Bill summaries are authored by CRS.

Shown Here:
Passed House amended (04/23/1998)

Judicial Reform Act of 1998 - States that an application for anticipatory relief against a State law adopted by referendum shall not be granted by a district court or judge on the ground that such law is repugnant to the Constitution, treaties, or laws of the United States unless such application is heard and determined by a three-judge panel under Federal law. Provides for expedited appeal of such a determination directly to the Supreme Court.

(Sec. 3) Provides for interlocutory appeal (within ten days) to the appropriate court of appeals of a determination of whether an action may be maintained as a class action, without any stay of the class action proceedings in the district court.

(Sec. 4) Revises procedures regarding proceedings on complaints against judicial conduct. Directs the chief judge to notify the clerk of the court of appeals of the complaint in specified circumstances where such judge identifies such a complaint and dispenses with the filing of a written complaint, together with a brief statement of the facts underlying the complaint.

Authorizes the chief judge to dismiss such a complaint upon finding it to be: (1) not in conformity with specified required procedures; (2) directly related to the merits of a decision or procedural ruling; or (3) frivolous.

Requires the judge, if the judge does not dismiss the complaint, to refer the complaint (or statement of facts underlying the complaint, as appropriate) to the chief judge of another judicial circuit in accordance with a system established by the Judicial Conference of the United States which prescribes the appropriate circuits for such referral. Requires such system to be established and submitted to the Congress within 180 days after the enactment of this Act. Authorizes the chief judge, after expeditiously reviewing the complaint, by written order explaining such judge's reasons, to conclude the proceeding upon finding that appropriate corrective action has been taken or that action on the complaint is no longer necessary because of intervening events.

Directs the Judicial Conference to prescribe rules establishing: (1) procedures for the filing of complaints regarding the conduct of any judge of the United States Court of Federal Claims, the Court of International Trade, or the Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit, and for the investigation and resolution of such complaints; and (2) a system for referring complaints filed regarding the conduct of a judge of any such court to any of the first eleven judicial circuits or to another court for investigation and resolution.

Permits disclosure of papers, documents, and records of proceedings related to investigations of judicial conduct to another agency or instrumentality of any governmental jurisdiction within or under the control of the United States for a civil or criminal law enforcement activity authorized by law.

(Sec. 5) Directs that applications for writs of habeas corpus received in or transferred to a district court be randomly assigned to the judges of that court.

(Sec. 6) Grants the presiding judge of a U.S. appellate or district court the authority to permit the photographing, electronic recording, broadcasting, or televising to the public of court proceedings over which that judge presides. Directs: (1) the court, upon the request of any witness in a trial proceeding other than a party, to order the face and voice of the witness to be disguised or otherwise obscured to render the witness unrecognizable; and (2) the presiding judge to inform each witness who is not a party that the witness has the right to request that his or her image and voice be obscured during the witness' testimony. Authorizes the Judicial Conference to promulgate advisory guidelines to which a presiding judge may refer in making decisions regarding the management and administration of such activity. Sunsets such authority after three years.

(Sec. 7) Amends the Federal judicial code to bestow original jurisdiction on Federal district courts in civil actions involving minimal diversity jurisdiction among adverse parties based on a single accident where at least 25 persons have either died or sustained injuries exceeding $50,000 per person, subject to specified limitations. Directs the district court in which such cases are consolidated to retain those cases for determination of liability and punitive damages, and to determine the substantive law that would apply for findings of liability and damage.

Requires such district court to promptly notify the judicial panel on multidistrict litigation of the pendency of the action.

(Sec. 8) Extends the period during which any petition for judicial review of a final order or decision of the Merit Systems Protection Board must be filed with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit from 30 to 60 days after the petitioner receives notice of the Board's action.

(Sec. 9) Amends judicial code provisions regarding the Judiciary Information Technology Fund to repeal provisions subjecting information technology procurement to provisions of the Clinger-Cohen Act of 1996 applicable to executive agencies.

(Sec. 10) Directs that, for FY 1999 and thereafter, any portion of certain miscellaneous fees collected as prescribed by the Judicial Conference exceeding the amount of such fees in effect on September 30, 1998, be deposited into the special fund of the Treasury to be available to offset funds appropriated for the operation and maintenance of the courts of the United States.

(Sec. 11) Authorizes judges retired from regular active service to serve as members of the judicial council of the circuit.

(Sec. 12) Provides for the sunset of provisions requiring a civil justice expense and delay reduction plan.

(Sec. 13) Authorizes the Director of the Administrative Office of the United States Courts to designate judicial branch officers and employees to be disbursing officers and certifying officers. Lists rights and responsibilities of such officers.

(Sec. 14) Amends the judicial code to deny a Federal court jurisdiction, in a civil action regarding prison conditions, to enter or carry out a prisoner release order that would result in the release from or nonadmission to a prison, on the basis of prison conditions, of any person subject to incarceration, detention, or admission to a facility because of a felony conviction under the laws of the relevant jurisdiction, or a violation of the terms or conditions of parole, probation, pretrial release, or a diversionary program, relating to the commission of a felony under the laws of the relevant jurisdiction.

Terminates existing consent decrees that provide for remedies relating to prison conditions.