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Supreme Weekly: Politics, budget and a nomination

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April 28, 2011

This week we'll look at the news affecting the Supreme Courts in Massachusetts, Iowa, Florida and Pennsylvania.


Barbara Lenk was scheduled to appear before the Governor's Council yesterday to discuss her appointment to the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court. Though the body is not expected to vote on the nomination this week, they will screen the nominee before the appointment is submitted to the Massachusetts State Senate.[1]

Lenk was nominated on April 4 by Governor Deval Patrick to succeed Judith Cowin. Since 1995, Lenk has served as a judge on the Massachusetts Appeals Court. Before that, she was a Superior Court judge from 1993 to 1995.[2]

For more information about the nomination, read: Barbara Lenk nominated to Massachusetts Supreme Court.


Last week House Speaker Kraig Paulsen refused to allow debate on four resolutions of impeachment proposed by Republican lawmakers. The resolutions were intended for each of the Iowa Supreme Court justices that were serving during the 2009 ruling that legalized same-sex marriage in the state. In a statement, Paulsen said, "House Republicans remain focused on reducing government spending and lowering taxes for Iowa families and small businesses," in an attempt to put the issue to rest.[3][4]

In response to the resolutions, the Supreme Court released a statement in which it said, "Deciding a question in a lawsuit about whether a law violates a provision of the constitution is a fundamental role of courts in our system of government. Both state and federal courts have exercised this responsibility in countless cases, many of them controversial, for over 200 years."[3]


Amid reservations about the future of the proposal, the Senate Judiciary Committee approved the House's resolution to split the Florida Supreme Court, amending a current bill already in committee. J.D. Alexander, the budget chief of the Senate, reportedly saw the resolution as an opportunity to reconcile with the House during contentious budget talks. Another member of the committee, Mike Fasano, said, "I understand there’s a budget out there that has to be dealt with, and it has to be dealt with sooner rather than later. This is what Speaker Cannon wants.” [6]

The other senators seemed to be reluctant to pass the bill on the full floor, which is necessary to get the measure on the ballot in 2012.[6]

To read more about the proposal and its history, check out:


The Pennsylvania Supreme Court does not seem willing to accept any budget cuts next year, but instead is seeking an increase. Keeping with its budget projections, the courts need an increase $47.2 million to keep all current staff and services. Last year the judicial branch collected $480 million in fees and restitution, while its projected operating budget will be $348.2 million next year.[7]

See also