Lawyers e-Journal

Thursday, Mar. 27, 2008
Image for Firm/Fair Trial
Photograph by Bill McCormack
Superior Court Chief Justice Barbara J. Rouse and Associate Justice Stephen E. Neel address audience questions.

MBA hosts vigorous discussion of Firm, Fair Trial Date Initiative

Superior Court Chief Justice Barbara J. Rouse urged attorneys at the March 20 Firm, Fair Trial Date Initiative Town Hall, “Don’t be reticent” when it comes to requesting face time with judges and being outspoken about a trial date.

The MBA, with the help of Suffolk University Law School, hosted a town hall-style meeting between representatives of the bench and bar to encourage open dialogue about the 2005 Firm, Fair Trial Date Initiative. Feedback from the bar about the Firm, Fair Trial Date Initiative was mixed and varied based on the attorneys’ areas of practice, as well as the counties in which they practice.

For example, Boston defense attorney and panelist Susan M. Donnelly Murphy noted “a serious lack of uniformity” when it comes to the presence of judges at pre-trial conferences. When the meeting is only with a clerk, she said that she is unable to use the pretrial conference to sort out issues about evidence, potential for settlement and expert witnesses.

Panelist and plaintiff personal injury attorney Elizabeth N. Mulvey pointed out the importance of the days of the week in setting a trial date, noting, “You can pick a jury a whole lot faster on Wednesday or Thursday than on Monday.”

All three representatives from the bench, Rouse, Hon. Stephen E. Neel and Hon. John C. Cratsley, encouraged the attorneys to be forthright in their requests in both instances, implying that executing the Firm, Fair Initiative is not a one-way street.

Neel agreed with Murphy about the importance of resolving evidentiary and witness issues at the pretrial conference, and Rouse advised attorneys to affirmatively request their conference with a judge.

As for Mulvey’s concern about setting trial dates, Rouse urged her, “Influence the judge’s choice of date. Speak up, tell the judge that you would prefer to have a date toward the end of the week because you think it increases the likelihood of going to trial and causes fewer problems with the jury pool.”

All three representatives from the bench encouraged the attorneys to always be forthright in their requests, implying that executing the Firm, Fair Initiative is not a one-way street.

Mulvey agreed, and wrapped up her comments with a reminder to attorneys of their role as advocates for their clients when it comes to scheduling reasonable trial dates and achieving their goals in conferences. MBA Secretary and Peabody attorney Robert L. Holloway Jr. reiterated that “communication is key” for all parties involved.

The MBA and the courts strive to maintain an exchange of ideas between the bench and the bar. On May 29, the MBA, along with the Massachusetts Trial Courts, Plymouth County Bar Association, Barnstable Bar Association and Bristol County Bar Association will sponsor an open dialogue on court practices at Brockton District Court.

The event will provide a statewide opportunity for dialogue among judges, lawyers and court personnel on court practices and procedures. Look for more information about this event in upcoming editions of Lawyers Journal and on our Web site, www.massbar.org.


To provide immediate feedback about the Firm, Fair Trial Date Initiative Town Hall, e-mail communications or call MBA Member Services at (617) 338-0530. Look for an extended article about the Firm, Fair Trial Date Initiative Town Hall in the April issue of Lawyers Journal.

 

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