Legislature(1997 - 1998)

1997-02-10 Senate Journal

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1997-02-10                     Senate Journal                      Page 0268
SB 80                                                                        
SENATE BILL NO. 80 BY THE SENATE RULES COMMITTEE                               
BY REQUEST OF THE GOVERNOR, entitled:                                          
An Act relating to prisoner litigation, post-                                 
conviction relief, and sentence appeals and to                                 
execution on judgments against prisoners accounts;                             
amending Alaska Rule of Administrative Procedure                               
10(e), Alaska Rule of Appellate Procedure 502(b),                              
Alaska Rule of Civil Procedure 26, and Alaska Rule                             
of Criminal Procedure 35; and providing for an                                 
effective date.                                                                
was read the first time and referred to the State Affairs and Judiciary        

1997-02-10                     Senate Journal                      Page 0269
SB 80                                                                        
Zero fiscal notes published today from Department of Law,                      
Department of Administration (2), Department of Corrections.                   
Governors transmittal letter dated February 10:                                
Dear President Miller:                                                         
I am transmitting this bill to further enhance the positive effects of         
a 1995 law aimed at reducing frivolous litigation filed by state               
The bill clarifies a prisoner must pay filing fees in all types of legal       
actions against the state, including discretionary appellate review.  It       
also ensures the court will consider all prisoner financial accounts in        
determining whether an exemption from the filing fee is warranted.             
This is an extension of the 1995 law (ch. 79, SLA 1995) which                  
requires a prisoner to pay the usual filing fees for bringing a legal          
action against the state, unless the court finds the prisoner qualifies        
for an exemption based on financial information.  This bill requires           
the prisoner to submit information about money in accounts outside             
the prison as well as in-prison accounts.                                      
The law enacted in 1995 provides that automatic disclosure                     
provisions of Alaska Rule of Civil Procedure 16.1 do not apply to              
litigation filed by prisoners.  But a corresponding exemption from a           
similar provision in a separate court rule (Alaska Rule of Civil               
Procedure 26) was inadvertently not included in the earlier bill.  This        
bill repairs that omission.                                                    
The rationale for automatic disclosure--reducing the cost and duration         
of litigation by cooperative discovery--does not readily apply in most         
litigation brought by prisoners.  Prisoners are generally not willing          
or able to participate in discovery and, as a result, the state is             
obliged to furnish full information while prisoners furnish no                 
information to the state.  This is expensive and unnecessary,                  
especially in litigation that is often without merit.                          

1997-02-10                     Senate Journal                      Page 0270
SB 80                                                                        
The bill adds a provision to allow continuing liens on prisoner                
accounts at correctional facilities.  The state can execute a judgment         
for costs and attorneys fees against a prisoners account.  Currently,          
whether the state is successful in collecting the judgment depends on          
whether the prisoner has money in the account at the time.  Under              
a continuing lien, the state can recover the money whenever the                
prisoners account has money available.  This will reduce costs of              
collection so valid judgments are more timely satisfied.                       
Finally, the bill limits the time in which the court may allow a               
person to file a late appeal or request for discretionary review of the        
conviction or sentence to no more than 60 days after the originally            
specified time.  Unreasonably late challenges to convictions and               
sentences undermine the administration of justice, resulting in                
litigation of stale claims with witnesses whose memories have faded.           
Victims, witnesses and the public should be able to depend on the              
finality of judgments once a defendant has had a reasonable                    
opportunity to challenge a conviction and sentence.                            
The 1995 law has already proven effective in reducing frivolous                
prisoner litigation.  This bill will strengthen that effort.                   
						Tony Knowles