News from the Courts

Issue July/August 2016

Amendments to Rule 26 of the Massachusetts Rules of Civil Procedure approved

The Supreme Judicial Court has approved amendments to Rule 26 of the Massachusetts Rules of Civil Procedure, effective July 1. Reporter's Notes are available at www.mass.gov/courts.

Rules Advisory Committee selected for the U.S. Court of Appeals for the First Circuit

Chief Judge Jeffrey R. Howard of the United States Court of Appeals for the First Circuit has announced that three new members were appointed to the Court's Rules Advisory Committee: E. Abim Thomas of Massachusetts, Gustavo Gelpi Sr. of Puerto Rico, and Donald C. Lockhart of Rhode Island. Attorneys Thomas, Gelpi and Lockhart will be replacing retiring members Heidi Nadel of Massachusetts, Ricardo Casellas of Puerto Rico and Lynette Labinger of Rhode Island. Lockhart will also serve as the new chairperson for the committee, replacing outgoing chairperson Ricardo Casellas.

Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2077, the new members were selected to the committee to make recommendations regarding the rules of practice and internal operating procedures for the First Circuit Court of Appeals and the First Circuit Judicial Council. Howard thanked the retiring members for their commendable service and welcomed the new members.

Trial Court announces opening of fifth Court Service Center

The Trial Court has announced that Court Service Centers are now operating in five courthouses across the state. The Trial Court's hope is to locate one Court Service Center in each of the state's 15 largest courthouses. The Court Service Centers are a key part of the Trial Court's mission to help people who are representing themselves in court to access the court system.

Court Service Centers provide resources to help members of the public and self-represented litigants navigate the court system. It is estimated that civil legal aid programs in Massachusetts turn away more than 60 percent of indigent clients who are eligible for civil legal aid and are seeking services due to a lack of adequate funding. Court Service Centers are one way that the court system is working to provide equal access to those who do not have attorneys. Earlier this month, the National Center for Access to Justice released its 2016 Justice Index, measuring how all 50 states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico ensure equal justice for all. The Massachusetts court system ranked second in the nation overall, behind only the District of Columbia, and was ranked second in services for people without lawyers, due to the expansion of Court Service Centers across the state.

Three chief probation officers appointed by Probation Commissioner

New chief probation officers have been appointed by Commissioner of Probation Edward J. Dolan to serve in three separate district courts across the state - the Nantucket and Edgartown, Hingham and Clinton district courts.

Jennifer Pease, chief probation officer at the Nantucket and Edgartown District Courts, began her new job mid-May. Hingham District Court Chief Probation Officer Jennifer Brady has been on the job since April, and Chief Patrick Ball of Clinton District began in March. The three chiefs are among a group of 11 newly appointed chief probation officers across the state.

Trial Court establishes best practice principles in criminal sentencing

The Massachusetts Trial Court has announced that the four Trial Court departments with criminal jurisdiction have issued comprehensive criminal sentencing reports, including best practice principles to assist judges in developing individualized, evidence-based sentences that are intended to improve offenders' chances of success upon release, reduce recidivism and better secure public safety.

The Sentencing Best Practice Principles state that sentences should be proportionate to the gravity of the offense, the harm done to crime victims and the role of the offender. A sentence should be no more severe than necessary to achieve its purposes, and special conditions of probation should be narrowly tailored to the needs of the defendant, the public and the victim, because an excessive number of special conditions may increase rather than decrease the likelihood of recidivism. The principles also encourage judges to inform defendants at the time of sentencing that the court will consider early termination of their probation or lift some conditions if they fully comply. Visit www.mass.gov/courts for more information.