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From: John Westwood
To: Rep. Perry, L.,
Subject: FW: bills
Date: 2013-03-03T01:14:18Z
I am forwarding BIG concerns from a Juvenile Attorney Tom Higbee in my area on HB 156 and HB 313.  HB 156 will come to the floor for a vote Monday or Tuesday.  313 is coming to your Judiciary Committee.  Thanks

Representative John R. Westwood

From: Judge Thomas Higbee <thigbee@utcourts.gov>
Date: Wednesday, February 27, 2013 4:50 PM
To: DTS <jwestwood@le.utah.gov>
Subject: Re: bills

HB 147 I think is a good bill.  Promoting marriage and families can only help everything we do in juvenile court.   The other two bills are disasters. 

 On 156, I just wrote a lengthy letter to Rick Schwermer outlining my objections to the bill.  John, it fundamentally and seriously changes many things we do in juvenile court.   The following is a shorthand version that I just sent to Lisa-Michele Church, Juvenile Court Administrator.  If you would like the longer, more technical version I would be happy to send it to you.  

"1.  The Utah juvenile court system is one of the two or three best, if not the best, in the nation.  We are leaders in every way based on evidence based practices that have proven effective over many years.  Other states look to us for example and guidance and often come here to learn first hand how we do things so effectively.

2.  We remove children from homes at a rate among the lowest, if not the lowest, in the nation.

3.  The child welfare system involves a delicate balance between the rights of parents and protection of children.

4.  We acknowledge that the legislature sets policy and makes the laws and we will always apply the law as written.  We also feel, however, that the court system is in a unique position to provide input on the effect of legislation.

5.  The juvenile judges universally feel that HB 156 will disrupt the delicate balance, that has been established over many years, in favor of abusive parents and to the detriment of children and well established principles of permanency.  Children will be hurt by this bill and generational bad parenting will be perpetuated.  It will also jeopardize federal funding because if passed, Utah law would be contrary to federal safe family requirements.

6.  We will be happy to provide a detailed analysis if any of you would like further information."

John, every juvenile judge opposes it.  This is exactly the kind of thing I worried about when you came to court before the session.  This is a bad bill.  And this is Christensen's method of doing things.  Instead of bringing it up before the session so people can analyze it, he waits until the last minute and hopes that he can blow it by people because he knows that anyone who took a serious look at it would reject it.  

HB 313 is a mirror of a senate bill sponsored by Wayne Harper.  In summary it allows for jury trials for termination of parental rights cases.  As it is now, all termination cases are decided by a judge.  The bill is poorly written and needs to be redrafted.  But on the bigger issue, that is whether we should have jury trials on termination cases, I have mixed feelings.  I'm not necessarily opposed to it.  My main objection is that once again he brings it up at the last minute.  Let's take a look at it and study it for a year.  Other states have tried it.  Let's see how it has worked for them.  If it has merit then further study will bear it out.  But that's not how this sponsor does things.  Last minute, few facts, no study and lots of warm fuzzy statements about how the state is just picking on these poor drug using parents.    That's how he rolls.  Plus, the fiscal note would be enormous.  You would have to literally rebuild 28 courthouses to make room for jury rooms and jury boxes, plus many other related expenses.  

Let me know if you have any other questions. Sorry this response is so long.

On Wed, Feb 27, 2013 at 3:32 PM, John Westwood <jwestwood@le.utah.gov> wrote:
I appreciate your time brother.  Here are three bills coming to the House from Rep Christensen I need your input on.  HB 147, HB 156, HB 313.  When you have time.  HB 147 will probably be the first to come to the floor.  Thanks
Representative John R. Westwood