On Nov. 1, the special counsel's report summarizing a year-long
study on jury-waived OUI acquittals in Massachusetts was presented
to the Supreme Judicial Court. The SJC appointed Jack Cinquegrana
to examine the issue following a 2011 three-part spotlight series
in The Boston Globe that showcased high acquittal rates in
such cases. Following the release of Cinquegrana's report, the bar
and others responded.
The Massachusetts Bar Association, having a long history of
advocating for and supporting an impartial justice system that
protects the rights of all involved, was one of the first groups to
In a issued statement on Nov. 1, MBA's Committee on Fair and
Impartial Courts Chair Thomas Hoopes said, "The special counsel's
report to the Supreme Judicial Court demonstrates that overall the
Massachusetts courts are treating OUI cases in line with that of
other states. While drunk driving cases are a serious matter,
judges must remain independent and be provided the freedom to
decide individual cases based on the weight of the evidence before
them and the unique circumstances of each particular case."
Hoopes said that regarding the high bench trial acquittal rates
of certain judges, the report correctly cautions against drawing
any adverse conclusions about those individual justices. Rather, as
identified by the report, evidentiary barriers and other systemic
factors may contribute to those elevated rates.
According to Martin W. Healy, the MBA's chief legal counsel and
chief operating officer, the MBA will continue to examine the
report's recommendations and work with court and legislative
leaders to ensure that the independence of the judicial system is
Much of the Globe's 2011 spotlight series focused on
the OUI acquittal rates of specific District Court judges.
Following news of the special counsel report, District Court Chief
Justice Lynda M. Connolly said, "I am pleased that the report
acknowledges the integrity of the court and the importance of
judicial independence . . .The report and the justices strongly
caution against basing any evaluation of a judge or a court on
statistics that measure only case outcomes. The justices make it
clear: there is no correct number of convictions or
acquittals in any case type."
Connolly vowed to work on systemic issues identified by the
report through collaboration with the SJC, Trial Court and
Echoing the sentiments of Chief Justice Connolly, a portion of
the statement of Massachusetts Judges Conference President James G.
Collins read, "We shall advance the cause of justice for the people
by defending the rule of law and shall have the courage to carry
out the rule of law by making decisions based solely on the facts
and the law -- not scorecards or batting averages."
For the full report and a statement from the Supreme
Judicial Court, click here.