News from the Courts

Issue September/October 2016

Committee on juror voir dire final report and statement from SJC justices

On August 6, 2014, the Legislature enacted Chapter 254 of the Acts of 2014, granting attorneys and self-represented parties the right to question potential jurors in all Superior Court trials, effective February 2, 2015. Chief Justice Ralph Gants convened the SJC Committee on Juror Voir Dire (Committee) in September, 2014. Composed of judges from the five Trial Court Departments with jury trials, as well as attorneys with a wide variety of trial experience, the committee was chaired by Justice Barbara A. Lenk. The committee's mandate was to recommend how jury selection might be enhanced throughout the Trial Court, including but not limited to how best to implement Chapter 254. Visit http://www.mass.gov/courts for the committee's final report and a statement from the justices.

Amendments to the Uniform Trial Court Rules for Civil Commitment Proceedings for Alcohol and Substance Abuse Disorders

The Supreme Judicial Court has approved amendments to the Uniform Trial Court Rules for Civil Commitment Proceedings for Alcohol and Substance Abuse Disorders, effective Sept. 6, 2016. Visit http://www.mass.gov/courts to view the amendments.

Amendments to Rule 3:10 of the Rules of the Supreme Judicial Court

The Supreme Judicial Court has approved amendments to Rule 3:10 of the Rules of the Supreme Judicial Court effective November 1, 2016.

SJC justices' statement on approval of Trial Court Rule XIV on Uniform Rules on Public Access to Court Records

The Supreme Judicial Court has approved Trial Court Rule XIV, Uniform Rules on Public Access to Court Records, which governs access to court records in the trial courts. The court's approval of the section of the rule that governs remote access by attorneys through the Attorney Portal (Section 5(b)) is provisional and the court will revisit this section in the fall of 2016.

Rule XIV sets out procedures to access court records at the counter in the clerk's office of every trial court, at a public access terminal in the clerk's office, and remotely through the Internet. The rule attempts to balance the public's interest in having accessible records with the legislative intent to limit access to criminal records as reflected in the CORI statute and the privacy interests of litigants, victims, and witnesses in some court cases, such as juvenile proceedings, domestic violence cases and child custody and other family matters. It contains provisions addressing access to records in the courthouse, requests for compiled and bulk data, and remote access to electronic court records through a Public Internet Portal and an Attorney Portal.

Because of reasonable concerns that were expressed after recent changes were made limiting the information that had been available to attorneys through the Attorney Portal, the Justices have approved the section of the rule (Section 5(b)) that governs remote access through the Attorney Portal on a provisional basis. The justices asked the Chief Justice of the Trial Court to address the concerns that were raised and to make a recommendation no later than the end of October 2016 on whether changes should be made in Section 5(b). Meanwhile, consistent with Rule XIV, the Trial Court is expanding the information that can be viewed remotely through the Public Internet Portal to include searchable criminal docket information, beginning with the Superior Court. The Trial Court plans to make criminal docket information in other court departments available on the Internet over the coming months.

Rule XIV was developed by a Trial Court committee chaired by Superior Court Judge Peter Lauriat. The committee worked for over two years to develop a rule that attempts to balance various interests and clarify procedures. In the course of its work, the committee held a public hearing and also published its proposed rule for public comment for a four month period.

In addition to approving Rule XIV, the Justices of the Supreme Judicial Court asked the Chief Justice of the Trial Court to appoint a standing committee, with representation from the courts, the bar, and the media, to monitor implementation and make recommendations for changes in the rules to respond to the rapid and significant nature of technological changes.

The Justices also approved a new SJC Rule 1:24, governing personal identifying information in court documents. This rule, modeled on SJC guidelines that have been in place since 2009, restricts parties and the courts from including certain personal identifying information in court documents. Both new rules will become effective on Nov. 1, 2016.

Update on public access to court records

The "set up" for remote search by docket number of criminal cases on the public portal in the Superior Court Department has been completed.

The three criminal case types - Indictment, Criminal Complaint, and Probation Transfer are now available at www.masscourts.org. Cases can be searched by docket number or by date range, limited to any period of time where the date range is 30 days or less. A search by name is not allowed for these three case types.

Statement of Chief Judge Jeffrey R. Howard regarding Judge Conrad K. Cyr

The United States Court of Appeals for the First Circuit mourns the death of Judge Conrad K. Cyr and expresses deepest sympathy to his family and friends. Judge Cyr was a fair and compassionate jurist, who will be tremendously missed by his colleagues on the federal bench, as well as by the bar and the public.

Judge Cyr dedicated the majority of his career to serving the federal judiciary. He was a bankruptcy judge for the District of Maine from 1973 to 1981, when he was appointed to the United States District Court for the District of Maine, where he served until 1989. In 1989, Judge Cyr was appointed to the United States Court of Appeals for the First Circuit. Judge Cyr

assumed senior status in 1997 and continued to serve the Court of Appeals as a senior judge until his retirement in 2008.

Judge Cyr's colleagues celebrate his extraordinary legal intellect and approachable spirit. A man with a deep love of the law and of his home state of Maine, Judge Cyr succeeded in personally engaging with his colleagues and the public. "Judge Cyr was not only an exceptional judge," Chief Judge Jeffrey R. Howard stated, "but also a wonderful friend. His dedication to justice and to his country has left an indelible mark on the legal system and on this nation."

Adoption of Uniform Bar Examination

The Justices of the Supreme Judicial Court have endorsed the recommendation of the Committee to Examine the Uniform Bar Examination (Committee) to adopt the Uniform Bar Examination (UBE), with an effective date of July 2018. The Justices also endorsed the Committee's recommendation that, beginning in July 2018, applicants for admission to the Massachusetts bar be required to complete a new local component program that will ensure that newly-licensed attorneys are familiar with key Massachusetts laws and procedures. The Court will appoint working groups to develop the Massachusetts law component and to prepare for the transition to the UBE.

The UBE is a uniformly administered, graded, and scored bar examination prepared by the National Conference of Bar Examiners. The UBE produces a portable score that can be transferred to other UBE jurisdictions, subject to the applicant's satisfying any additional requirements imposed by a jurisdiction. Each jurisdiction sets its own pass rate for the UBE. To date, 23 states and the District of Columbia have adopted the UBE. Eight of these jurisdictions have adopted a local law component.

Hon. Robert J. Cordy and Hon. Margot Botsford, justices of the Supreme Judicial Court, chaired the Committee. MBA Past President Richard P. Campbell represented the Massachusetts Bar Association on the committee. A full list of committee members is available below.

Committee Members

Organization

Assoc. Dean Maris Abbene, Esq.

Boston College Law School

Barbara F. Berenson, Esq.

Supreme Judicial Court

Geoffrey R. Bok, Esq.

Board of Bar Examiners

Hon. Nonnie Burnes (ret.)

Supreme Judicial Court Standing Advisory Committee on Professionalism

Richard Campbell, Esq.

Massachusetts Bar Association

Dean Michael Coyne

Massachusetts School of Law

Clerk Maura S. Doyle, Esq.

Supreme Judicial Court for the County of Suffolk

Melinda F. Drew, Teaching Professor

Northeastern University School of Law

Rebecca Flanagan, Asst.

Professor University of Massachusetts Law School

Professor Andrew Kaufman

Harvard Law School

Wayne Kennard, Esq.

Boston Bar Association

Kandace Kukas, Asst. Dean

Western New England University School of Law

Carol R. Lev, Esq.

Supreme Judicial Court

Mela Lew, Esq.

Board of Bar Examiners

Dean Maureen O'Rourke

Boston University School of Law

Dean Andrew Perlman

Suffolk University Law School

Alice Richmond, Esq.

Board of Bar Examiners (former member)

Nan M. Sauer, Esq.

Massachusetts LGBTQ Bar Association

Professor Paul F. Teich

New England Law, Boston

Marilyn J. Wellington, Esq.

Board of Bar Examiners