HOD votes to submit comments on access to court records

Thursday, May. 26, 2016
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Top: MBA President Robert W. Harnais (left) presided over his final HOD meeting on May 19. President-elect Jeffrey N. Catalano (right) will succeed Harnais as president on September 1. Bottom: The MBA's House of Delegates met in Framingham for the final meeting of the 2015-16 association year.

The Massachusetts Bar Association's House of Delegates voted to submit comments on a proposed Trial Court rule governing access to public records at the HOD meeting on May 19, at the Sheraton Framingham.

In a unanimous vote, the HOD supported the submission of separate comments from both the Criminal Justice Section Council and Probate Law Section Council on proposed Trial Court Rule XIV, Uniform Rules on Public Access to Court Records.

The comments from the Criminal Justice Section Council ask that data from criminal cases and family law cases (except estate cases, as now available) and financial information from these cases not be made available to the public on the Trial Court website. In addition, the comments note the need to address the problem of errors in records and landlords using the online Housing Court database to reject housing applicants who had prior landlord-tenant cases.

Comments from the Probate Law Section Council call for supporting public online access to the following documents: Order of Informal Probate of Will and/or Appointment of Personal Representative, Decree and Order on Petition for Formal Adjudication, Bonds, and Appointment of Special Representative and allowed wills. The comments also ask that the Attorneys Internet Portal allow access to imaging of all documents unless otherwise impounded, as well as remote access to all cases, regardless of whether an attorney has entered an appearance.

In other business, the HOD voted to support in principle the proposed changes to HB.4107, "An Act relative to child-centered family law," made by the Family Law Section Council. The HOD also voted to support in principle HB.43, "An Act relative to the Uniform Electronic Legal Material Act."

MBA President Robert W. Harnais, presiding over his final HOD meeting as president, thanked those in attendance for their continued support throughout the year. Harnais highlighted the creation of a statewide MBA Section 35 Helpline as the most meaningful accomplishment of his presidency.

In addition to his legislative update, Chief Legal Counsel and Chief Operating Officer Martin W. Healy, announced that three members had submitted applications to serve on the Executive Management Board: Peter T. Elikann, Lee J. Gartenberg and Scott D. Peterson. All three were voted in unanimously.

The meeting concluded with the ceremonial passing of the president's gavel from Harnais to President-elect Jeffrey N. Catalano, who will succeed Harnais as president on September 1. Following the meeting, the MBA hosted a dinner for leaders of the county bar associations.