Senator Akaka's D.C. Courts and Public Defender Service Bill Passes Congress

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, the U.S. House of Representatives approved final passage of Senator Daniel K. Akaka's D.C. Courts and Public Defender Service Act of 2011 (S. 1379).  The bill, which now goes to the president for enactment, grants the courts and Public Defender Service authority needed to address certain administrative challenges.  It passed the Senate by voice vote on July 9 this year. 

“This bill gives D.C. Courts and the D.C. Public Defender Service much needed authority to improve efficiency and provides them with administrative equity,” said Senator Akaka.  “With my retirement just a few weeks away, I am grateful to see another one of my bills ready to become law.  I thank my colleagues in the House for moving my legislation through that chamber.  I especially want to thank my good friend, Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton for her tireless advocacy on behalf of the District of Columbia.”

The D.C. Courts and Public Defender Service Act:

  • Allows judicial conferences to be held biennially or annually (current law requires annual conferences), and requires magistrate judges to attend the conferences;
  • Gives the Chief Judge of the D.C. Superior Court and Court of Appeals emergency authority to toll or delay judicial proceedings in the event of a natural disaster, terrorist attack or other emergency situation;
  • Allows D.C. Courts to be reimbursed by the D.C. Government for certain office expenses and services in order to prevent duplication and promote economy;
  • Authorizes the D.C. Public Defender Service to purchase liability insurance for its attorneys; and
  • Changes the term for Family Court judges from five years to three years.

Senator Akaka has been Chairman of the Senate Subcommittee on Oversight of Government Management, the Federal Workforce, and the District of Columbia since 2007.  He has been a member of the Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs and its predecessor, the Committee on Governmental Affairs, since he joined the Senate in 1990.

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Jesse Broder Van Dyke