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NO. 54. AN ACT RELATING TO THE DUTIES OF MAGISTRATES.

(H.552)

It is hereby enacted by the General Assembly of the State of Vermont:

Sec. 1. PURPOSE

The legislature has declared as public policy, in section 650 of Title 15, that it is in the best interests of children to have the opportunity for maximum continuing physical and emotional contact with both parents, unless direct physical harm or significant emotional harm to the child or a parent is likely to result from such contact. The purpose of this act is to further that policy by assisting parents to modify or enforce parent-child contact schedules in a timely manner in the best interests of the child. The act therefore gives magistrates concurrent jurisdiction over postjudgment parent-child contact disputes.

Sec. 2. 4 V.S.A. § 461 is amended to read:

§ 461. OFFICE OF MAGISTRATE; JURISDICTION; SELECTION; TERM

(a) The office of magistrate is created within the family court. *[The]* Except as provided in section 463 of this title, the office of magistrate shall have jurisdiction concurrent with the family court to hear and dispose of the following cases:

(1) *[proceedings]* Proceedings for the establishment, modification and enforcement of child support*[; and]* .

(2) *[cases]* Cases arising under the Uniform *[Reciprocal Enforcement of]* Interstate Family Support Act*[; and]* .

(3) *[child]* Child support in parentage cases after parentage has been determined*[; and]* .

(4) *[cases]* Cases arising under section 5533 of Title 33, when delegated by the family court.

(5) Proceedings to establish, modify or enforce temporary orders for spousal maintenance in accordance with sections 594a and 752 of this title.

(6) Proceedings to modify or enforce temporary or final parent-child contact orders issued pursuant to this title.

(b) A magistrate shall be an attorney admitted to practice in Vermont with at least four years of general law practice. Magistrates shall be nominated, appointed and confirmed in the manner of superior judges.

(c) The term of office of a magistrate shall be six years. Any appointment to fill a vacancy shall be for the unexpired portion of the term vacated. A magistrate may be reappointed by the governor under this section without review by the judicial nominating board, but a reappointment shall require the consent of the senate.

(d) Magistrates shall be exempt employees of the judicial branch, subject to the Code of Judicial Conduct, and shall devote full time to their duties. The supreme court shall prescribe training requirements for magistrates.

(e) A magistrate shall have received training on the subject of parent-child contact before being assigned to hear and determine motions filed pursuant to subdivision (a)(6) of this section.

(f) [Repealed.]

Sec. 3. 12 V.S.A. § 7112(a) is amended to read:

(a) The Windsor county youth court shall terminate its operations on June 30, *[1999]* 2001.

Sec. 4. PLAN FOR IMPROVING LAW ENFORCEMENT SERVICES IN

RURAL COMMUNITIES

The department of public safety, in consultation with the Vermont Constables Association, the Vermont Sheriffs' Association, the Vermont Police Association, the Chiefs of Police Association of Vermont, the Criminal Justice Training Council, the law enforcement division of the Department of Fish and Wildlife, the state's attorneys, the attorney general, and the defender general shall study and evaluate the law enforcement needs of rural communities in Vermont. The study shall include the following:

(1) An evaluation of the current system of delivering law enforcement services to rural communities and the adequacy of such services.

(2) The advisability, including the advantages and disadvantages, of modifying the law enforcement authority of constables.

(3) A plan for improving law enforcement services in rural communities.

(4) Whether the Vermont state police outpost program should be expanded.

(5) A plan for improving enforcement of the state's civil rights laws.

The department shall report its findings and plan to the Senate and House Committees on Judiciary and Government Operations on or before

November 15, 1999.

Sec. 5. STUDY

The Defender General's Office, a designee of the executive committee of the Department of State's Attorneys, the Attorney General, and the Court Administrator shall study and report to the House and Senate Committees on Judiciary on or before January 15, 2000, on the advisability, including the advantages and disadvantages of giving a state's attorney the right to dismiss a civil or criminal action commenced by the state at any time prior to final judgment and authorizing the state to move to vacate a final judgment for cause or in the interest of justice.

Sec. 6. STUDY AND REPORT

The defender general, the assigned counsel coordinator in the office of the defender general, the executive director of the state's attorneys department, the legal counsel to the governor, the executive director of the Vermont Bar Association, the attorney general, and a judge or justice or a retired judge or justice, appointed by the chief justice, shall study the structure of and funding for the office of the defender general and ways to improve services to its clients. The judge or justice shall be chair of the study group and shall call the first meeting. The study shall include a review of the structure and funding of public defender services in Vermont and in other states, and innovative models for organizing and delivering public defender services. The study group shall report its findings and recommendations to the House and Senate Committees on Judiciary, Appropriations, and Government Operations on January 15, 2000.

Sec. 7. SUNSET

4 V.S.A. § 461(a)(6) shall expire on July 1, 2001.

Sec. 8. REPORT

The administrative judge shall report to the House and Senate Committees on Judiciary on or before January 15, 2001 on the impact of extending concurrent jurisdiction to magistrates pursuant to 4 V.S.A. § 461(a)(6).

Approved: June 1, 1999