News from the courts/agencies

Thursday, Mar. 23, 2017
SJC selects Jonathan S. Williams as Massachusetts Trial Court Administrator; Notice of vacancies on the Board of Bar Overseers; SJC announces new committee to study grand jury proceedings; Updated District Court jury instructions
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Supreme Judicial Court selects Jonathan S. Williams as Massachusetts Trial Court Administrator

The justices of the Supreme Judicial Court have announced that they have selected Jonathan S. Williams as the next Court Administrator of the Trial Court. Williams succeeds Harry Spence, who will retire on April 17, after serving a five-year term as the first Court Administrator.

"The Justices are pleased to welcome Jon Williams, who will bring to his new position an extensive record of accomplishments in public sector management and a depth of experience in court administration," said Supreme Judicial Court Chief Justice Ralph D. Gants. "We are confident that Jon will be able to continue and build upon the progress made in the last five years under his predecessor Harry Spence. Harry has brought the Trial Court through a time of great growth and change, and we thank him for his exceptional service."

Jon Williams most recently has served as Senior Deputy Director in the North Carolina Administrative Office of the Courts, where he supervised operations for the Judicial Branch, including technology, finance and general services.  He was appointed by North Carolina Chief Justice Mark Martin to serve as the Chief Reporter to the Commission on the Administration of Law and Justice, a 65 member multidisciplinary group tasked to make broad recommendations for court reform in North Carolina. As Chief Reporter, Williams helped secure funding and structured the overall work of the Commission from its inception to its delivery of the final report in March 2017.

Before working for the court system, Williams was Assistant Secretary for the North Carolina Department of Commerce and the Chairman of the Alcoholic Beverage Control Commission. Prior to that, he spent ten years working for the North Carolina Department of Crime Control and Public Safety, after spending eight years as an attorney in private practice.

The Massachusetts Trial Court Administrator is the administrative head of the Trial Court, charged with providing effective, timely and innovative support to judges, clerks, probation officers and staff.  Working together with the Chief Justice of the Trial Court, the Court Administrator is responsible for shaping administrative functions that support the Trial Court's delivery of justice to the people of Massachusetts. Duties include budget preparation and oversight, labor relations, information technology, capital projects, security and personnel policy.

"The Trial Court is in the midst of an exciting period of renewal," said Williams, "I look forward to joining Chief Justice Paula Carey in these ambitious efforts and supporting a culture of continuous improvement in all we do."

"With the hard work and dedication of those who work in the Trial Court, we have made great strides in streamlining our operations and modernizing our systems," said Trial Court Chief Justice Paula M. Carey. "I am confident that Jon Williams and I will work together to continue to expand capabilities and efficiencies through technology, improving operations and enhancing the delivery of justice."

The position of Court Administrator for the Massachusetts Trial Court was created by court management legislation enacted in 2011. The Massachusetts Trial Court includes seven court departments with 379 judges and about 6,300 employees who deliver justice in 101 courthouses across the state.


Notice of vacancies on the Board of Bar Overseers

The Justices of the Supreme Judicial Court invite applications for appointment to the Board of Bar Overseers. Several vacancies will occur in July 2017, due to the expiration of terms of incumbent members. Appointments are made for a term of four years. One page resumes or biographies, with cover letters, should be submitted by April 19 to:

Mona R. Hochberg
Supreme Judicial Court 
John Adams Courthouse
One Pemberton Square 
Boston, MA 02108.

Phone: 617-557-1156 

Submissions may be made by mail or email.


Supreme Judicial Court announces new committee to study grand jury proceedings

The justices of the Supreme Judicial Court have announced the creation of a Committee to Study Grand Jury Proceedings. The committee will report on the practices employed by the district attorneys and the Attorney General with respect to grand jury presentments, the reasons supporting the different practices, the substance of the instructions that grand juries receive, and any recommended best practices.

In a recent opinion, Commonwealth v . Bryan M. Grassie, 476 Mass. 202 (2017), the Supreme Judicial Court stated that it would "convene a committee to assist us in gaining a better understanding of current practices employed by the various district attorneys and the Attorney General before considering an extension of the rule adopted in Commonwealth v. Walczak, 463 Mass. 808 (2012) to similar types of grand jury proceedings involving adults." In Walczak, the Court had held that "where the Commonwealth seeks to indict a juvenile for murder and where there is substantial evidence of mitigating circumstances or defenses (other than lack of criminal responsibility) presented to the grand jury, the prosecutor shall instruct the grand jury on the elements of murder and on the significance of the mitigating circumstances and defenses."  

Chaired by Superior Court Judge Robert L. Ullmann, the committee includes representatives of the judiciary, the Attorney General, the Massachusetts District Attorneys Association, the Committee for Public Counsel Services, the Massachusetts Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers and others with experience in grand jury proceedings.

The members of the committee are:

Honorable Robert L. Ullmann, Superior Court, Chair
Honorable Peter W. Agnes, Jr., Appeals Court
Janice Bassil, Esq., Bassil Klovee & Budreau, Boston
Assistant District Attorney Paul J. Caccaviello, Berkshire County District Attorney's Office
Honorable Judd J. Carhart, Appeals Court
Assistant Attorney General David E. Clayton, Office of the Attorney General
Assistant District Attorney Kevin J. Curtin, Middlesex County District Attorney's Office
Randy Gioia, Esq., Committee for Public Counsel Services
Honorable Bertha Josephson, Superior Court (retired)
Clinical Professor Diane S. Juliar, Suffolk Law School
Assistant District Attorney Mary Lee, Plymouth County District Attorney's Office
Kevin M. Mitchell, Esq., Law Office of Kevin M. Mitchell, Chelsea
Assistant District Attorney Donna Jalbert Patalano, Suffolk County District Attorney's Office


Updated District Court jury instructions

The following updates to jury instructions have been made by the District Court. The full Criminal Model Jury Instructions can be viewed here.

Assault and Battery by means of a Dangerous Weapon (Instruction 6.300)

  • Removed references to requirement that the defendant "intentionally" use the item as a dangerous weapon.  Commonwealth v. Tevlin, 433 Mass. 305, 313 (2001); Commonwealth v. Bior, 88 Mass. App. Ct. 150, 158 (2015).
  • Changed examples from lighted cigarette and pencil aimed at eye (assault, not ABDW) to brick thrust against someone's head and pillow used to suffocate someone.
  • Updated notes

First Complaint (Instruction 3.660)

  • Changed "we" to "the law" in second sentence of the substantive instruction
  • Updated notes to note rule is a neutral rule of evidence, available to a defendant if relevant.  Commonwealth v. Mayotte, 475 Mass. 254, 260-61 (2016)
  • Added to note 4 re: CW limited to one first complaint witness or substitute to note exception for testimony about different periods of time and escalating abuse
  • Added note 8 re: subsequent complaint testimony not being excluded if independently admissible testimony and serves a purpose other than to repeat the fact of a complaint

Leaving Scene Property Damage (Instruction 5.180)

  • Removed public way as an element, Commonwealth v. Leblanc, 475 Mass. 820 (2016) - (the complaint language has been updated as well)
  • Added language from operation of a motor vehicle so no need to flip back to that instruction
  • Replaced "injury" with "damage"

Trespass (Instruction 8.220)

  • No substantive change - only change to notes to note potential necessity defense, Commonwealth v. Magadini, 474 Mass. 593 (2016)