Court and Community News

Thursday, Nov. 30, 2023
SJC Justice Lowy to retire; U.S. District Court Judge Saris to retire; SJC issues new standards on substance use disorders and mental health conditions; Ifill appointed commissioner of probation


SJC Justice Lowy to retire

Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court (SJC) Justice David A. Lowy has advised Gov. Maura Healey that he will retire from the court on Feb. 3, 2024. Appointed by Gov. Charlie Baker, Lowy was sworn in as an associate justice of the SJC on Aug. 24, 2016. 

Lowy earned a B.A., cum laude, Phi Beta Kappa, from the University of Massachusetts Amherst in 1983, and graduated magna cum laude from Boston University School of Law in 1987.

Following law school, Lowy became an associate in the Litigation Department of Goodwin, Procter & Hoar from 1987-1988 and from 1989-1990, leaving for a yearlong stint to work as a law clerk to Judge Edward F. Harrington in the U.S. District Court. From 1992-1997, he served as an assistant district attorney in Essex and Suffolk counties, and from 1992t-1995, served as deputy legal counsel to Gov. William F. Weld.

Lowy was first appointed to the bench in 1997 as a District Court judge. In 2001, Gov. Paul Cellucci appointed him to the Superior Court bench. Lowy served for six years as regional administrative judge for Essex Superior Court.

Lowy served as an original member of the SJC Advisory Committee on Massachusetts Evidence Law; the committee’s work resulted in publication of the Massachusetts Guide to Evidence in 2008, with Lowy serving as an editor from 2008-2016. 

Lowy is a co-chair of the SJC Judiciary-Media Committee and serves as chair of the SJC Standing Committee on Substance Use Disorder and Mental Health.

Lowy's teaching positions include adjunct professorships at New England School of Law | Boston (1991-present), Suffolk University Law School (1995-2005) and Boston University School of Law (2006-present), where he teaches courses in evidence.  


U.S. District Court Judge Saris to retire

U.S. District Court Judge Patti B. Saris has advised President Joe Biden that she intends to retire from regular active service as a U.S. District Court judge upon the appointment of her successor. She also advised the president that she intends to continue to serve as a senior judge.

Saris was appointed to the court on Nov. 24, 1993, and served as chief judge from 2013-2019. She served as chair of the U.S. Sentencing Commission in Washington, D.C., from 2011-2017 and on the Judicial Conference Committee on Devender Services from 2002-2005.

After graduating from law school, she clerked for the Supreme Judicial Court, and then went into private practice. In 1979, she worked as staff counsel for Senator Edward M. Kennedy in his work as chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee. She returned to private practice in 1981. In 1982, she later became an assistant U.S. attorney, and eventually chief of the Civil Division. In 1986, Saris became a U.S. magistrate judge, and in 1989, she was appointed as an associate justice of the Massachusetts Superior Court.

Saris is a graduate of Radcliffe College ‘73 (Magna Cum Laude, Phi Beta Kappa) and Harvard Law School ‘76 (Cum Laude). She has taught as a lecturer at Harvard Law School for the past five years. She served six years on Harvard’s Board of Overseers and chaired the board in 2006. She was elected to the American Academy of Arts & Sciences.

Saris has received numerous awards throughout her career, including the Morton A Brody Distinguished Judicial Service Award and the Harvard Medal of Honor. She is an active member of the Federal Judges Association. Each summer, Saris hosts high school students from the Boston area through two fellowships supported by the court. She speaks frequently regarding the judicial system and criminal justice. She has co-authored two books related to her work and several articles.


SJC issues new standards on substance use disorders and mental health conditions 

The Supreme Judicial Court (SJC) today issued new Standards on Substance Use Disorders and Mental Health Conditions for the guidance of judges, clerks, probation officers and other court staff in responding effectively to people in the courts who are exhibiting signs of these conditions. The new standards update and supersede the Standards on Substance Abuse that were approved by the SJC justices in 1998.

The new standards were compiled by a working group of representatives from across the Massachusetts court system. The working group was established in 2019 under the leadership of SJC Chief Justice Ralph D. Gants and after his death in 2020 was led by former Trial Court Chief Justice Paula M. Carey. In developing the new standards, the working group met with outside experts and stakeholders, including addiction specialists, mental health professionals, physicians, MassHealth experts, representatives from the Department of Mental Health and the Department of Public Health, sheriffs, prosecutors and defense counsel.

"On behalf of the SJC, I would like to thank Chief Justice Carey and the members of the working group for their efforts and dedication to completing this important project," said SJC Chief Justice Kimberly S. Budd. "Substance use disorders and mental health conditions affect many litigants appearing in our courts, and these new standards provide a crucial roadmap for offering them the help they need."   

Implementation of the standards and related training for judges, clerks, probation officers and other court staff will be overseen by a committee recently appointed by Trial Court Chief Justice Jeffrey A. Locke and co-chaired by Superior Court Chief Justice Heidi E. Brieger and District Court Chief Justice Stacey J. Fortes.

"Education is essential to implementing the best practices set out in these new standards," said Locke. "We need to do our best to ensure that judges, clerks, probation officers, and other court staff are aware of the principles embodied in the standards and understand how to put them into action every day in our courts."   

In a cover letter to their colleagues in the court system, the SJC justices wrote that the new standards incorporate insights that behavioral health experts have gained from their research and practice over the last 25 years. Among other developments, these new standards are informed by the following principles:

  • Substance use disorders and mental health conditions often co-occur, and trauma is often a contributing factor in both.

  • Substance use disorders and mental health conditions often co-occur, and trauma is often a contributing factor in both.

  • Recurrence of substance use is common and is best approached as an opportunity to reset treatment and recovery planning and goals.

  • Stigma is a significant reason why individuals do not seek treatment, and court responses must prioritize eliminating stigma in addressing substance use and mental health issues.

  • Race, gender, sexual orientation, cultural and language needs, and economic status may be barriers to accessing effective care that need to be considered.     

The new standards also envision courts as information and navigation centers that can offer information about substance use disorders and mental health conditions and available options for treatment and recovery support.


Ifill appointed commissioner of probation

Trial Court Chief Justice Jeffrey A. Locke and Trial Court Administrator Thomas G. Ambrosino recently announced that they have appointed Deputy Commissioner Pamerson O. Ifill to serve as the next commissioner of probation for Massachusetts. He began a five-year term of office on Nov. 27, succeeding Commissioner Edward Dolan, who was appointed in 2013 and retired earlier this year.

Ifill has served as the deputy commissioner of pretrial services for the Massachusetts Probation Service since 2019. Prior to his current role, he served as a regional supervisor of probation services, the chief probation officer for Suffolk Superior Court, and a regional program manager for the Office of Community Corrections. He served as a Juvenile Court probation officer in Barnstable and Plymouth counties from 1993 to 1998. Ifill is an adjunct professor at Suffolk University and Stonehill College, and regularly speaks at national conferences on criminal justice issues.   

While serving as a deputy commissioner, Ifill designed a text messaging notification system for criminal defendants that improved court appearance rates and now is used in certain civil cases, created a departmental training program on racial and cultural equity, and established the annual Cultural Appreciation Week held in courthouses across the commonwealth in October.

Ifill has a master’s degree in management of human services from Brandeis University and a bachelor’s degree from Stonehill College. He serves on the board of the Old Colony Service Corporation, and previously served from 2008 to 2018 on the board of Massasoit Community College, as chair beginning in 2013.