News from the Courts

Issue March 2011

SJC Justice Judith A. Cowin to retire

Supreme Judicial Court Associate Justice Judith A. Cowin has announced she will retire on April 5, 2011. Cowin has served on the SJC for 11 years and previously served on the Superior Court for almost eight years. She was the third woman to be appointed to the SJC

"I have been privileged to serve the people of Massachusetts," said Cowin. "I will remember these years with a conviction that the work is of great importance and with an abiding affection for the colleagues with whom I shared it."

Cowin would reach the mandatory retirement age of 70 for judges in April 2012. A longtime member of the Court's Rules Committee, Cowin is a member of the Wellesley Alumnae Association and takes an active interest in advising young women about career paths and work-life balance.

Prior to her appointment to the bench, she served as assistant legal counsel to the Massachusetts Department of Mental Health, legal counsel to the Office of the Chief Justice of the District Court Department and an assistant district attorney in Norfolk County.

Moran named SJC executive director; Burak appointed chief justice's legal counsel

The justices of the Supreme Judicial Court announced on Feb. 3 the appointments of Francis S. Moran Jr. as SJC executive director and Christine P. Burak as legal counsel to the chief justice.

Moran takes over the duties of Ronald P. Corbett Jr., who was last month named acting Commissioner of Probation for two years by Chief Justice for Administration & Management Robert A. Mulligan.

Moran helps the court supervise, manage and coordinate its day-to-day administrative responsibilities. He was previously legal counsel to the chief justice and served for 20 years in the U.S. Air Force.

Burak advises the chief justice and justices on legal questions and manages the work of the Legal Department. She has been a lawyer at the court since 1985. Burak is a graduate of Assumption College and Boston College Law School.

Corbett named commissioner of probation

Chief Justice for Administration & Management Robert A. Mulligan has appointed Ronald P. Corbett Jr., Ed.D., to serve as the commissioner of probation on an acting basis for two years.

Corbett, appointed on an interim basis in May, has instituted a range of management reforms to increase the accountability and transparency of the probation service.

"Ron Corbett brings a depth of knowledge on probation best practices, along with strong management experience and extensive partnerships in the criminal justice community, to strengthen probation at this challenging time," said Mulligan. "Probation is a key public safety entity with a positive history in the judicial branch until recently. We are very fortunate to have a leader of this caliber who can work collaboratively with the executive branch and provide direction to the many hardworking probation officers across the state. Ron, who is widely respected, will issue regular reports on the many initiatives underway in probation."

Mulligan highlighted the importance of establishing stability in the department in the short term, given the recent turmoil. Under recently enacted legislation, the position of commissioner of probation carries a five-year term. Mulligan said he expects to conduct a full search at a point that is appropriate for the organization.

"I welcome the opportunity to restore Probation to administrative excellence and credibility throughout the court system and in the eyes of the public. Going forward, we will focus on further strengthening several key areas," Corbett said. "These include the need to establish a culture based on performance management with new metrics and full accountability; finish introduction of a new, validated risk/need classification instrument to form the foundation of our key supervisory practices; insure comprehensive and accurate data systems to enable accurate caseload reporting; continue to enhance relationships with our allied state agencies in the interests of an effective criminal justice system; and insure that all future hires are based on best personnel practices and reflect a commitment to a merit-based system."

Corbett served as deputy commissioner of probation from 1993 to 2000, when he was named executive director of the Supreme Judicial Court. He teaches criminal justice at the University of Massachusetts at Lowell.

Casper sworn in as U.S. District Court judge

On Jan. 17, Denise Jefferson Casper took the oath of office and became a U.S. District Court Judge for the District of Massachusetts. A public event to recognize Casper's appointment was held at Faneuil Hall on Feb. 18.

Casper succeeds Judge Reginald Lindsay, who died in March 2009. Prior to her appointment, Casper served for four years as the deputy district attorney for Middlesex County. Casper also spent six years as an assistant U.S. attorney for the District of Massachusetts. Prior to becoming a prosecutor, she was a litigator at what is now Bingham McCutchen LLP and a law clerk to two members of the Massachusetts Appeals Court.

Maloney named chief probation officer

The judges of the U.S. District Court for the District of Massachusetts have selected Massachusetts native Christopher Maloney to serve as chief of the U.S. Probation Department for Massachusetts. Maloney fills the vacancy created by the recent retirement of Chief Probation Officer John M. Bocon.

Chief Judge Mark L. Wolf, who administered the oath to Maloney, said: "Our Probation Office is recognized nationally for its excellence. My colleagues and I look forward to Chris Maloney's leadership in sustaining and enhancing that excellence."

Maloney served for six years as chief of the U.S. Probation Office for the District of New Jersey. He also spent seven years working with the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts in Washington, D.C. He was responsible for oversight of the federal probation system's substance abuse, mental health and location monitoring programs.

Maloney began his career with the federal judiciary in 1992, when he was appointed as a U.S. probation officer in the District of Massachusetts. He received the Salvation Army's Community Service Award in 2010.

2011 Massachusetts Guide to Evidence available

The 2011 edition of the Massachusetts Guide to Evidence was released on Feb. 10. It includes dozens of opinions issued by the Supreme Judicial Court, the Appeals Court and other courts, between Jan. 1, 2010 and Dec. 31, 2010, in a format similar to the Federal Rules of Evidence.

The guide includes: substantially revised and expanded sections on topics including the first complaint doctrine; the relationship between hearsay and the confrontation clause; expert testimony; the authentication of public records; the fair report privilege; the collateral source rule; the marital privilege; the discharge of jurors; and the risk of inaccurate forensic analysis.

The third annual edition of the guide is available without charge on the websites of the Supreme Judicial Court, Appeals Court and Trial Court at, where it can be searched and downloaded. The print edition is available for purchase from the Flaschner Judicial Institute.

The SJC established a 17-member advisory committee in 2006 to prepare the guide at the request of the Massachusetts Bar Association, Boston Bar Association and Massachusetts Academy of Trial Attorneys. Appeals Court Judge R. Marc Kantrowitz is editor-in-chief of the guide.

SJC seeks judge evaluations in four counties

As part of the continuing program to evaluate and enhance judicial performance, the Supreme Judicial Court will be sending questionnaires to attorneys in Berkshire, Hampden, Hampshire and Franklin Counties starting Monday, Feb. 14, to evaluate the performance of Trial Court judges in Massachusetts.

The SJC's evaluation program is the best opportunity for attorneys to voice their opinions of the members of the judiciary. Attorneys who have appeared in these courts in the last two years will receive questionnaires. The great majority of questionnaires will be sent electronically, with attorneys receiving an e-mail linking to the evaluation Web site.

As required by statute, the evaluations are confidential and anonymous. The results of the evaluation will be transmitted to the judge, the chief justice of the relevant court department, the Chief Justice of the Supreme Judicial Court, and the Chief Justice of Administration and Management.