News from the courts/agencies

Thursday, Nov. 8, 2018
Take a survey on jury practices in the commonwealth; SJC announces extensive amendments to Rules of Appellate Procedure


Take a survey on jury practices in the commonwealth

The Massachusetts Trial Court is partnering/working with the National Center for State Courts' Office for Jury Studies to conduct a statewide survey of judges and attorneys regarding jury practices in the commonwealth. The survey includes, but is not limited to, questions regarding voir dire questioning methods, length of voir dire, juror note taking practices and jury instruction practices instructed. Please click here to take the survey by Nov. 13. It should take approximately 10 minutes to complete.

The data from this survey will be compiled with data collected nationwide into state of the states survey of jury improvement efforts, the most comprehensive snapshot of contemporary jury operations and practices in state courts ever conducted.


SJC announces extensive amendments to Rules of Appellate Procedure

The justices of the Supreme Judicial Court have announced extensive amendments to the Massachusetts Rules of Appellate Procedure. The amendments are effective March 1, 2019, and govern procedures in appeals then pending and those commenced on and after that date. The amendments are intended to facilitate the just and expeditious resolution of appeals; clarify and simplify filing and formatting requirements; eliminate arcane language and incorporate consistent style and terminology; integrate existing practices and procedures; and facilitate the implementation of paperless court processes.  

Copies of the court’s order approving the amendments, the rules in their amended form, a strikethrough version of the rules showing all amendments, and the reporter’s notes are available here.

The amendments are the product of a four-year review of the rules, conducted by the Appellate Rules Subcommittee of the SJC Standing Advisory Committee on the Rules of Civil and Appellate Procedure, in conjunction with the SJC Standing Advisory Committee on the Rules of Criminal Procedure. The subcommittee, chaired by Appeals Court Clerk Joseph Stanton, conducted the first full-scale review of the rules in the four decades since their enactment in 1974. After a period of public comment on the proposed amendments, the final changes amend nearly every rule and are expected to simplify formatting, service, and filing requirements for all appellate court documents.

The SJC and Appeals Court, through their respective clerks’ offices, invite parties to, on a voluntary basis, immediately begin formatting and filing their appellate court submissions in compliance with the formatting and filing provisions of the amended rules, in advance of the effective date. For example, consistent with the amended rules, parties may now elect to use a word count and proportionally spaced font instead of a page limit, in determining the permissible length of a brief or other filing. Parties may also file seven copies of a brief instead of an original and 17 copies in the SJC.

The amendments affecting time deadlines, each of which provides more time to perform an act than the existing rules, will not become effective until March 1, 2019. Parties must continue to follow all time deadlines until that time.