Massachusetts Appeals Court Chief Justice Phillip Rapoza
addressed the members of the MBA House of Delegates on Jan. 20 in
Worcester. His remarks set the tone for a productive meeting that
included votes on key issues, including The Alimony Reform Act of
2011 and amendments to SJC Rule 1.19 involving cameras in the
Rapoza provided an upbeat report on the state of the Massachusetts
Appeals Court, peppered with encouraging statistics on case flow
improvements. Rapoza reported that 2,283 appeals were filed last
year, making it the third-highest caseload in the history of the
Appeals Court, with the previous year being the second highest,
with 2,355 appeals.
Despite the high volume, he offered statistics to showcase court
efficiencies. Specifically, from 2001 to 2009, the time from full
briefing of civil cases to oral argument decreased from 22 months
to five months and from 14 months to four months for criminal
cases. In addition, 41 days were shed from the duration between
oral argument and decision rendered in criminal cases from 2001 to
2010, while 38 days were trimmed in civil cases from 2001 to
He also spoke to the significant budget and staff reductions
experienced in the last few years, but also mentioned technological
innovations undertaken despite the reduction in human
"The Appeals Court is second to none in the quality of its
jurisprudence," said Rapoza, who blended his report of the Appeals
Court with timeless themes of justice. "Justice is not only a basic
human right. Justice is also a basic human need."
Delegates then swiftly moved through the meeting agenda. The
delegation's key votes included:
- Vote to support The Alimony Reform Act of 201, which more
clearly defines and sets limits of duration of alimony, provides
opportunity to end alimony at retirement, alters alimony when
ex-spouses cohabitate with new partners, adds factors to consider
in an alimony order, and allows judicial discretion to deviate
based upon particular case law.
- Vote against the proposed amendments to Supreme Judicial Court
Rule 1:19, Cameras in the Courts, which would expand the definition
of media and allow media to operate an electronic device in the
courtroom and permit live blogging to take place from the
courtroom. The House called for further review and input on the
amendments set forth by the SJC's Judiciary-Media Committee.
- Vote to support a resolution on medical-legal partnerships by
encouraging lawyers, firms, legal services agencies, law schools
and bar associations to develop medical-legal partnership with
hospital, community-based health care providers and social service
organizations to help resolve legal matters affecting patients'
health and well being.
- Vote in support of legislation to end life sentences without
parole for juvenile offenders.