Lawyers Journal

Second Bench-Bar Breakfast Forum addresses Bristol County issues

The MBA’s second Bench-Bar Breakfast Forum in Bristol County focused on Trial Court Time Standards and the effectiveness of court initiatives like the new MassCourts Lite computer system.
The event, held Aug. 16 in the courthouse of Fall River, was mediated by MBA Vice President Denise Squillante as a panel of judges and attorneys gathered to discuss issues and concerns facing courts in Bristol County.

The panel discussed the impact of Trial Court time standards and reviewed the effectiveness and impact of various court initiatives, including the new MassCourts Lite system.
Among the attendees, Judge Richard T. Moses, Associate Justice of the Superior Court in New Bedford, spoke about the implementation of time standards. Moses expressed concern about the time constraints between pre-trial and trial dates and noted the difficulty judges have meeting their own regulations.

“We are trying to give you a fair and firm date and trial,” he said. “We want to see justice done.”
Moses explained that in order to do this, attorneys must be prepared for pre-trial so that operations can proceed more smoothly. Attorney and MBA Section Chair of Judicial Administration Kathy Jo Cook raised the idea of attorneys having “more interaction with the bench” prior to pre-trial conference. Both judges and attorneys seemed to agree that both sides need to improve communication in order to better suit the needs of everyone.

The panel also considered the impact of the new MassCourts Lite, a database of court records throughout the state. District Court Judge Gilbert J. Nadeau opened the discussion, saying that is a very labor-intensive system. Though the system has “eliminated some paperwork,” Nadeau explained that more needs to be done to keep the system updated.

Bristol County Bar Advocates President Shane Carlson expressed his frustration with jury trials which are scheduled for morning starts but don’t begin until well after noon, requiring more time than attorneys had planned for. Carlson explained that this delay in the system would force a case to take extra days, which further ties up the court system.

Bristol Probate and Family Court Judge Armand Fernandes Jr. explained his own dilemmas, suggesting that it would be beneficial to have a probate court attorney dedicated to dealing with children’s cases. “They are the real victims,” he said, due to the lack of representation in the courts currently.

After briefly discussing a dedicated position for an attorney in probate court, the group concluded the meeting calling for standardization throughout the state and a removal of county-specific rules. One concern brought up was out-of-state and out-of-county attorneys tying up the courts, by no fault of their own, because of inconsistencies.

The MBA will continue bringing Bench-Bar Breakfast Forums for attorneys and judges to each Massachusetts county over the course of the next year. In addition, the MBA’s annual Bench-Bar Symposium, featuring Supreme Judicial Court Chief Justice Margaret H. Marshall’s “Annual Address to the Legal Community,” will be held Oct. 11 at the John Adams Courthouse in Boston from 2:30 to 5 p.m.

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