explained that                                                               
the constitutional duties are to  protect the victims and protect                                                               
the rights  of the accused  and have  a system that  provides due                                                               
2:06:33 PM                                                                                                                    
SENATOR HUGHES asked  if victims have any recourse  if they think                                                               
the sentence  was too  lenient or if  prosecutors ever  request a                                                               
harder sentence.                                                                                                                
MS.  MEADE  replied  the  U.S.  Constitution  contains  a  double                                                               
jeopardy clause  that prevents the  defendant from  being retried                                                               
for the  same crime,  which is why  defendants initiate  the vast                                                               
majority of appeals.  She reminded the committee  that most cases                                                               
are  resolved  through plea  bargains  and  that the  legislature                                                               
passed  a bill  last year  that  requires prosecutors  to make  a                                                               
reasonable  effort  to  contact, notify,  and  consider  victims'                                                               
views for any plea bargains.  This process gives victims a voice,                                                               
she said.                                                                                                                       
2:07:51 PM                                                                                                                    
CHAIR COGHILL  said satisfaction is  hard to achieve  because the                                                               
criminal  justice  system  handles   very  difficult  issues.  He                                                               
emphasized the importance of having  a system that is balanced in                                                               
law so the  appellate process is important. Fortunately,  it is a                                                               
good  system and  unfortunately it  is an  overworked system.  He                                                               
offered his support  for SB 55, version S. He  summarized that it                                                               
will provide a  fourth judge for the court of  appeals with three                                                               
supporting  staff consisting  of two  law clerks  and a  judicial                                                               
2:08:52 PM                                                                                                                    
SENATOR MICCICHE commented a lot of  cases are coming back due to                                                               
DNA issues. He asked if the  court of appeals would hear the case                                                               
of someone who  was serving time, but DNA  evidence surfaces that                                                               
could clear the person. He further  asked if the court would hear                                                               
the case if it was 20 years after the original case.                                                                            
MS.  MEADE  explained  that  the   time  to  appeal  trial  court                                                               
decisions  is limited  by  rule. She  suggested  that the  appeal                                                               
timeframe was  30 or 60 days,  but not years. She  suggested that                                                               
the remedy  would be  a motion  for post-conviction  relief. That                                                               
goes  to the  trial courts  but  the defendant  could appeal  the                                                               
trial court  decision to  the court of  appeals, she  said. Those                                                               
cases  are  related  to  an   underlying  felony  or  misdemeanor                                                               
CHAIR COGHILL commented  that DNA affords relief  to some victims                                                               
on cold cases.                                                                                                                  
2:10:33 PM                                                                                                                    
CHAIR   COGHILL  opened   public   testimony   and  after   first                                                               
determining no one wished to  testify, closed public testimony on                                                               
SB 55.                                                                                                                          
2:11:02 PM                                                                                                                    
SENATOR MICCICHE moved to report  the committee substitute for SB
55,  work  order  31-LS0485\S, version  S,  from  committee  with                                                               
individual recommendations and the attached fiscal note(s).                                                                     
2:11:19 PM                                                                                                                    
SENATOR REINBOLD objected to state  that she would not support SB
CHAIR COGHILL asked if she maintained her objection.                                                                            
SENATOR REINBOLD answered yes.                                                                                                  
2:11:25 PM                                                                                                                    
SENATOR  HUGHES said  she was  uncomfortable moving  the bill  so                                                               
quickly.  She  expressed  interest  in hearing  if  the  judicial                                                               
system had any provision in the  fiscal note for HB 49. She asked                                                               
if it was necessary to move the bill today.                                                                                     
CHAIR COGHILL answered  no. He said the bill will  be returned to                                                               
the Senate Rules Committee. He further  said he did not think the                                                               
fiscal  note  would  change  any  provisions  in  this  bill.  He                                                               
acknowledged  that it  would be  good to  review the  fiscal note                                                               
prior to the bill coming to the Senate floor for a vote.                                                                        
SENATOR KIEHL advised  members that he reviewed  the fiscal notes                                                               
for HB  49, which  passed the legislature  last session.  None of                                                               
the  judicial branch  fiscal  notes added  any  resources to  the                                                               
appellate  courts, he  said. Rather,  the funding  for HB  49 was                                                               
allocated to the  trial courts. In response to  Chair Coghill, he                                                               
identified the  judicial branch fiscal  note for HB 49  as number                                                               
38 [dated 5/17/19].                                                                                                             
2:12:59 PM                                                                                                                    
SENATOR   HUGHES   asked   the    sponsor   to   speak   to   the                                                               
administration's support for the bill.                                                                                          
2:13:16 PM                                                                                                                    
2:16:52 PM                                                                                                                    
CHAIR COGHILL reconvened the meeting.                                                                                           
2:17:03 PM                                                                                                                    
MS. MEADE advised members that  prosecutors can appeal a sentence                                                               
imposed after a  trial and the court of appeals  can disprove the                                                               
sentence as  being too lenient.  She said she may  have misspoken                                                               
by stating  that 100  percent of  the cases  are appealed  by the                                                               
defense. That is not the case.                                                                                                  
2:17:35 PM                                                                                                                    
SENATOR  REINBOLD  recalled she  said  defendants  make the  vast                                                               
majority of  appeals to the court  of appeals. She asked  if that                                                               
was true.                                                                                                                       
MS. MEADE answered that she was  unsure of the exact numbers, but                                                               
the majority of appeals are made by defendants.                                                                                 
SENATOR  REINBOLD  repeated the  answer  and  asked if  the  vast                                                               
majority of the cases are settled  by plea bargains. If they are,                                                               
those cases  would not go to  the court of appeals.  She said she                                                               
struggles  with the  need for  this  bill and  cannot support  it                                                               
during a  time of fiscal crises  and when Alaska has  the highest                                                               
rates crime  in the nation  or in the  world. She said  she can't                                                               
continue to  ignore the  victims. She wants  Alaska to  invest in                                                               
victim-centered policies.                                                                                                       
MS. MEADE said  from the Court's perspective,  the victims suffer                                                               
as long as the cases are  not resolved. She explained that adding                                                               
a judge  to the  court of  appeals will  assist victims  and help                                                               
assuage the problem by reducing  the time period for appeals. She                                                               
said  that is  the main  impetus  for the  Alaska Court  System's                                                               
support of this bill.                                                                                                           
2:19:20 PM                                                                                                                    
SENATOR REINBOLD  offered her view  that if the Court  is getting                                                               
more work  done, it  actually empowers  the defendants.  She said                                                               
she could see  this from multiple angles. However, she  will be a                                                               
no vote.                                                                                                                        
2:19:44 PM                                                                                                                    
CHAIR COGHILL said he would hold SB 55 in committee.                                                                            
CHAIR COGHILL  reviewed the upcoming committee  announcements. He                                                               
commented that  it had been his  intention to move the  bill, but                                                               
several questions still need to be addressed.                                                                                   
2:20:01 PM                                                                                                                    
There being no further business to come before the committee,                                                                   
Chair Coghill adjourned the Senate Judiciary Standing Committee                                                                 
meeting at 2:20 p.m.                                                                                                            

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