News from the courts/agencies

Thursday, Feb. 15, 2018
U.S. District Court requests comments on Magistrate Judge Jennifer C. Boal reappointment; eFileMA Update: Trial Court Expands Electronic Case Filing; MLAC statement on Trump proposal to eliminate legal services funding; Massachusetts Trial Court releases 2017 Diversity Report & 2017 Report on Access to Fairness Survey



U.S. District Court requests comments on Magistrate Judge Jennifer C. Boal reappointment 

The United States District Court for the District of Massachusetts has issued a public notice relating to the expiration of the current term of the office of United States Magistrate Judge Jennifer C. Boal. The court has requested confidential written comments concerning the reappointment of the magistrate judge to be submitted by March 5, 2018, directed to Robert M. Farrell, clerk of court. Click here for the public notice.

eFileMA Update: Trial Court Expands Electronic Case Filing

You can now electronically file most common civil case types at all District Court and Boston Municipal Court divisions, as well as most estate and guardianship matters and divorce complaints filed under G.L 208 § 1B at all Probate and Family Court locations.

The Housing Court also accepts small claims filings in four divisions, and the Superior Court has initiated pilots in Middlesex and Barnstable counties accepting electronically filed tort actions.

The number of court divisions offering e-filing, and the number of case types available on eFileMA, will continue to grow in 2018.

efileMA streamlines filing processes and eliminates the need to file paper documents.

Register online for eFileMA now

The current $7 per eFileMA case fee is provided to the vendor to offset their costs associated with implementing the new system. As the number of electronically filed cases increases, this case filing fee will decrease.  

Court locations offering eFileMA for the following case types are listed below:

District Court & BMC – Civil, Small Claims, Supplementary Process

Attleboro East Brookfield Lawrence Northern Berkshire Stoughton
Ayer Edgartown Leominster Orange Taunton
Barnstable Fall River Lowell Orleans Uxbridge
Brockton Falmouth Lynn Palmer Waltham
Brookline Fitchburg Malden Peabody Wareham
Cambridge Framingham Marlborough Pittsfield West Roxbury-BMC
Chelsea Gardner Milford Plymouth Westborough
Chicopee Gloucester Nantucket Quincy Westfield
Clinton Greenfield Natick Salem Winchendon
Concord Haverhill New Bedford Somerville Woburn
Dedham Hingham Newburyport Southern Berkshire Worcester
Dudley Holyoke Newton Springfield Wrentham
E. Hampshire Ipswich Northampton Brighton - BMC Central - BMC*
Dorchester - BMC Roxbury - BMC Charlestown - BMC East Boston – BMC South Boston -BMC

Probate and Family Court Divisions - Estates 
and Administration, 1B No Fault Divorce, Guardianship of Incapacitated

Barnstable Essex Hampshire Norfolk
Berkshire Franklin Middlesex Plymouth
Bristol Hampden Nantucket Worcester
Dukes Suffolk

Housing Court Divisions – Small Claims

Eastern Northeast
Central Western

Superior Court Counties - Tort

Barnstable Middlesex

MLAC statement on Trump proposal to eliminate legal services funding; increased need in MA

On Feb. 12, President Donald Trump released his budget for Fiscal Year 2019, which calls for elimination of the Legal Services Corporation (LSC) and several other federal programs that provide vital safety net services to low-income people here in Massachusetts and across the United States. 

LSC provides funding to civil legal aid programs in every state in the country, including Massachusetts, which received approximately $5 million this year. 

“The elimination of funding for LSC, coupled with cuts to other programs that help poor and elderly residents secure food, heat, housing, employment, economic opportunity, and safe workplaces, would have devastating and long-lasting consequences on the stability of individuals, families, and communities across our state and our country,” said Lonnie Powers, executive director of the Massachusetts Legal Assistance Corporation. “Continued threats to federal funding highlight the need for robust state and local support.”

In testimony before the Joint Committee on Ways and Means on Feb. 13, Powers requested a $5 million increase in state funding for civil legal aid for a total appropriation of $23 million. He also highlighted the heightened need for civil legal aid due to expected reductions in safety net programs, rising uncertainty related to changes in federal immigration policies, and an influx of families fleeing hurricane damage in Puerto Rico. 

“Fear and misinformation are widespread in immigrant communities and the harm experienced as a result is significant. Children are afraid to go to school, fearing that their parents will be taken away, medical appointments are postponed or avoided altogether, and victims of crime are afraid to call the police,” Powers said. “Legal aid programs are a crucial source of information and education about immigrants’ rights.”

Additionally, since the devastation wrought by Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico, approximately 2,400 students who evacuated the island have moved to Massachusetts and enrolled in public schools. “Many of these families arrived here with nothing and need assistance in obtaining employment, housing, and other basic needs, and our programs are already working with some of these families,” Powers said.

In Fiscal Year 2017, the state’s $18 million investment in civil legal aid yielded $59.2 million in economic benefits and savings to the commonwealth, including $17.7 million in new federal revenue secured for clients through work to obtain disability benefits, nutrition assistance benefits (SNAP), and Medicare coverage; $17.2 million in state savings on foster care, shelter, and health care for people who are homeless and victims of domestic violence; and $24.3 million in additional benefits secured for clients, including child support, recovered wages, and debt relief. Civil legal aid boosts the economy, making increased state funding for MLAC a fiscally responsible decision.

“Civil legal aid programs provide assistance to people with extremely low incomes of just a little more than $31,000 for a family of four, and who face complex legal problems related to housing, individual rights, employment, and education,” Powers said. “We can easily measure the economic impact of this work. But civil legal assistance also provides profound and long-lasting benefits that change lives and improves the strength and health of families and our communities. It is a wise investment with both short- and long-term benefits.”

Massachusetts Trial Court releases 2017 Diversity Report & 2017 Report on Access to Fairness Survey

Massachusetts Trial Court Chief Justice Paula M. Carey and Trial Court Administrator Jonathan Williams have released the first Massachusetts Trial Court Annual Diversity Report for Fiscal Year 2017 and the Massachusetts Trial Court Report on the Access and Fairness Survey for Fiscal Year 2017.  
"We have made a commitment to improve the quality of justice in the commonwealth by addressing issues of diversity, equity and inclusion," said Trial Court Chief Justice Paula M. Carey.  "We are mindful that this effort must be integrated into our overall mission of delivering justice with dignity and speed.  We look forward to working with internal and external partners as we lead this essential commitment for the 21st century courts."
"We believe in the importance of a workforce that reflects the diversity of the communities we serve," added Trial Court Administrator Jonathan Williams. "Trial Court departments are gradually becoming more diverse but we recognize the need to expand recruitment in partnership with bar associations and community organizations." 

Massachusetts Trial Court Annual Diversity Report Fiscal Year 2017
2017 Massachusetts Trial Court Report on the Access and Fairness Survey