News from the Courts

Issue October 2015

Hon. Timothy F. Sullivan appointed Chief Justice of the Housing Court

Trial Court Chief Justice Paula M. Carey has announced the appointment of Judge Timothy F. Sullivan as chief justice of the Housing Court for a five-year term starting Oct. 1, in accordance with G.L. c. 211B, §5. Sullivan has served on the Housing Court since 2004, he succeeds Chief Justice Steven D. Pierce, who retired on Sept. 30.

"I am pleased to announce the appointment of Judge Sullivan to lead the Housing Court," said Carey. "Judge Sullivan has earned a reputation with his colleagues for being accessible, approachable and receptive to addressing diverse concerns. His philosophy of open communication, collaboration and team building will ensure his ability to address the future challenges facing the department. He is firmly committed to Housing Court expansion and will capably continue the great work of Chief Justice Pierce."

Sullivan is currently the first justice of the Northeast Division. He previously served as an associate justice in the Worcester Division. As first justice, he has worked to streamline case flow management and increase efficiency, introduced a training and certification program for all Housing Court specialists and expanded community outreach and communication with court users and members of the Housing Court bar. He is a member of the Trial Court's Standing Committee on Court Security, and served as a member of the Standing Committee on Alternate Dispute Resolution from 2004-2012.

"I am honored by Chief Justice Carey's appointment and I look forward to working closely with her and her leadership team," Sullivan said. "The Housing Court enjoys a tradition of collegiality and dedication to its mission. It is a privilege to be called to lead such an extraordinary group of committed public servants. I will strive to follow the standard of excellence set by Chief Justice Pierce in his leadership of the Housing Court."

Prior to his appointment to the bench, Sullivan maintained a general law practice in Newburyport, with a concentration on landlord-tenant, real estate conveyancing, estate administration and land use. He is a graduate of Merrimack College and New England Law School. He resides with his family in Topsfield.

The Housing Court Department is comprised of five divisions with 10 authorized judicial positions across the commonwealth. The Massachusetts Trial Court, which is implementing a strategic plan titled "One Mission: Justice with Dignity and Speed," includes seven court departments with 379 judges who deliver justice in 101 courthouses across the state.

Gov. Baker administers ceremonial oath of office to Appeals Court chief Justice

On Monday, Oct. 5, Gov. Charlie Baker administered the ceremonial Oath of Office to the Honorable Scott L. Kafker, the sixth Chief Justice of the Massachusetts Appeals Court, before an assembly of several hundred people in the Great Hall of the John Adams Courthouse.

"I am honored that Chief Justice Kafker's appointment was the first of my administration, and believe he is well-suited to uphold the legacy and independence of the court," said Baker. "Under his leadership, I am confident the Appeals Court will be an essential partner in our work to ensure state government and the courts serve all residents equally before the law."

Supreme Judicial Court Justice Robert J. Cordy delivered opening remarks and served as Master of Ceremonies. Baker and Lt. Gov. Karyn E. Polito delivered keynote remarks, after which Baker administered the ceremonial Oath of Office.

"I believe that a chief justice must wake up every morning committed to making a difference in the lives of the people of the commonwealth," Kafker said during his remarks following his swearing in. "The chief justice must be the court's conscience in terms of constantly comparing its overall performance with its ideals, as the chief is entrusted with the responsibility of being the daily guardian of the court's administration of justice in the public interest."

SJC hears oral arguments in special New Bedford sitting

Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court Chief Justice Ralph D. Gants and the six associate justices of the court heard oral arguments in four cases at a special sitting in the Bristol County Superior Court in New Bedford on Oct. 6. The special sitting provided an opportunity for students, media and residents of the local community to view the work of the highest court of the commonwealth outside of the John Adams Courthouse in Boston, where cases are normally heard.

As part of the special sitting, Bristol County Superior Court Clerk Marc Santos acted as clerk to the justices for the day. A group of ninth- and 10th-grade students from the City on a Hill Charter School in New Bedford and a group of 10th-grade students from the Greater New Bedford Regional Vocational High School attended the special sitting.

The justices heard oral arguments in the following cases:

  • SJC-11906, Public Employee Retirement Administration Commission v. Edward A. Bettencourt
  • SJC-11857, Commonwealth v. Lawrence Moore
  • SJC-11877, Commonwealth v. Peter Chamberlin
  • SJC-11876, Commonwealth v. Kyle L. Johnson

The justices hear appeals on a broad range of criminal and civil cases from September through May. Single justice sessions are held each week throughout the year for certain motions pertaining to cases on trial or on appeal, bail reviews, bar discipline proceedings, petitions for admission to the bar and a variety of other statutory proceedings. The associate justices sit as single justices each month on a rotation schedule.

The justices issue written opinions generally within 130 days following oral arguments. Court opinions are available online after 10 a.m. on the day the opinion is issued, and can be accessed on the Office of the Reporter of Decisions new published opinions page.

The full bench renders approximately 200 written decisions each year; The single justices decide a total of approximately 600 cases annually.