Aug. 6, 2002 The U.S. Virgin Islands - which enacted six new uniform laws in the past year — was recognized as the No. 1 jurisdiction in the United States for enactment of uniform laws in 2002 at the 111th annual National Conference of Commissioners of Uniform State Laws last week in Tucson, Ariz.
Additionally, the territory was recognized as the only jurisdiction in the United States to have completely updated the Uniform Commercial Code.
"Earlier this year the territory had the most outdated commercial laws in the country. With the adoption of the latest UCC amendments, we have gone from 1962 to 2002 overnight," said St. Thomas attorney Tom Bolt, who is president of the V.I. Bar Association.
Bolt said that work on the Uniform Commercial Code began more than 10 years ago, and that updating it speaks well for commerce in the territory. "It controls every commercial transaction that a buyer and seller enters into," he said.
Attending the conference were Bolt; St. Thomas attorney Queen Terry, who is assistant counsel to Gov. Charles Turnbull; and acting chief legislative counsel Yvonne Tharpes. All are members of the V.I. Uniform Law Commission.
The national organization comprises more than 300 lawyers, judges, law professor, legislators, and other state officials from every state, Washington, D.C., Puerto Rico, and the Virgin Islands. Members are appointed locally to draft and promote enactment of uniform laws that are designed to solve problems common to all states and territories.
The territory has enacted 34 different uniform acts. In addition to the Uniform Commercial Code, they include the Uniform Anatomical Gift Act, the Uniform Athlete Agents Act, the Uniform Interstate Family Support Act, the Uniform Limited Partnership Act, and the Uniform Partnership Act, among others.
Bolt said that the Uniform Securities Act, which was hammered out at the conference but still must be passed by the Legislature, is particularly important in light of the recent Enron and WorldCom scandals. This act gives state and territorial securities regulators broad powers to investigate, prosecute and sanction people and firms that engage in securities transactions.
Currently, the territory has limited power to regulate securities.
He said members at the conference also passed a Uniform Interstate Enforcement of Domestic Violence Protection Orders Act. This means that a restraining order obtained in another jurisdiction is valid in the Virgin Islands, and vice versa.
The conference also saw the passage of the Uniform Child Witness Testimony by Alternative Methods Act, which allows children to testify in both criminal and non-criminal proceedings outside a courtroom and away from the immediate presence of a criminal defendant. This act will make it easier and more comfortable for children to give testimony.
These acts also need passage by the V.I. Legislature, but Bolt said there is usually no problem in getting them through. "Usually on uniform laws, the senators don't amend them," he said.
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