News from the Courts

Issue December 2012

SJC appoints MBA members to committee to study the Massachusetts Code of Judicial Conduct

The Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court justices have announced appointments to a committee to study the Massachusetts Code of Judicial Conduct. The committee has been formed to review the current Massachusetts Code of Judicial Conduct adopted in 2003, in comparison to the Model Code of Judicial Conduct adopted by the American Bar Association in 2007. Associate Justice of the Massachusetts Appeals Court Cynthia J. Cohen has been appointed chair of the Committee.

In addition to Cohen, appointed MBA members include:

  • Hon. Cynthia J. Cohen, Appeals Court
  • Hon. Peter W. Agnes Jr., Appeals Court
  • Hon. Kenneth V. Desmond Jr., Boston Municipal Court
  • Hon. Judith Fabricant, Superior Court
  • Hon. Linda S. Fidnick, Probate & Family Court
  • Hon. Diana H. Horan, Housing Court
  • Hon. Angel Kelly-Brown, District Court
  • Hon. Mark D. Mason, District Court
  • Hon. James F. McHugh, Appeals Court (retired)
  • Hon. Karyn F. Scheier, Land Court chief justice
  • Hon. John S. Spinale, Juvenile Court
  • Michael S. Greco, K & L Gates LLP

Probate and Family Court releases procedural advisory and revised estate administration forms

Chief Justice Paula M. Carey of the Probate and Family Court has releases a procedural advisory for estate administration matters. The procedural advisory summarizes procedural changes to estate administration matters as a result of Chapter 140 of the Acts of 2012. Chapter 140 amended various sections of G. L. c. 190B, the Massachusetts Uniform Probate Code and incorporates the Massachusetts Uniform Trust Code as Chapter 203E of the general laws. The procedural advisory was developed by the MUPC Procedures Committee which includes Probate and Family Court judges, court staff and members of the bar. The advisory is a new method to educate court staff, members of the bar and litigants on procedural updates.

Carey also announced the release of "round one" of newly-created and revised estate administration forms for actions brought under the MUPC. In response to comments received from members of the bar, litigants and court staff, the MUPC Forms Committee created a new combination Assent and Waiver of Notice/Renunciation/Nomination and Waiver of Sureties form (MPC 455) and Instructions (MPC 941). The new form will replace the need to file separate forms for common requests in estate administration matters. The Assent and Waiver of Notice portion of the form may be used in all probate matters, excluding guardianship of minor proceedings.

Revised forms include:

  • MPC 801-Bond
  • MPC 255-Petition for Informal Appointment of Successor PR
  • MPC 760-Order for Informal Appointment of Successor PR
  • MPC 270-Petition for Formal Appointment of Successor PR
  • MPC 765-Decree and Order for Formal Appointment of Successor PR
  • MPC 264-Statement of Resignation of PR
  • MPC 550-Notice of Informal Probate

New forms, now acceptable for filing, include:

  • MPC 455-Assent and Waiver of Notice/Renunciation/Nomination/Waiver of Sureties
  • MPC 941- Instructions for MPC 455

SJC seeks judge evaluations in Middlesex Counties

As part of the continuing program to evaluate and enhance judicial performance, the Supreme Judicial Court will evaluate judges of 46 District, Housing, Probate and Family, and Juvenile Courts in Middlesex County.

Attorneys who receive a questionnaire should take the time to complete it, as the more responses received, the more helpful the judicial evaluations will be. The SJC's evaluation program is the best opportunity for attorneys to offer their opinions of the members of the judiciary. Attorneys who have appeared in these courts in the last two years, according to court records, will receive questionnaires. Attorneys will receive an e-mail requesting them to log into a confidential website to complete the evaluation electronically. If an attorney wishes the Supreme Judicial Court to have their e-mail address for conducting evaluations in the future, e-mail addresses can be registered.

Inquiries concerning questionnaires and evaluations should be directed to Mona Hochberg, SJC judicial performance evaluation coordinator, at (617) 557-1156.

Memorandum regarding Chapter 193 of the Acts and Resolves of 2012

On Aug. 2, 2012, Gov. Deval Patrick signed Chapter 193 of the Acts and Resolves of 2012, An Act Further Regulating Animal Control, concerning animals in conjunction with restraining orders, which became effective on Oct. 31, 2012.

Brooke Courthouse Information Desk re-opens

The Access to Justice Initiative is pleased to announce that the Brooke Courthouse Information Desk reopened last month after a summer hiatus and will operate once again from 8:30 to 10 a.m. every day the courts are in session. It is staffed by volunteer undergraduate interns who are supervised by an attorney or court administrator.

The information desk provides basic law-related information to court users and frees up court staff from the daily burden of addressing routine, repetitive questions that take time away from other essential duties.

The Brooke Courthouse Information Desk is joined by similar resources at the Worcester Courthouse and the Springfield Hall of Justice. SJC Senior Attorney Sandra Lundy, deputy advisor for the Access to Justice Initiative, has developed helpful protocols and materials for recruiting and training information desk volunteers.

Wolf to become senior judge in 2013

Mark L. Wolf, the chief judge of the United States District Court for the District of Massachusetts, has recently informed the president of the United States that he will become a senior judge on Jan. 1, 2013, the day after his term as chief judge is concluded. Wolf wrote United States President Barack H. Obama that he will continue to render substantial service as a senior judge.

Federal law provides that a judge who is at least 65 years old and has served for at least 15 years may continue in regular active service, become a senior judge, or retire and receive as an annuity his last salary for life. While a senior judge continues to render substantial judicial service, by taking that status Wolf creates a vacancy which, when filled, provides the district court a new, additional judge.

Wolf was appointed to the district court in 1985. His statutory, seven-year term as chief judge ends on Dec. 31, 2012, when he will be succeeded by Judge Patti B. Saris. On Jan. 1, 2013, Wolf will be 66 and have served for more than 27 years.