News from the Courts

Issue March 2012


Sorokin named U.S. District Court chief magistrate judge
On Feb. 1, Magistrate Judge Leo T. Sorokin succeeded Magistrate Judge Judith Gail Dein as chief magistrate judge of U.S. District Court for the District of Massachusetts. He will serve a three-year term. Dein served as chief magistrate judge from Feb. 1, 2009, through Jan. 31, 2012.

Sorokin, who was appointed to the court on April 11, 2005, presides over the Court Assisted Recovery Effort for the District of Massachusetts, which promotes the development and maintenance of sober, employed and law-abiding felons under the supervision of the court. It was one of the first federal courts to create such a program and was a model for other districts.

He has served as a faculty member on numerous educational programs sponsored by the U.S. District Court, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the First Circuit, the Federal Judicial Center, the Federal Bar Association and the Boston Bar Association. In 2009, the Boston Bar Association awarded him its Citation of Judicial Excellence.

Sorokin graduated cum laude from Yale College in 1983 and Columbia Law School in 1991, where he was a Kent and Stone Scholar and the articles editor of the Journal of Law and Social Problems. After graduation, he clerked for U.S. District Court Judge Rya W. Zobel from 1991-92.

He joined Mintz Levin (1992-94), then became an assistant attorney general (1994-97), where he served in the Administrative Law Division of the Government Bureau. During his last year in the office, he became the attorney general's opinions coordinator. He then became an assistant federal defender in the Federal Public Defender's Office for the District of Massachusetts (1997-2005), where he represented indigent defendants in federal criminal prosecutions until his appointment.


2012 edition of Mass. Guide to Evidence now available
The Supreme Judicial Court and its Executive Committee on Massachusetts Evidence Law announced the release of the 2012 edition of the Massachusetts Guide to Evidence on Feb. 10. The SJC justices recommend use of the guide by the bench, bar and public.

SJC Chief Justice Roderick L. Ireland stated: "I commend the members of the executive committee for their continued commitment to excellence by updating and expanding the Massachusetts Guide to Evidence to reflect new legal developments. The guide is an outstanding and practical research tool that has quickly become a highly respected and well-used source of the current Massachusetts evidence law. Attorneys, judges and self-represented litigants daily use the guide in courts throughout the commonwealth."

The guide, which assembles existing Massachusetts evidence law in an easy-to-use document organized similar to the Federal Rules of Evidence, includes extensive explanatory notes and citations to pertinent authorities.

The 2012 edition reflects developments in Massachusetts evidence law that occurred between Jan. 1, 2011 and Dec. 31, 2011. In includes dozens of new opinions issued in 2011 by the SJC, Appeals Court and the U.S. Supreme Court, as well as new sections addressing industry and safety standards, electronic or digital, consciousness of guilt or liability, and missing witness.

In addition, the committee revised the introductory note to Article VIII to address several opinions issued by the U.S. Supreme Court and the SJC that discuss the confrontation clause and hearsay in criminal cases.

The SJC established a 17-member advisory committee in 2006 to prepare a Massachusetts Guide to Evidence at the request of the Massachusetts Bar Association, Boston Bar Association and Massachusetts Academy of Trial Attorneys.

Appeals Court Judge Marc Kantrowitz is the editor-in-chief of the guide and chairs the executive committee, which includes: Hon. Peter W. Agnes (editor), Hon. David A. Lowy (editor), Appeals Court Clerk Joseph F. Stanton (reporter), Hon. Mark S. Coven, SJC Senior Attorney Barbara F. Berenson, New England Law | Boston professor Philip K. Hamilton, attorney Elizabeth N. Mulvey, and Appeals Court Law Clerks Emily Hamrock and Lydia Edwards.

SJC urges judicial evaluation responses
The Supreme Judicial Court is asking attorneys to evaluate the performance of Trial Court judges. The evaluation forms, which were sent in late February, will help the SJC's Judicial Performance Evaluation program enhance the quality of the judicial branch. Crucial to this effort is the full participation of the bar.

The SJC notes that a large response is more helpful in evaluating performance, and its evaluation program is the best opportunity for attorneys to offer their opinions of the members of the judiciary. The deadline for responses is April 12.

Suffolk County judges in the Boston Municipal, District, Juvenile, Housing and Probate and Family courts will be evaluated starting Feb. 22 by attorneys, court employees and jurors.

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 asking them to log into the website to complete the evaluation electronically. As required by statute, the electronic system keeps the evaluations confidential and anonymous. If an attorney's e-mail is not in the system, a paper questionnaire is mailed.

The evaluation results will be transmitted to the judge, the chief justice of each involved court department, the chief justice of the Supreme Judicial Court, and the chief justice for administration and management.