Senate Committee on Jurisprudence - 80th R.S. (2007)
- Study the laws governing suits affecting the parent-child relationship involving non-parents, including suits for possession of or access to a child by a grandparent, and make recommendations for providing the best care and protection for the children involved. Provide an assessment of the constitutional issues involved with these suits.
- Study the management and storage of adoption records, including the costs and benefits of converting records into digital format. Study ways to increase access by adopted persons and their children and spouses to important family medical history information and ensure that medical history information is updated, while maintaining privacy and anonymity of records.
- Examine the role of heir finders in Texas and make recommendations regarding professional standards and fees for heir finders.
Identify and study best practices for representation of children in child abuse and neglect cases and determine whether to implement further training, oversight, or other requirements for judges, attorneys, and others responsible for child abuse and neglect cases, including child sexual abuse cases. Develop and implement tools for children’s advocacy centers (CACs) and prosecutors to successfully investigate and prosecute child abusers. Include the following:
- Explore changes to the rules of evidence that could facilitate the presentation of child testimony in court;
- Explore making prior extraneous sex offenses admissible during determination of guilt, as has been adopted in the federal court system; and
- Explore possible expansion of the rules regarding how cases are consolidated and punishments are stacked in a single trial involving a crime committed against a child.
Study practices intended to enhance the jury experience and increase jury participation, including:
- allowing jurors to ask questions of witnesses by submitting them to the judge in writing;
- allowing lawyers to periodically summarize testimony for the jury;
- allowing jurors to take notes during trial; and
- allowing jurors to discuss evidence among themselves during trial.
- Study and make recommendations relating to the jurisdiction, authority, power and discretion of probate judges in Texas, including the authority of a probate judge to intervene in a non-probate case.
- Study administrative and legal procedures used by municipalities to exert regulatory authority beyond city limits and extraterritorial jurisdiction. Determine whether conflicts exist with agencies' regulatory authority and regulatory authority delegated to home-rule municipalities, and make recommendations for appropriate delegation and clarification of respective authorities.
- Monitor the implementation of legislation addressed by the Jurisprudence Committee, 80th R.S., and make recommendations for any legislation needed to improve, enhance, and/or complete implementation.
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