News from the Courts

Issue September 2014

Trial court to add nine new specialty courts

Trial Court Chief Justice Paula M. Carey and Court Administrator Harry Spence have announced that the Trial Court will add nine specialty court sessions across Massachusetts, mainly due to the $3 million designated for specialty courts in the recently approved FY2015 state budget.

The new specialty courts include five drug courts, two mental health courts and two veterans treatment court sessions as follows:

Drug Court Sessions:

  • Brockton District Court
  • Fall River District Court
  • Taunton Juvenile Court
  • Dudley District Court
  • Lowell District Court

Mental Health Court Sessions:

  • Quincy District Court
  • Roxbury Division of Boston Municipal Court

Veterans Treatment Court Sessions:

  • Middlesex County Session at Framingham/Natick District Court
  • Western Mass. Session at Holyoke District Court

The Dudley, Lowell and Roxbury courts began conducting specialty sessions in June, and the other locations will introduce sessions in the coming months. The implementation schedule of these additional sessions will vary by location, as planning and training occurs.

Trial Court opens Court Service Centers

The Trial Court continues to expand the services it offers to people with and without legal representation by opening the state's first Court Service Centers at the Edward W. Brooke Courthouse in Boston and the Franklin County Courthouse in Greenfield. Both centers have helped hundreds of people since opening this summer.

Court Service Centers offer numerous resources to the general public and attorneys, including individual assistance with preparing pleadings, court forms and documents, access to public computers and workstations and interpreter services. Managed by Trial Court employees, with assistance from trained volunteers, the centers also provide contact information to community resources, legal assistance programs and social service agencies. Onsite law librarians are available to provide assistance with legal research. The Court Service Centers are open during regular court hours: 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., Monday through Friday, except legal holidays.

As part of the effort to assist people coming to court without a lawyer, the Trial Court is also offering multilingual resources online, including a series of new self-help videos on how to prepare for Small Claims court. The how-to videos are available in eight languages at www.mass.gov/courts/selfhelp/.

SJC announces committee to examine voir dire

The Supreme Judicial Court has announced the formation of a committee that will examine the jury selection process in the five Trial Court departments that conduct jury trials. The new committee will examine issues relating to the selection of jurors in all trial courts that conduct jury trials and consider possible amendments to both criminal and civil rules to improve the quality of juror voir dire and promote the right to a fair and impartial jury. The committee will work in conjunction with the Superior Court to develop and recommend procedures for implementation of the new voir dire statute before the effective date of February 2015.

The committee is chaired by SJC Justice Barbara A. Lenk and includes Massachusetts Bar Association President Douglas K. Sheff. Additional members of the committee are:

  • Professor David J. Breen, Boston University School of Law
  • Professor R. Michael Cassidy, Boston College Law School
  • Hon. John P. Corbett, Juvenile Court
  • Hon. Judith Fabricant, Superior Court
  • Hon. Serge Georges Jr., Boston Municipal Court
  • Hon. Jennifer L. Ginsburg, District Court
  • Hon. Peter Lauriat, Superior Court
  • Assistant District Attorney Mark Lee, Massachusetts District Attorneys Association
  • Carolyn I. McGowan, Esq., Committee for Public Counsel Services
  • Mark. D. Smith, Esq., Boston Bar Association
  • Hon. Jeffrey Winik, Housing Court
  • Commissioner Pamela Wood, Office of the Jury Commissioner

SJC invites comments on Rule 1:14

The Supreme Judicial Court Rules Committee invites public comments on proposed amendments to Supreme Judicial Court Rule 1:14. The proposed amendments reflect the enactment of the Massachusetts Uniform Probate Code, G.L. c. 190B. The proposed revisions correct the statutory citations and include the terminology that is used in the new statute.