06/06/13

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Parenting Plan Legislation: Should Judges Be Allowed to Lobby For or Against Proposed Bills?

Chris Johnson weighs in on this discussion in an Omaha World Herald article.

June 6, 2013—A topic of recent debate is whether or not judges should be allowed to lobby for bills currently in the Legislature.  Several judges have been lobbying against a bill that would affect how courts award parenting time in custody disagreements.

Many lawmakers have said that this action violates the judges’ rules of conduct in that judges should not be allowed to discuss bills with Legislative members.

The proposed bill would make it necessary for district court judges to seek equal parenting plans when they choose the outcome of disputed divorces.  Currently, judges give sole custody most often to the mother and least often to the father.  Shared parenting plans fall in between the two.
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Chris Johnson supports the shared parenting bill, but disagrees with judges pushing their opinions on the Legislature.  He believes this is a clear violation of the constitutional separation of powers, as well as the Judicial Ethics Code.

Johnson said the judge’s responsibility is to interpret the law.  The judicial process is not meant to begin until after the legislative and executive branches of the government have completed their parts.

If judges were to partake in the legislative process this would “undermine the judge’s independence, integrity or impartiality,” said Johnson.
Read the Omaha World Herald article here
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