News from the Courts

Issue November 2013

SJC seeks responses to performance surveys

The Supreme Judicial Court's Judicial Performance Evaluation Committee is asking attorneys to respond to questionnaires evaluating the performance of judges in Norfolk County. The full participation of the bar is crucial to enhancing the performance and quality of the judicial branch.

The survey began Tuesday, Oct. 15. Judges of the District, Superior, Probate and Family and Juvenile courts in Norfolk County will be evaluated by attorneys, court employees and jurors.

Attorneys should take the time to complete the questionnaire, as the more responses received, the more accurate the judicial evaluations will be. The SJC's evaluation program is the best opportunity for attorneys to voice their opinions of the members of the judiciary.

Attorneys who have appeared repeatedly in these courts in the last two years, according to computerized court records, will receive questionnaires. Attorneys will receive an e-mail requesting evaluation completion electronically. As required by statute, the electronic system keeps the evaluations confidential and anonymous. If there is no attorney e-mail on record, a paper questionnaire will be mailed.

Survey results will be transmitted to the chief justice of the judge's court department, the chief justice of the Supreme Judicial Court and the chief justice of the Trial Court.

Harrington announces inactive status

Judge Edward F. Harrington has announced he will assume inactive status, effective Dec. 31. Harrington has served as a U.S. District Court judge for more than 25 years, and before his judicial appointment, as an attorney for the U.S. Department of Justice in Washington, D.C., and Boston.

He is one of only seven individuals who have served as both U.S. District Court judge and U.S. Attorney for the District of Massachusetts, since the district was established in 1789. Harrington was appointed as U.S. District Court judge for the District of Massachusetts in 1988 and assumed senior District Court judge status on March 1, 2001.

Harrington was an early critic of the mandatory Sentencing Commission Guidelines, criticizing them for their inflexibility and severity. As a senior judge, he declined to hear criminal cases based on his belief that the guidelines infringed upon the sentencing judge's traditional discretion. After the U.S. Supreme Court ultimately rendered the guidelines discretionary, rather than mandatory, Harrington resumed trying criminal cases.

Court approves amendments to civil rules on e-discovery

The Supreme Judicial Court has announced amendments to the Massachusetts Rules of Civil Procedure that address the discovery of electronically stored information (ESI). Rules 16, 26, 34, 37 and 45 have been amended effective Jan. 1, 2014. The changes were recommended by the Court's Standing Advisory Committee on the Rules of Civil Procedure in response to the increasing growth of information in electronic form. In drafting the amendments, the committee drew on the 2006 amendments to the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure addressing ESI and the 2007 Uniform Rules relating to ESI discovery.

A major focus of the committee was to establish procedures to deal with ESI early in the litigation, address how to handle ESI that may be inaccessible, address how to handle inadvertently disclosed privileged ESI, and provide protection when ESI is lost through the good faith operation of electronic information systems. The new rules will apply in all courts and proceedings governed by the Massachusetts Rules of Civil Procedure.