What is the Joint Committee on the Judiciary?

Debra Durkee

In the United States, a Joint Committee on the Judiciary is one name for a legislative committee that oversees all the functions, decisions and administrative matters of the courts and the judiciary system. Although not all states use this name, each state has its own committee that is responsible for the proceedings in its own jurisdiction. Members of the committee are also members of the Senate or House of Representatives, and hail from different districts within the state and different political parties to help ensure the fairness of the committee.

The House and Senate convene in the U.S. Capital building.
The House and Senate convene in the U.S. Capital building.

In most states, each committee is made up of two chairs or co-chairs, two vice-chairs, and two ranking minority members. Each set of ranked individuals is made up of one member from the Senate and one member from the House of Representatives, hence the reference to a joint committee. The rest of the committee is filled out by equal members from both the House and Senate.

Some members of the Joint Committee on the Judiciary are also members of the House of Representatives.
Some members of the Joint Committee on the Judiciary are also members of the House of Representatives.

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In addition to being kept apprised of all judicial procedures, including criminal law proceedings, parole hearings, wills, adoptions, appeals and divorce cases, the Joint Committee on the Judiciary also oversees the courts' observances of the preservation of public documents and keeps track of all claims made against the state. The committee may keep track of all court-related nominations, including those for workers' compensation commissioners, members of the Board of Pardons and Paroles, and for new judges. Also usually falling under the watchful eye of the committee is all matters of the Department of Corrections and the Commission on Human Rights and Opportunities.

The passing of certain bills may go before the Joint Committee on the Judiciary. Bills that can result in a civil ruling with punishments of fines above a certain amount and all bills with criminal penalties will usually go before the committee. In this capacity, the committee serves as a failsafe to ensure that the bills have appropriate punishments and penalties that are in line with constitutional law.

Judicial reforms are usually presented to the Joint Committee on the Judiciary, and members veto or pass the reforms. Bills of any kind may go before the committee, as long as they meet the requirements for criminal or civil penalties. For example, acts that have done before Connecticut's Joint Committee on the Judiciary include acts concerning organized retail theft, those involving the protection of domestic violence victims, those prohibiting the unreasonable confinement of dogs, and those specifying the punishments and evidence needed to prove failure of a driver to stop for a school bus.

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