Lawyers e-Journal

Thursday, Jul. 29, 2010
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News from the Courts

Trial Court's Court Relocation Committee announces public meeting schedule; SJC makes landmark snow and ice ruling

The Trial Court's Court Relocation Committee -- formed to identify court locations for potential consolidation -- has announced its schedule of public meetings to seek comment on preliminary recommendations. The committee's efforts are one component of major cost-reduction efforts underway within the Trial Court to reduce the number of layoffs required by a shortfall in the fiscal 2011 budget. Relocations also are required to manage court operations, given the loss of more than 700 employees, which has left many local courts severely understaffed.

Public meetings will be held from 5 to 7 p.m. at the following locations:

  • Wednesday, Aug. 4: Worcester Trial Court, 225 Main Street, Worcester
    For Berkshire, Franklin, Hampden, Hampshire and Worcester Counties
  • Wednesday, Aug. 11: Brooke Courthouse, 24 New Chardon St., Boston
    For Essex, Middlesex and Suffolk Counties
  • Thursday, Aug. 12: Covett Courthouse, 215 Main St., Brockton
    For Bristol, Norfolk and Plymouth Counties

The committee's preliminary recommendations were based on its review of all 103 courthouse facilities. The recommendations represent the beginning of a process that will involve further analysis and review using the public input gained from these sessions.

The Trial Court's fiscal 2011 budget stands at $534.8 million, which compares with an fiscal 2010 budget of $559.5 million and fiscal 2009 initial appropriation of $605.1 million. Other cost-saving measures underway include the announcement of a five-day furlough for judges, clerks and court managers, announcement of incentives for retirement, voluntary layoffs, and work-hour reductions, as well as the extension of an absolute hiring freeze in place since 2008. As with prior relocations, the proposed court relocations or consolidations will not cause employee layoffs at those locations. Any layoffs required by budget cuts will be determined by a separate process.

The criteria established by the committee to identify potential sites for relocation and consolidation include lease terms and expenses, personnel impact and staffing levels, the condition of facilities, building functions, caseload, geography and transportation issues, as well as access to justice. The Trial Court will make decisions on the temporary relocation of court operations. The permanent closure of courthouses requires action by the Legislature.

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SJC makes landmark snow and ice ruling

The Supreme Judicial Court on Monday ruled that property owners must clear their property of snow and ice that could cause injury to others regardless of whether the accumulation is natural or unnatural.

Previously, failure to remove a natural accumulation of snow and ice by a property owner was not considered to have violated the duty of reasonable care.

"If a property owner knows or reasonably should know of a dangerous condition on its property, whether arising from an accumulation of snow or ice, or rust on a railing, or a discarded banana peel, the property owner owes a duty to lawful visitors to make reasonable efforts to protect lawful visitors against the danger," wrote Justice Ralph D. Gants in the unanimous opinion.

Click here to view the opinion.

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