Last August, I met with Juvenile Court Chief Justice Michael F.
Edgerton and pitched the idea of bench-bar meetings across the
state co-sponsored by the Massachusetts Bar Association and the
Administrative Office of the Juvenile Court. I am grateful that he
The bench-bar meetings were a success. Hundreds of lawyers
attended. Many Juvenile Court judges, including most first
justices, were able to participate. We hit the road in Hadley out
west and made our way to Andover, Brockton, Worcester and finally
to Boston. Chief Justice Edgerton addressed the bar after the final
meeting in Boston on June 6.
There were several hot topics. Standing Order 1-10 requires that
care and protection trials conclude within 30 days and that
adjudication occur within 30 days after the close of evidence. The
order presents scheduling difficulties in many courts. The Hadley
forum focused primarily on the creation of a court session in
Western Massachusetts dedicated to care and protection trials to
prevent "rolling" trials (when trial dates get scheduled over many
In January, a new law went into effect regarding additional rights
for young adults ages 18-22 in the custody of the Department of
Children and Families. The Juvenile Court retains jurisdiction over
these cases, conducts permanency hearings, and approves transition
plans. Aging out youth also retain the right to counsel during this
time, so attorneys may continue representing clients or new counsel
may be appointed. James Morton, Esq., case manager for the
Administrative Office, explained what the Juvenile Court was doing
to implement the new law.
We also spoke about the evolution of harassment prevention orders,
the expansion of the Youth Advocacy Department of the Committee for
Public Counsel Services, the new community casework model for the
Department of Youth Services, budget concerns regarding court staff
reductions and court-appointed counsel, and other regional issues
and local programming.
The meetings were a combination of education and discussion. They
presented a unique opportunity for judges and practitioners to air
candid thoughts and questions outside the context of specific
cases. The result was a constructive dialogue that will hopefully
strengthen ties between the bench and bar and improve the court
There are several people who helped organize the meetings. I
worked closely with Jim Morton coordinating scheduling,
programming, agendas and panel participation. Jean Stevens and Pat
Plasse from the MBA were instrumental in making sure every last
detail was covered. Martha Rush O'Mara, Esq., vice chair of the
Juvenile and Child Welfare Section Council, moderated in
I also want to thank all the judges who participated and Chief
Justice Edgerton for his ongoing support throughout the year.
Peter A. Hahn is chair of the Juvenile and Child Welfare
Section Council. His practice in Newton focuses on education,
juvenile, criminal, DCF and adoption matters.