News from the Courts

Issue September 2013

Committee seeks comment on proposed changes to Rules of Professional Conduct

The Supreme Judicial Court's Standing Advisory Committee on the Rules of Professional Conduct has published, for public comment, proposed revisions to the Massachusetts Rules of Professional Conduct. The committee undertook a comprehensive review of the Massachusetts rules to consider revisions to the American Bar Association's Model Rules of Professional Conduct.

The revisions to the American Bar Association's Model Rules reflect recommendations made by the ABA's Ethics 2000 Commission and the ABA's Commission on Ethics 20/20. The comprehensive amendments proposed by the ABA Ethics 2000 Commission responded to changes in the profession since the Model Rules' adoption in 1983. The targeted amendments proposed by the ABA Commission on Ethics 20/20 addressed changes in law practice resulting from globalization and the profession's increased use of technology.

The Executive Summary to the report of the SJC's Standing Advisory Committee on the Rules of Professional Conduct summarizes the committee's major proposals and identifies the recommendations that have generated dissents from a minority of committee members. Visit for the complete report and proposals.

The committee will make its recommendations to SJC following receipt and review of public comments. Comments are due by Monday, Dec. 2.

SJC appoints new public information officer

The Justices of the Supreme Judicial Court have announced Jennifer Donahue as the court's new public information officer. Donahue succeeded Joan Kenney on July 22.

The overall mission of the Public Information Office is to educate and assist the media and the public to understand the role and function of the Massachusetts courts. The public information officer is the media liaison and spokesperson for the judicial branch and advises various court officials on communications issues and strategies for dealing with complex issues.

Donahue has covered national and New England politics for more than 24 years as a journalist and communications professional. Most recently, Donahue was the communications director for the New England Clean Energy Council. She began her career as an associate producer at C-SPAN, where Donahue covered the Senate Judiciary Committee confirmation hearings of United States Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas. Between 1992 and 1995, Donahue was press secretary to U.S. Senator Hank Brown of Colorado. From 1996 to 1999, she worked at CNN in Washington, where she was a producer for Inside Politics and Burden of Proof. During the 2000 presidential election campaign, she covered the race as a political reporter in New Hampshire and as an on-air analyst for MSNBC. From 2002 to 2009, Donahue served as senior advisor for political affairs and director of political communication for the New Hampshire Institute of Politics at Saint Anselm College.

Trial Court issues revised child support guidelines worksheet

Effective Aug. 1, Chief Justice of the Trial Court Paula M. Carey has announced the promulgation of a revised Child Support Guidelines Worksheet. The worksheet was revised to correct formula errors found in the version posted and released on June 20, 2013. Section 3 of the worksheet was also revised to clarify the treatment of available income above $4,808. Only the revised worksheet, identified on the bottom left corner as "CJD 304 (8/1/13 rev.) CSG" will be accepted for filing after Aug. 1.

Probate and Family Court releases new forms, materials for amended Rule 412

The Probate and Family Court has announced the release of new forms and informational material as a result of recent changes to Rule 412 of the Supplemental Rules of the Probate and Family Court.

Effective Aug. 1, Rule 412 allows parties to jointly request modification of a judgment or temporary order of the Probate and Family Court where the parties are in agreement, the agreement is in writing and all other requirements of the rule are met. The changes to the rule will allow the Probate and Family Court to handle more cases administratively.

The new forms include a Joint Petition/Motion (CJD 124), an Agreement (CJD 311) and a Judgment/Temporary Order (CJD 446). The new Joint Petition/Motion (CJD 124) replaces the Joint Petition for Modification of Child Support Judgment (CJD 114). The informational material includes a Checklist of Required Forms (CJD 901) and a General Information (CJD 903) sheet that includes filing fee information.

Trial Court locations return to full public office hours

Chief Justice of the Trial Court Paula M. Carey and Court Administrator Harry Spence have announced that all Trial Court offices will return to a full schedule of public hours, effective Sept. 3. All Clerks' Offices will resume a Monday through Friday schedule of 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., which are standard hours of operation statewide.

Staffing levels, caseloads and public concerns about extended backlogs compelled the decision to adjust office hours to facilitate case processing in more than 30 court locations, beginning in September 2011. The scheduling of court sessions was not affected by the changes in office hours and access was available for emergency matters. The reduction in counter and telephone hours provided uninterrupted time for staff to prepare cases for court sessions and execute court orders, as well as to complete filing, docketing, scanning and other case processing.

The Trial Court experienced an 18 percent staff reduction during a four-year hiring freeze that began in 2008. The staffing shortages created critical delays in case processing, which required the restricted public hours. As a result of the Legislature's stabilization of the court budget, the Trial Court began to fill critically needed positions. In addition to improved staffing, expanded electronic data exchange and other operational efficiencies have enabled the restoration of full operations.

Tauro to take senior status

U.S. District Court Judge Joseph L. Tauro has advised President Barack H. Obama that he intends to retire from regular active service as a U.S. District Court judge on Sept. 26. Tauro plans to continue his service at the court as a senior judge. This year, with more than 40 years of active service on the bench, Tauro became the longest serving active judge on the court since its creation by the first Congress in 1789.