News from the courts

Issue January/February 2017

Reporter's notes for amendments to Mass. R. Civ. P. 84 now available

The Reporter's Notes that accompany the amendments to Mass. R. Civ. P. 84 have been posted at www.mass.gov/courts/.

2017 Superior Court Judicial Assignments

Visit www.massbar.org/judicialassignments to view the 2017 Superior Court Judicial Assignments for each Massachusetts county, now available on the Massachusetts Bar Association's website.*

*These assignments are subject to change at any time based on the needs of the court or other circumstances. "TBA" meaning "to be announced," indicates sessions that, as of now, have no judge assigned. Cases in those sessions will not be neglected; the clerks and regional administrative justices will work together to ensure that scheduled trials proceed in other sessions and that motions needing hearings are scheduled and heard before an available judge.

Elizabeth D. Katz selected for U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Springfield

Chief Judge Jeffrey R. Howard of the United States Court of Appeals for the First Circuit has announced that Elizabeth D. Katz has been selected to fill the vacancy in the United States Bankruptcy Court for the District of Massachusetts in Springfield, created by Judge Henry J. Boroff's retirement. Attorney Katz will be appointed to the bankruptcy bench in early 2017, upon FBI clearance.

Katz has practiced law in the Springfield and Northampton areas for more than two decades. Currently a partner at Rescia, Katz & Shear LLP, Katz focuses her practice on consumer and business bankruptcy matters, as well as criminal defense. In addition to representing debtors and creditors in bankruptcy cases, attorney Katz serves as counsel to the Chapter 7 Trustee in adversary proceedings in the Districts of Massachusetts and Connecticut. Katz's expansive legal career began at the Office of the Attorney General in Boston upon her graduation from law school. In 1995, Katz became an assistant district attorney at the Northwestern District Attorney's Office in Northampton, where she worked until 2007. Upon her departure, Katz was the Chief of the Hampshire County and Franklin County District Courts Divisions. In 2007, she entered private practice and represented clients in a wide-range of matters including bankruptcy cases, criminal cases, civil litigation, family law matters and landlord-tenant disputes. Since 2008, Katz has concentrated her practice in all aspects of bankruptcy law.

Katz served as president of the Hampshire County Bar Association from 2012 to 2014 and is currently a member of its executive committee. Katz is a member of the Local Rules Committee for the United States Bankruptcy Court for the District of Massachusetts and since 2011, has served as co-chair of the M. Ellen Carpenter Financial Literacy Program for western Massachusetts, a financial literacy program for high school students.

Massachusetts awarded grant to improve access to justice

Massachusetts has been awarded a $100,000 grant to develop a strategic action plan for improving access to justice throughout the commonwealth. The grant will assist the Massachusetts Access to Justice Commission, the Massachusetts courts, legal aid providers, bar associations, law schools, social service organizations, litigants, community groups and other stakeholders in collaborating to assess the resources currently available to assist Massachusetts residents who cannot afford a lawyer for their essential legal needs - such as matters involving housing, consumer debt, and family law - and to develop a statewide plan for addressing gaps in those services.

"So many Massachusetts residents cannot afford a lawyer and must wrestle with complex legal issues involving their families, their housing, and their finances without adequate guidance and support," said Supreme Judicial Court Justice Geraldine Hines, co-chair of the Access to Justice Commission. "This collaborative strategic planning process will help us identify the gaps in services and design programs and processes to address residents' unmet legal needs."

The grant is being provided through the Justice for All project, which is generously supported by the Public Welfare Foundation and housed at the National Center for State Courts. The Justice for All project was established to implement a 2015 resolution by the Conference of Chief Justices and the Conference of State Court Administrators endorsing the aspirational goal of providing 100 percent access to effective assistance for essential civil legal needs.

Massachusetts is one of seven states to receive a Justice for All grant, selected from a pool of 25 applicants. The state will be eligible to apply for additional funding next year to begin implementation of its strategic action plan.

Recently, 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 justice for all. Massachusetts ranked second in the nation, behind the District of Columbia. Massachusetts ranked eighth when the first Justice Index came out in 2014. Massachusetts ranks second in services for people without lawyers, third in language access services, and sixth nationwide in services for people with disabilities.

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