News From the Courts

Issue March 2010

Supplemental Rules of Civil Procedure change announced

The Supreme Judicial Court has approved the repeal of Rules 116, 140 and 150 of the District/Municipal Courts Supplemental Rules of Civil Procedure effective Jan. 1, 2010.

SJC issues order regarding protection of personal information

The Supreme Judicial Court has issued an order regarding safeguarding certain nonpublic personal information collected and maintained in the judicial branch. The order, issued under G.L.c. 93H, governs the security and confidentiality of personal information as defined in that statute. The personal information covered by the order does not include publicly available information.

The order requires the Trial Court, the Appellate Courts and court affiliates to develop, implement and maintain written information security programs applicable to records containing personal information. The security programs are to ensure that courts collect the minimum personal information needed to accomplish the purpose for which the information is collected; securely protect the information from unauthorized access and disclosure; provide access to the information only as necessary; and destroy the information when it is no longer needed. The security programs will require notification to the appropriate chief justice of any breach of security of personal information.

Additionally, the order requires courts to review the type of personal information collected with the goal of identifying any that need not be collected or maintained. Contractors will be required to comply with the provisions of all information security programs that apply to the work they will be performing.

CJAM order sets standard of 120 days to complete transcripts

In an effort to improve the timely disposition of cases, Chief Justice for Administration and Management Robert A. Mulligan recently issued an administrative order on Time Standards for Completion of Transcripts in Civil and Criminal Cases, which became effective on Jan. 1, 2010.

The order establishes a standard of 120 days for the production of transcripts in civil and criminal cases, as recommended by the Supreme Judicial Court's Working Group on Trial Transcripts.

The SJC convened the working group in 2006 to review, and assist in the implementation of, the recommendations of the SJC's Study Committee on Trial Transcripts in its 2003 report. The working group recommended measures that focused on shorter time standards for transcript production.

2010 edition of Massachusetts Guide to Evidence now available

The 2010 edition of the Massachusetts Guide to Evidence has been released and is recommended by the Supreme Judicial Court and its Executive Committee on Massachusetts Evidence Law.

"The guide makes the law of evidence accessible and understandable to the bench, bar, and the public," said SJC Chief Justice Margaret H. Marshall.

The official print edition of the 479-page guide is available for purchase from the Flaschner Judicial Institute, which is providing a complimentary copy to every judge in the commonwealth.

The guide assembles existing Massachusetts evidence law in an easy-to-use document organized similarly to the Federal Rules of Evidence, and includes extensive explanatory notes and citations to pertinent authorities.

The contents of the 2010 edition were revised to reflect changes to Massachusetts evidence law that occurred between Oct. 1, 2008, and Dec. 31, 2009. These additions include discussion of more than 30 decisions issued during 2009 by the SJC, Appeals Court and the federal courts that defined or clarified issues, including the U.S. Supreme Court case of Melendez-Diaz v. Massachusetts.

In addition, the 2010 edition includes four new sections: Unemployment Hearing Privilege (Section 526), Inadequate Police Investigation Evidence (Section 1107), Access to Third-Party Records Prior to Trial in Criminal Cases Lampron-Dwyer protocol) (Section 1108), and View (Section 1109). The 2010 edition also includes notes on several new topics, including: Successive Complaints to the First Complaint Witness; Impounding versus Sealing; Use of Certain Prior Inconsistent Statements of Defendant in Criminal Cases; Prior Statements that Qualify as Inconsistent; and Confrontation in Criminal Cases.

In 2006, the SJC established a 17-member advisory committee to prepare a Massachusetts Guide to Evidence at the request of the Massachusetts Bar Association, the Boston Bar Association and the Massachusetts Academy of Trial Attorneys.

In 2008, the SJC appointed the Executive Committee of the Advisory Committee on Massachusetts Evidence law. This committee monitors and incorporates future legal developments and is responsible for producing new editions of the guide, including the 2010 edition. Appeals Court Judge R. Marc Kantrowitz, who chaired the advisory committee, chairs the executive committee and is the editor-in-chief of the guide. The other members of the executive committee are: Hon. Peter W. Agnes (editor), Hon. David A. Lowy (editor), Appeals Court Clerk Joseph F. Stanton (reporter), SJC Senior Attorney Barbara F. Berenson, New England Law-Boston professor Philip K. Hamilton, attorney Elizabeth N. Mulvey and Appeals Court law clerks Sean M. Toohey and Allison Carrinski.