United States House of Representatives, Committee on the Judiciary
 
     
 

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Legislative Work - 110th Congress

 
 

Legislative Work - 111th Congress

 
 

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  Legislative Work - 110th Congress

Chairman Smith The Judiciary Committee passed a variety of legislation within its jurisdiction during the 110th Congress.  Some of the committee’s most notable accomplishments include:

Contempt Resolutions Against Harriet Miers and Josh Bolten – The committee found former White House Counsel Harriet Miers and then White House Chief of Staff Joshua Bolten in contempt of Congress for refusal to comply with committee subpoenas in connection with the investigation of politicization at the Department of Justice.  The House accordingly adopted H.Res. 979 finding Miers and Bolten in contempt as well as H.Res. 980 authorizing the Judiciary Committee to initiate or intervene in judicial proceedings to enforce the subpoenas.  The committee accordingly filed federal litigation, which has resulted in a landmark court decision rejecting claims of absolute immunity from subpoena by the former Bush administration.  House Judiciary Comm. v. Miers, Civ. Action No. 08-0409 (D.D.C. July 31, 2008), app. pending.  That decision led to an historic settlement that has produced thousands of internal White House documents and on-the-record testimony by two former White House officials.

Animal Fighting Prohibition Enforcement Act of 2007 – amends the federal criminal code to impose a fine and/or prison term of up to three years for violations of the Animal Welfare Act relating to:  (1) sponsoring or exhibiting an animal in an animal fighting venture; (2) buying, selling, transporting, delivering, or receiving for purposes of transportation, in interstate or foreign commerce, any dog or other animal for participation in an animal fighting venture; and (3) using the mails or other instrumentality of interstate commerce to promote or further an animal fighting venture.

Amends the Animal Welfare Act to prohibit knowingly selling, buying, transporting, or delivering, in interstate or foreign commerce, a knife, a gaffe or any other sharp instrument for attachment to the leg of a bird for use in an animal fighting venture.  Became Public Law 110-22 on May 3, 2007.

Preserving United States Attorney Independence Act of 2007 – clarifies that section 546 of title 28 of the United States Code is the exclusive means for appointing an individual to temporarily perform the functions of a United States attorney for a district in which the office of United States attorney is vacant.  It specifies that such individual may serve until the earlier of either:  1) the qualification of a United States attorney appointed by the president pursuant to section 541 of title 28 of the United States Code; or (2) the expiration of 120 days after appointment by the attorney general of the individual as interim United States attorney.  Upon the expiration of 120 days, and if no permanent United States attorney has been appointed with Senate confirmation, the district court for such district may appoint a United States attorney to serve until the vacancy is filled.  Became Public Law No. 110-34.

A bill to amend the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2006 to expand the provision of special immigrant status for certain aliens, including translators or interpreters, serving with federal agencies in Iraq and Afghanistan – amends the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2006 to authorize special immigrant status for certain Afghan or Iraqi translators or interpreters working with the U.S. Armed Forces or federal agencies under the Chief of Mission in Afghanistan and Iraq.  It authorizes: (1) additional fiscal year 2007 and 2008 entrants (up to 500 annually); and (2) adjustment to permanent resident status.  Became Public Law 110-36 on June 15, 2007.

Implementing Recommendations of the 9/11 Commission Act of 2007 – to provide for the implementation of the recommendations of the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks upon the United States (9/11 Commission).  Key immigration provisions of the bill included:

  • Section 711 – Visa Waiver Program reform measures;
  • Section 721 – Strengthening the capabilities of the Human Smuggling and Trafficking Center;
  • Section 722 – Enhancements to the terrorist travel program;
  • Section 723 – Enhanced driver's license;
  • Section 725 – Model Ports-of-Entry.
Became Public Law 110-53 on August 3, 2007.

Honest Leadership and Open Government Act of 2007 – amended parts of the Lobbying Disclosure Act of 1995. It strengthens public disclosure requirements concerning lobbying activity and funding, places more restrictions on gifts for members of Congress and their staff, and provides for mandatory disclosure of earmarks in expenditure bills.  Became Public Law 110-81 on September 14, 2007.

Internet Tax Freedom Act Amendments Act of 2007 – amends the Internet Tax Freedom Act to: (1) extend until 1 November 2011, the moratorium on state and local taxation of Internet access and electronic commerce and the exemption from such moratorium for states with previously enacted Internet tax laws (grandfather provisions); (2) restrict the authority of certain states claiming an exemption from the moratorium under the Internet Tax Nondiscrimination Act of 2004 to impose Internet access taxes after 1 November 2007; (3) expand the definition of "Internet access" to include related communication services (e.g., e-mails and instant messaging) and redefine "telecommunications" to include unregulated non-utility telecommunications (e.g., cable service); and (4) allow a specific exception to the moratorium for certain state business taxes enacted between 20 June 2005, and 1 November 2007, that do not tax Internet access.  Became Public Law 110-108 on October 31, 2007.

Court Security Improvement Act of 2007 – improves the security of federal judges, other federal court officers and their families by:  (1) allowing judges to redact personal family information from public disclosure forms; (2) increasing funding for protection services by U.S. marshals and federal witness protection programs; (3) prohibiting publishing personal information about a judge, law enforcement officer or witness to cause harassment, intimidation or violence and other acts of intimidation; and (4) enhancing prison terms for assaults on judges and other federal officers in performance of their official duties.  Became Public Law 110-177 on January 7, 2008.

The NICS Improvement Amendments Act of 2007 – would require federal agencies to provide relevant records for use in NICS. It would also provide financial incentives to states to do the same, by rewarding states that provide records to NICS and penalizing those that refuse to do so over an extended period of time.  Became Public Law 110-180 on January 8, 2008.

Second Chance Act of 2007 – federal legislation designed to improve outcomes for people returning to the community from prisons and jails.  This first-of-its-kind legislation amends the "Omnibus Crime Control and Safe Streets Act of 1968" to authorize federal grants to government agencies and community and faith-based organizations to provide employment assistance, substance abuse treatment, housing, family programming, mentoring, victims support, and other services that can help reduce re-offending and violations of probation and parole.  Became Public Law 110-199 on April 9, 2008.

African-American Farmers Benefits Relief Act of 2007 – provides de novo review for qualifying claims filed under the consolidated class action lawsuits of Pigford v. Veneman and Brewington v. Veneman.  Provisions of H.R.558 were included in the 2007 Farm Bill, which became the 2008 Farm Bill and became Public Law 110-246 on June 18, 2008.

FISA Amendments Act of 2008 – extended and amended the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. This bill marked the culmination of a lengthy legislative process necessary to address and update  FISA after the temporary amendments enacted in August 2007 by the Protect America Act. Initially, the House passed FISA legislation that had been voted out of the committee on November 15, 2007 (H.R. 3773, The "Responsible Electronic Surveillance that is Overseen, Reviewed, and Effective Act of 2007," or "RESTORE Act of 2007"). The Senate passed its version of the Bill in February 2008 sending it back to the House, and the House passed the bill once again with additional amendments in March, sending the bill back to the Senate.  Then, after a series of negotiations between the House, Senate and the administration, a final bill, introduced under a new name and number (H.R. 6304), was introduced in June of 2008.

The FISA Amendments Act of 2008 provided the president the authority needed to conduct necessary national security surveillance, while, at the same time, tempering this authority so as to protect civil liberties. As far as the civil liberties protections were concerned, the act:

  • provided for up-front court approval for certain overseas interceptions and individual warrants when the target is a known U.S. person (even if overseas) or is reasonably believed to be in America
  • reaffirmed FISA exclusivity and the exclusive role of Congress in modifying surveillance laws, so there are no more abuses by the White House to order wiretapping under theories of unreviewable executive power;
  • provided explicitly that nothing in the bill shall be construed to require FISA warrants for non-U.S. Persons who are reasonably believed to be outside of the United States, but protects Americans overseas for the first time.

Though not in the original House bill approved by the committee, the act in its final form provided in Title II that telephone companies that had engaged national security wiretapping at the administration's request, outside the requirements of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act and without judicial authorization, be given in substance "immunity" for their conduct. Concerns were raised that this provision interfered with on-going legislation, undercut the District Court's ongoing review of the carriers' activities, prevented the court from inquiring into the legality of the president's secret warrantless wiretapping program, and, instead, required the court simply to assess whether the carriers got certain requests and directives from the administration. Became Public Law 110-261 on July 10, 2008

Regulatory Improvement Act of 2007 – authorizes the appropriation of $9.6 million over fiscal years 2008 through 2011 for the Administrative Conference of the United States, an independent advisory agency that would assist the federal government in developing and implementing regulations.  Became Public Law 110-290 on July 30, 2008.

Criminal History Background Checks Pilot Extension Act of 2008 – amends the PROTECT Act to extend by six months the Child Safety Pilot Program (allowing certain volunteer organizations to obtain national and state criminal history background checks on their volunteers). Became Public Law 110-296 on July 30, 2008.

A bill to amend the Federal Rules of Evidence to Address the Waiver of the Attorney-Client Privilege and the Work Product Doctrine – clarifies that inadvertent disclosure in discovery of information protected as attorney-client privileged or attorney work product does not waive the protection, provided the party has taken reasonable efforts to avoid disclosure and takes prompt steps to rectify it; limits any waiver to the information disclosed except where the court determines that would be unfair; and authorizes courts to enter protective orders to permit exchanges in discovery without waiving the protection.  Became Public Law 110-322 on September 19, 2008.

ADA Amendments Act of 2008 – amends the definition of disability in the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 ("ADA"), Pub. L. No.101-386 (1990), 42 U.S.C. §§ 12101-12213, and provides related rules of construction for applying the amended definition.  The ADA Amendments Act restores protection for the broad range of individuals with disabilities as originally envisioned by Congress by responding to the Supreme Court’s narrow interpretation of the definition of disability and prohibiting consideration of mitigating measures that help control or lessen the impact of an impairment when determining whether an impairment is sufficiently limiting to qualify as a disability.  It also reduces the burden of establishing that an impairment qualifies as a disability by defining terms in the definition that have proven most troubling for the courts.  Became Public Law 110-325 on September 25, 2008.

The Child Soldier Prevention Act of 2007 – prohibits the recruitment or use of child soldiers, it designate persons who recruit or use child soldiers as inadmissible aliens, and allows the deportation of persons who recruit or use child soldiers.  Became Public Law 110-340 on October 3, 2008.

Emmet Till Unsolved Civil Rights Crime Act of 2007 – directs the attorney general to designate a Deputy Chief in the Criminal Section of the Civil Rights Division of the Department of Justice (DOJ).  Makes the deputy chief responsible for investigating and prosecuting violations of criminal civil rights statutes in which the alleged violation occurred before January 1, 1970 and resulted in death.  Became Public Law 110-344 on October 7, 2008.

Effective Child Pornography Prosecution Act of 2007Title I: Effective Child Pornography Prosecution Act of 2007 – amended the federal criminal code to expand the jurisdictional basis for prosecutions of sexual exploitation of children, selling or buying of children, or child pornography crimes to include activities that use any means or facility of interstate or foreign commerce to complete such crimes.  This bill passed the House on November 14, 2007, by a vote of 414-0.  With some technical amendments, it passed the Senate by unanimous consent as Title I of the Senate version of H.R. 4120 on September 23, 2008.  The Senate version of HR 4120 was then passed by the House on September 26, 2008 by a vote of 414-0.  Became Public Law 110-358 on October 8, 2008.

Enhancing the Effective Prosecution of Child Pornography Act of 2007 – amended the federal criminal code to:  (1) include child pornography that contains a visual depiction of an actual minor engaging in sexually explicit conduct and the production of such pornography for importation into the United States as predicate crimes for money laundering prosecutions; and (2) define "possess" with respect to crimes of child sexual exploitation and child pornography to include accessing by computer visual depictions of child pornography with the intent to view.  This bill passed the House by a vote of 416-0 on November 15, 2007.  It was included as Title II of the Senate version of H.R. 4120.  The Senate version was then passed by the House on September 26, 2008 by a vote of 414-0.  Became Public Law 110-358 on October 8, 2008.

Debbie Smith Reauthorization Act of 2008 – Debbie Smith Reauthorization Act of 2008 - Amends the DNA Analysis Backlog Elimination Act of 2000 to authorize appropriations for DNA analysis grant programs under such Act through FY2014.  Amends the DNA Sexual Assault Justice Act of 2004 to reauthorize through FY2014 grant programs for: (1) DNA training and education for law enforcement and corrections personnel and court officers; and (2) the sexual assault forensic exam program.  Became Public Law 110-360 on October 8, 2008.

Keeping the Internet Devoid of Sexual Predators Act of 2007/ KIDS Act of 2007 – authorized additional appropriations for FY2008-FY2013 to:  (1) evaluate and purchase Internet filtering and monitoring programs and devices; (2) train probation officers in the use of such programs and devices and in the supervision of sex offenders; and (3) hire probation officers and other personnel as required to supervise convicted sex offenders effectively, and amended criminal code related to certain aspects of probation for sex offenders.  This bill was amended in the Senate in S. 431 by a new approach that would provide for a system whereby social networking sites could have access to information compiled in the Department of Justice’s sex offender registries.   The House passed the Senate version with amendments by unanimous consent on September 27, 2008; the Senate passed the House version on September 30, 2008.  Became Public Law 110-400 on October 13, 2008.

The PROTECT our Children Act of 2007 – established a Special Counsel for Child Exploitation Prevention and Interdiction within the Office of the Deputy attorney general, to improve the Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force, to increase resources for regional computer forensic labs, and to make other improvements to increase the ability law enforcement agencies to investigate and prosecute predators.  This bill was passed in the House by a vote of 415-2 on November 14, 2007.  The provisions of this bill were included as Title I of S. 1738, which passed the Senate on September 25, 2008, and passed the House on September 27, 2008.  Became Public law 110-401 on October 13, 2008.

The Securing Adolescents from Exploitation-Online Act of 2007 (SAFE Act of 2007) – amends and clarifies the reporting requirements of electronic communication service providers and remote computing service providers of apparent child pornography to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children.  It also limited the liability for those entities in handling images of suspected child pornography and made related technical improvements to the reporting requirements.  It was passed by the House by a vote of 409-2 on December 5, 2007.  The provisions of this bill, with some amendments, were included as Title II of S. 1738, which passed the Senate on September 25, 2008, and passed the House on September 27, 2008.  Became Public law 110-401 on October 13, 2008.

Prioritizing Resources and Organization for Intellectual Property (PRO IP) Act of 2008 – strengthened intellectual property laws by providing stiffer penalties for piracy and counterfeiting activities, harmonizing forfeiture procedures for intellectual property offenses, making it illegal to export counterfeit goods, and eliminating loopholes that might prevent enforcement of otherwise validly registered copyrights.  The bill also established an Intellectual Property Enforcement Coordinator who will be responsible for producing a Joint Strategic Plan for national intellectual property enforcement and for assisting in the coordination of intellectual property enforcement efforts among federal agencies.  Additionally, the bill authorizes resources beyond current appropriations for intellectual property enforcement efforts, including $10,000,000 to the Federal Bureau of Investigation for additional agents to investigate intellectual property crimes, $10,000,000 to the Department of Justice for additional U.S. attorneys dedicated to prosecuting intellectual property crimes, and $25,000,000 to fund grants to state and local law enforcement agencies investigating and prosecuting intellectual property crimes.

Drug Trafficking Vessel Interdiction Act of 2008 – amends titles 18 and 46, United States Code, to prohibit the operation of submersible vessels and semi-submersible vessels without nationality in international waters.  Highly sophisticated vessels of these types have been used in recent years to smuggle drugs into the United States, and there is concern that they could be used for terrorism purposes as well.  They are built to avoid detection, and if detected to be rapidly sunk so as to avoid capture.  The Act makes it a felony to unlawfully operate one of these vessels, and also establishes a civil penalty regime, while creating exceptions for lawfully registered vessels, vessels lawfully used for government regulated or licensed activities, and vessels equipped to make them visible to tracking devices.  Became Public Law 110-407 on September 13, 2008.

Methamphetamine Production Prevention Act of 2008 – amends the Controlled Substances Act to expand written and electronic logbook requirements applicable to sellers and purchasers of listed chemicals (e.g., legal substances used in the production of methamphetamine). 

Requires retail sellers of listed chemicals to use an electronic logbook or a bound paper book to obtain required information (i.e., name and address of purchaser, date and time of sale, and quantity sold) for sales of listed chemicals.  Became Public Law 110-415 on October 14, 2008.

Mentally Ill Offender Treatment and Crime Reduction Reauthorization and Improvement Act of 2008 – amends the Omnibus Crime Control and Safe Streets Act of 1968 to increase the authorization of appropriations for the grant program for adult and juvenile collaboration for access to adequate mental health treatment and to extend such funding through FY2014.  Directs the attorney general to give priority to grant applications that promote effective strategies to identify and treat mentally-ill offenders and meet other criteria.  Became Public Law 110-416 on October 14, 2008.

Bulletproof Vest Partnership Grant Act of 2008 – amends the Omnibus Crime Control and Safe Streets Act of 1968 to extend through Fiscal Year 2012 the grant program for armor vests for law enforcement officers.  Became Public Law 110-421 on October 15, 2008.

The Ryan Haight Online Pharmacy Consumer Protection Act of 2008 – amends the Controlled Substances Act to address buyers of prescription drugs over the Internet to provide proof of an in-person medical evaluation and a valid prescription.  Became Public Law 110-425 on October 15, 2008

National Guard and Reservists Debt Relief Act of 2008 – amends Title II of the United States Code to exempt for a limited period, from the application of the means-test presumption of abuse under Chapter 7 (a form of bankruptcy relief), qualifying members of reserve components of the Armed Forces and members of the National Guard who, after September 11, 2001, are called to active duty or to perform a homeland defense activity for not less than 90 days.  Became Public Law 110-438 on October 20, 2008.

Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act of 2007 – authorizes the administrator of the U.S. Agency for International Development to makes juvenile victims of trafficking in persons eligible for interim assistance.  Directs the attorney general to prepare model legislation for state use to define and prohibit all acts relating to prostitution of children and trafficking in children for the purpose of labor or sexual exploitation.  Became Public Law 110-457 on December 23, 2008

 

 
 
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