News from the Courts

Issue February 2015

Voir dire pilot to start

The Superior Court will implement the Panel Voir Dire Pilot Project beginning Feb. 2, 2015. The project was designed as a result of a joint effort by the Superior Court, under the leadership of Chief Justice Judith Fabricant, and the Superior Court Implementation Subcommittee of the Supreme Judicial Court Committee on Juror Voir Dire.

The purpose of the project is to contribute significantly to the ongoing evaluation by the judiciary and members of the bar as to the efficacy of group or "panel" voir dire in jury selections that will include questioning by attorneys or self-represented parties pursuant to St. 2014, c. 254, § 2, Superior Court Standing Order 1-15 ("Participation in Juror Voir Dire by Attorneys and Self-Represented Parties"), and any rules, protocols or guidelines the Supreme Judicial Court or the Superior Court may hereafter adopt or approve relative to the conduct of such questioning. The principal objective is to employ a largely uniform "panel voir dire" method in selected civil and criminal sessions during 2015, in order to obtain experience and data from trial judges, attorneys, court officers, clerks, court reporters, jurors, the Office of Jury Commissioner and other identified stakeholders concerning the effectiveness and benefits of a panel method as compared to individual questioning.

Over the next year, that experience and data will be the subject of detailed consideration by the Supreme Judicial Court Committee on Voir Dire, in an effort by the judiciary to identify best practices, with due regard to the goals of permitting attorneys and self-represented parties a fair and meaningful opportunity to participate in voir dire, supporting all stakeholders' efforts to identify inappropriate bias, and conducting jury selection with reasonable expedition while always respecting the dignity and privacy of each potential juror. Visit the Trial Court's website to learn more about the project and its procedures, including participating judges and sessions.

Advisory committee re-convened to consider Boston vacancy

U.S. Senators Elizabeth Warren and Edward J. Markey have announced that the Advisory Committee on Massachusetts Judicial Nominations will re-convene to consider applications for a federal judicial vacancy in Boston. Candidates interested in applying for a U.S. District Court nomination must submit their applications to the Advisory Committee by Feb. 23, 2015.

The Advisory Committee, first appointed in March 2013, solicits, interviews and comments on applications for federal District Court vacancies. The Advisory Committee is comprised of distinguished members of the Massachusetts legal community, including prominent academics and litigators and is chaired by former District Court Judge Nancy Gertner.

Applications for Boston vacancies are reviewed by Massachusetts attorneys Pamela Berman, Jack Corrigan, Marianne LeBlanc, Willard P. Ogburn, Walter Prince, Sue Reid and Georgia Katsoulomitis. In addition to these individuals, and Gertner, Dean Camille Nelson of Suffolk University Law School, Professor Mary Sarah Bilder of Boston College Law School, Professor Andrew Kaufman of Harvard Law School and attorney Mike Mone, representing the Massachusetts Bar Association, will review all applications.
Interested candidates may access an application at Warren's website.

Trial Court creates Twitter account for court closings

The Massachusetts Trial Court has created a Twitter account - @macourtclosings - as an additional method to quickly share news of a court closure. Twitter notifications will allow instantaneous one-way communication to those who use Twitter and who follow or check the @macourtclosings account.