Legal News

Issue March/April 2018

eFileMA update: Trial Court expands electronic case filing

You can now electronically file most common civil case types at all District Court and Boston Municipal Court divisions, as well as most estate and guardianship matters and divorce complaints filed under G.L 208 § 1B at all Probate and Family Court locations.

The Housing Court also accepts small claims filings in four divisions, and the Superior Court has initiated pilots in Middlesex and Barnstable counties accepting electronically filed tort actions.

The number of court divisions offering e-filing, and the number of case types available on eFileMA, will continue to grow in 2018.

efileMA streamlines filing processes and eliminates the need to file paper documents.
Register online for eFileMA here.

The current $7 per eFileMA case fee is provided to the vendor to offset their costs associated with implementing the new system. As the number of electronically filed cases increases, this case filing fee will decrease. 

Court locations offering eFileMA for the following case types are listed below: 

District Court & BMC – Civil, Small Claims, Supplementary Process

Probate and Family Court Divisions - Estates and Administration, 1B No Fault Divorce, Guardianship of Incapacitated 

Housing Court Divisions - Small Claims

Superior Court Counties - Tort


MLAC statement on Trump proposal to eliminate legal services funding; increased need in MA

On Feb. 12, President Donald Trump released his budget for Fiscal Year 2019, which calls for elimination of the Legal Services Corporation (LSC) and several other federal programs that provide vital safety net services to low-income people here in Massachusetts and across the United States.

LSC provides funding to civil legal aid programs in every state in the country, including Massachusetts, which received approximately $5 million this year.

“The elimination of funding for LSC, coupled with cuts to other programs that help poor and elderly residents secure food, heat, housing, employment, economic opportunity, and safe workplaces, would have devastating and long-lasting consequences on the stability of individuals, families, and communities across our state and our country,” said Lonnie Powers, executive director of the Massachusetts Legal Assistance Corporation. “Continued threats to federal funding highlight the need for robust state and local support.”

In testimony before the Joint Committee on Ways and Means on Feb. 13, Powers requested a $5 million increase in state funding for civil legal aid for a total appropriation of $23 million. He also highlighted the heightened need for civil legal aid due to expected reductions in safety net programs, rising uncertainty related to changes in federal immigration policies, and an influx of families fleeing hurricane damage in Puerto Rico.

“Fear and misinformation are widespread in immigrant communities and the harm experienced as a result is significant. Children are afraid to go to school, fearing that their parents will be taken away, medical appointments are postponed or avoided altogether, and victims of crime are afraid to call the police,” Powers said. “Legal aid programs are a crucial source of information and education about immigrants’ rights.”

Additionally, since the devastation wrought by Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico, approximately 2,400 students who evacuated the island have moved to Massachusetts and enrolled in public schools. “Many of these families arrived here with nothing and need assistance in obtaining employment, housing, and other basic needs, and our programs are already working with some of these families,” Powers said.

In Fiscal Year 2017, the state’s $18 million investment in civil legal aid yielded $59.2 million in economic benefits and savings to the commonwealth, including $17.7 million in new federal revenue secured for clients through work to obtain disability benefits, nutrition assistance benefits (SNAP), and Medicare coverage; $17.2 million in state savings on foster care, shelter, and health care for people who are homeless and victims of domestic violence; and $24.3 million in additional benefits secured for clients, including child support, recovered wages, and debt relief. Civil legal aid boosts the economy, making increased state funding for MLAC a fiscally responsible decision.

“Civil legal aid programs provide assistance to people with extremely low incomes of just a little more than $31,000 for a family of four, and who face complex legal problems related to housing, individual rights, employment, and education,” Powers said. “We can easily measure the economic impact of this work. But civil legal assistance also provides profound and long-lasting benefits that change lives and improves the strength and health of families and our communities. It is a wise investment with both short- and long-term benefits.”


Massachusetts Trial Court releases 2017 Diversity Report & 2017 Report on Access to Fairness Survey

Massachusetts Trial Court Chief Justice Paula M. Carey and Trial Court Administrator Jonathan Williams have released the first Massachusetts Trial Court Annual Diversity Report for Fiscal Year 2017 and the Massachusetts Trial Court Report on the Access and Fairness Survey for Fiscal Year 2017. 

“We have made a commitment to improve the quality of justice in the commonwealth by addressing issues of diversity, equity and inclusion,” said Trial Court Chief Justice Paula M. Carey. “We are mindful that this effort must be integrated into our overall mission of delivering justice with dignity and speed. We look forward to working with internal and external partners as we lead this essential commitment for the 21st century courts.”

“We believe in the importance of a workforce that reflects the diversity of the communities we serve,” added Trial Court Administrator Jonathan Williams. “Trial Court departments are gradually becoming more diverse but we recognize the need to expand recruitment in partnership with bar associations and community organizations.”


Carey reappointed chief justice of Trial Court

The Justices of the Supreme Judicial Court recently announced the reappointment of the Honorable Paula M. Carey as Chief Justice of the Trial Court, pursuant to G. L. 211B, §6. The reappointment will be effective on July 16, 2018, when Chief Justice Carey’s first five-year term expires. 

In considering Chief Justice Carey’s reappointment, the Supreme Judicial Court surveyed many colleagues in the judiciary who have worked closely with her over the past five years. Supreme Judicial Court Chief Justice Ralph D. Gants announced: “We found universal praise for her leadership, her willingness to listen and to collaborate, her intelligence and ability to ‘get it,’ her remarkable energy and work ethic, and her courage in dealing with tough problems. We are grateful that she is willing to embark on a second term as Chief Justice of the Trial Court.” The Chief Justice of the Trial Court is the policy and judicial head of the Trial Court, which includes the Boston Municipal, District, Housing, Juvenile, Land, Probate and Family, and Superior Courts, the Office of the Commissioner of Probation, and the Office of Jury Commissioner. The Chief Justice of the Trial Court has authority over all matters of judicial policy and appoints the departmental chief justices, oversees caseflow management and the establishment of programs and procedures to continuously improve access to justice by all segments of the Commonwealth’s population.

The Chief Justice works closely with Trial Court Administrator Jonathan Williams to govern the Trial Court. Trial Court Administrator Williams began his five-year appointment in May of 2017.

“I am humbled and grateful to be reappointed as Chief Justice of the Trial Court by the Justices of the Supreme Judicial Court, and appreciate the confidence they continue to place in me,” said Chief Justice Paula Carey. “I am so proud of the work done by the Massachusetts Trial Court. There is no more noble mission than the delivery of justice and every day the men and women of the Trial Court dedicate themselves to this goal. I am grateful for the opportunity to lead them as we expand access to justice and enhance public safety.” 

In 2011, court reform legislation replaced the single position of Chief Justice for Administration and Management with two new positions of Chief Justice of the Trial Court and Trial Court Administrator. The Trial Court is comprised of 380 judges and more than 6,300 employees who work in 99 courthouses throughout the state.

Prior to her first appointment as Chief Justice of the Trial Court in May of 2013, Chief Justice Carey had served as Chief Justice of the Probate and Family Court since 2007. She was first appointed to the Probate and Family Court in 2001 as a circuit judge and then served as an associate justice in Norfolk County.

In 2011, Chief Justice Carey received the Boston Bar Association Citation of Judicial Excellence, the Haskell Freedman Award from the Massachusetts Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers, the MCLE Scholar-Mentor Award, and the Middlesex Bar Association’s Distinguished Jurist Award. She is also a recipient of the Massachusetts Association of Women Lawyers Distinguished Jurist Award in 2009, the MBA's Daniel F. Toomey Excellence in Judiciary Award in 2006, and the Massachusetts Judges Conference Probate and Family Court Judicial Excellence Award in 2004.

Prior to her appointment as a judge, she co-founded the firm Carey and Mooney, PC, a family law practice. While in private practice, she chaired the Family Law Section of the Massachusetts Bar Association and served on the Family Law Steering Committee of the Boston Bar Association. Chief Justice Carey graduated magna cum laude from New England Law | Boston. 

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