Lawyers Journal

News from the Courts

Supreme Judicial Court appoints interim executive director

The Supreme Judicial Court announced the appointment of C. Clifford Allen as its interim executive director. He fills the position held by Francis S. Moran Jr., who retired on June 30. The appointment is effective July 1.

The executive director reports to the chief justice and associate justices and helps the Court to supervise, manage and coordinate its day-to-day administrative responsibilities.

Allen will continue his duties as reporter of decisions for the SJC and the Appeals Court, a position he has held since 1994. He joined the SJC in 1982 as assistant reporter of decisions, after serving the Appeals Court as a staff attorney, and was appointed deputy reporter in 1987. Allen has served as president of the international Association of Reporters of Judicial Decisions.

A resident of Beverly, he is a graduate of Muhlenberg College in Allentown, Penn., and Capital University Law School in Columbus, Ohio. He is a member of the Massachusetts bar.

SJC previews new juror orientation video to debut July 5

The Supreme Judicial Court unveiled the first new juror orientation video in close to 25 years at the John Adams Courthouse on June 29 in the historic Holmes Courtroom. Chief Justice Roderick L. Ireland invited court colleagues and partners to preview the video before it is introduced to jury pools statewide on July 5. The event recognized the support of Suffolk University, which collaborated with the Office of Jury Commissioner to produce the video.

The program included remarks by Ireland, Suffolk University Acting President Barry Brown, Superior Court Judge Robert C. Rufo, who chairs the Jury Management Advisory Committee, and Jury Commissioner Pamela J. Wood.

The 18-minute orientation includes an introduction by Ireland and scenes filmed from many courts around the commonwealth, and commentary by judges and actual jurors. Jurors will learn historical facts about the trial by jury system and information about typical courtroom events they may encounter if called upon to serve.

"Jurors represent a most fundamental and essential element of our legal system," said Ireland. "The orientation video is a critical tool to welcome, educate and thank jurors for their service. We would not have been able to produce this long-overdue revision of the video without the support of Suffolk University."

"Suffolk University is pleased to have partnered in the creation of this video, which provides important information on the vital role jurors play in the American system of justice," said Brown. "We have a proud tradition of collaborating with the Supreme Judicial Court, including by making oral arguments before the Court accessible to the general public and the legal community through webcasts."

Citizens reporting for jury service on July 5 will be the first jurors to view the new orientation video. The video being replaced was introduced about 25 years ago after Massachusetts was the first state to adopt the "One Day or One Trial" system.

Last year, close to 246,000 jurors appeared in courthouses across the state for service. The new orientation video will be available for viewing next month on the website of the Office of Jury Commissioner at www.MAjury.gov.

SJC seeks judge evaluations in five southeast counties

As part of the continuing program to evaluate and enhance judicial performance, the Supreme Judicial Court recently sent questionnaires to attorneys and court employees in Bristol, Plymouth, Barnstable, Dukes and Nantucket counties.

Jurors who participate in trials will receive questionnaires upon completion of their jury duty for the next several months. Eighty-six judges will be evaluated in the District Court, Juvenile Court, Superior Court, Housing Court and Probate and Family Court.

Attorneys should complete and return the questionnaires to the SJC by July 13, as the success of the evaluation program depends upon timely responses. A high rate of participation provides judges with fair and complete evaluations.

Lawyers who have appeared in court multiple times in these counties in the last two years, according to computerized court records, have received questionnaires. All questionnaires are confidential and do not request the names of respondents. The resulting reports are also confidential and are given only to the judge being evaluated and to the appropriate chief justices.

Among the categories covered in the evaluations are: a judge's knowledge of the law; temperament on the bench; courtroom control; treatment of litigants, witnesses, jurors and attorneys; fairness and impartiality; and timeliness in issuing written decisions.

Attorneys whose e-mail addresses are known to the SJC receive an invitation inviting them to use the evaluation website and are given a username and password. Approximately 6,200 lawyers will be able to complete the evaluation online. If an attorney wishes the SJC to have their e-mail address for conducting evaluations in the future, e-mail addresses can be registered at http://judeval.sjc.state.ma.us/?go=reg.

Inquiries concerning questionnaires and evaluations should be directed to Mona Hochberg, SJC judicial performance evaluation coordinator, at (617) 557-1156, or [e-mail mona.hochberg].

The SJC began the judicial evaluation program in 2001. The questionnaires are distributed to attorneys, court employees and jurors throughout the state on a continuing cycle.

Nominations sought for 2011 Adams Pro Bono Publico Awards

Nominations are being accepted for the 2011 Adams Pro Bono Publico Awards.

Named in honor of attorneys John Adams and John Quincy Adams, the Adams Pro Bono Publico Awards recognize individual lawyers, small and large law firms, government attorney offices, corporate law departments and other legal institutions in Massachusetts that have "enhanced the human dignity of others by improving or delivering volunteer legal services to our commonwealth's poor and disadvantaged."

The Supreme Judicial Court's Standing Committee on Pro Bono Legal Services will select awardees who have excelled in providing volunteer services in one or more of the following ways:

Volunteer participation in an activity or pro bono program which resulted in satisfying previously unmet needs or in extending services to underserved segments of the population;

Successfully litigated pro bono cases that favorably affected the provision of other services to the poor; and/or

Successfully achieved legislation that contributed substantially to legal services to the poor.

Selection process

  • Nominations must be received by Friday, July 15.
  • Submit all materials to: Richard McMahon, Esq., The 2011 Adams Pro Bono Publico Awards, c/o South Coastal Counties Legal Services Inc., P.O. Box 2507, 22 Bedford St., 2nd floor, Fall River, MA 02722-2507, or contact Jeanne Marcotte at (774) 488-5942 or  [e-mail jmarcotte] with questions.
  • Nominations submitted in 2010 remain active for consideration in the 2011 awards program.

This year, the awards will be presented in a ceremony at the John Adams Courthouse on Oct. 26 in conjunction with the American Bar Association's recognition of National Pro Bono Week.

©2014 Massachusetts Bar Association