JUDICIAL EMERGENCY ACT SIGNED
New legislation designed to clarify the authority of the Chief Justice during an emergency was signed by the Governor on May 19, 2009. The legislation, which gives the Chief Justice the authority to declare a judicial emergency, is designed to avoid the type of questions about the authority to make decisions concerning the court system that have occurred in emergency situations elsewhere, such as with Hurricane Katrina. Under the new legislation, the Chief Justice may declare a judicial emergency when there is an emergency due to natural or manmade causes that destroys or severely damages one or more court facilities or severely impacts the ability to staff the courts.
When a judicial emergency has been declared, the Chief Justice may override normal statutory limitations and take necessary actions such as ordering that court be held in a different county, suspending normal deadlines, or authorizing proceedings to be conducted by audiovisual device that are not normally conducted that way. An order declaring a judicial emergency is limited to an initial duration of 30 days, but may be modified or extended for additional 30 day periods.