Gov. Patrick signs court reform into law; two other bar supported measures advance
Gov. Deval Patrick on Aug. 4 signed into law HB 3644, a legislative conference committee
report, that would set into place historic reforms to the
management structure of the Massachusetts court system. The measure
has long been advocated by the MBA and court leaders. A major
thrust of the legislation will be the appointment of a civilian
administrator, along with deputy court administrators throughout
the Trial Court department.
The bill was endorsed by both the House and Senate on July
House Speaker Robert A. DeLeo announced the filing of the bill
in March, calling for major reforms to the court system and its
probation department. The MBA's 1976 Res Gestae, 1991 Harbridge House Report and 2003 Court Reform Study have long advocated
for reforms, including a civilian, non-judicial court administrator
to manage the business operations of the Trial Court.
Two other major initiatives of great importance to
practitioners, and strongly supported by the Massachusetts Bar
Association, have advanced to the final stages of legislative
Senate Bill No. 1989 unanimously passed the
Senate on Thursday, July 28. The bill will set clear guidelines and
provide consistency in the setting of alimony orders by
establishing specific timelines for payments based on the length of
A Joint Task Force of the MBA and the Boston Bar Association
prepared a report in 2010 calling for sweeping alimony
law changes. The bar study led to the creation of a Legislative
Alimony Task Force chaired by Sen. Gale Candaras and State Rep.
The legislation, which has already passed the House of
Representatives, has an effective date of March 2012 and awaits
final routine legislative action along with Gov. Deval Patrick's
On July 28, the Massachusetts Senate passed Senate Bill 1987, An Act to Provide Access to
Forensic and Scientific Analysis. The MBA has studied the issue of
DNA testing and access for a number of years. In 2004, the MBA held
a conference highlighting the necessity of an
individual's access to DNA evidence. As part of its conference, the
MBA's keynote speaker, Calvin C. Johnson, Jr., spoke of his
experience of being wrongfully convicted. Having spent over 16
years behind bars in Georgia and finally freed with the help of the
National Innocence Project, Johnson went on to become a national
best-selling author and advocate.
The MBA's House of Delegates recently voted to support DNA
access legislation as is contained in Senate Bill 1987.
The MBA will work for passage of the DNA legislation as the
debate wends its way through the House.