News from the courts/agencies

Thursday, Dec. 8, 2016
Supreme Judicial Court hears oral arguments in four cases in special sitting in Lawrence; Elizabeth D. Katz selected for U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Springfield
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Supreme Judicial Court hears oral arguments in four cases in special sitting in Lawrence

Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court Chief Justice Ralph D. Gants and the six associate justices heard oral arguments in four cases in a special sitting at the Lawrence District Court on Dec. 6. The special sitting provided an opportunity for students, residents of the local community and the media to view the work of the highest court of the commonwealth outside of the John Adams Courthouse in Boston, where cases are normally heard.

As part of the special sitting, Essex County Superior Court Clerk Thomas H. Driscoll, Jr., and Lawrence District Court Clerk Keith E. McDonough, acted as clerks to the justices for the day. Students from Lawrence High School, Greater Lawrence Technical High School and Central Catholic High School attended the special sitting. Following oral arguments, Chief Justice Gants and the associate justices answered questions from students.

"It was a great pleasure for all the justices to 'take our court on the road' and bring it to Lawrence," said SJC Chief Justice Ralph Gants. "We thank all those who worked so hard to make our visit a success--the judges, clerks, court officers, bar association leaders, teachers, and students, and the court maintenance staff who demonstrated extraordinary craftsmanship and ingenuity in building a removable bench that could seat the seven justices and can be used for future outside sittings."

The seven justices hear appeals on a broad range of criminal and civil cases from September through May. The associate justices sit as single justices each month on a rotation schedule. Single justices consider certain petitions pertaining to cases on trial or on appeal, bail reviews, bar discipline proceedings, petitions for admission to the bar, and a variety of other statutory proceedings. The full bench renders approximately 200 written decisions each year. The single justices decide approximately 600 cases annually.

The justices heard oral arguments in the below cases:

  • SJC-12125    Commonwealth vs. Douglas Garcia
  • SJC-12114    Commonwealth vs. Joel D. Morgan
  • SJC-12186    Commonwealth vs. Heather Dragotta
  • SJC-12195    Guardianship of K.N.

Following oral arguments, SJC Chief Justice Gants delivered remarks as guest speaker at a luncheon put together and hosted by the Lawrence Bar Association, Haverhill Bar Association and the Essex County Bar Association, where he addressed court leaders, bar leaders and Essex County officials.


Elizabeth D. Katz selected for U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Springfield

Chief Judge Jeffrey R. Howard of the United States Court of Appeals for the First Circuit has announced that Elizabeth D. Katz has been selected to fill the vacancy in the United States Bankruptcy Court for the District of Massachusetts in Springfield, created by Judge Henry J. Boroff's retirement. Attorney Katz will be appointed to the bankruptcy bench in early 2017, upon FBI clearance.

Attorney Katz has practiced law in the Springfield and Northampton areas for more than two decades. Attorney Katz received a Bachelor of Arts from the University of Vermont, and in 1994, graduated from Boston University School of Law with a Juris Doctor. Currently a partner at Rescia, Katz & Shear, LLP, Attorney Katz focuses her practice on consumer and business bankruptcy matters, as well as criminal defense. In addition to representing debtors and creditors in bankruptcy cases, attorney Katz serves as counsel to the Chapter 7 Trustee in adversary proceedings in the Districts of Massachusetts and Connecticut. Attorney Katz's expansive legal career began at the Office of the Attorney General in Boston upon her graduation from law school. In 1995, Attorney Katz became an assistant district attorney at the Northwestern District Attorney's Office in Northampton, where she worked until 2007. Upon her departure, Attorney Katz was the Chief of the Hampshire County and Franklin County District Courts Divisions. In 2007, she entered private practice and represented clients in a wide-range of matters including bankruptcy cases, criminal cases, civil litigation, family law matters and landlord-tenant disputes. Since 2008, Attorney Katz has concentrated her practice in all aspects of bankruptcy law.

Attorney Katz served as president of the Hampshire County Bar Association from 2012 to 2014 and is currently a member of its executive committee. Attorney Katz is a member of the Local Rules Committee for the United States Bankruptcy Court for the District of Massachusetts and since 2011, has served as co-chair of the M. Ellen Carpenter Financial Literacy Program for western Massachusetts, a financial literacy program for high school students.

Chief Judge Howard stated that "Attorney Katz's extensive legal experience and talent will greatly benefit the District of Massachusetts and the community of Springfield." Chief Judge Howard also thanked Judge Boroff for his many years of dedicated and distinguished service.

Chief Judge Howard expressed his gratitude to the members of the Bankruptcy Merit Selection Panel, which was chaired by First Circuit Court of Appeals Judge David J. Barron.


The recent amendments to the Federal Rules of
Appellate Procedure, effective December 1, 2016, make significant changes to appellate practice
before the United States Court of Appeals. These changes include a reduction in word limits for
briefs; the conversion of page limits to word counts for motions, petitions for a writ of
mandamus, petitions for rehearing/rehearing en banc and various other filings; the addition of a
requirement that most documents prepared on a computer include a certificate of compliance
with type-volume limits; and the elimination of the three-day service period for documents
served electronically. A notice, including a detailed summary of major changes and a redline
version of the full text of the amendments, is available on the First Circuit Court of Appeals
website, at, under News and Notices, as well as on the Notice of Rule
Amendments page under Rules and Procedures.