In a ruling that carries clear echoes of a Boston Bar Association (BBA) amicus brief, the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court (SJC) issued a decision today in the case of Commonwealth v. Rodrick James Taylor.
The BBA had submitted an amicus brief in the case, asking the Court to resolve a tension between the requirements of Mass. R. Crim. P. 14(a), that the Commonwealth produce certain categories of mandatory, automatic discovery, and the requirement of Mass. R. Crim. P. 36(b), that defendants be brought to trial within one year (with only limited exceptions).
The BBA argued that a defendant should not be forced to forgo the right to a speedy trial in order to assert the right to obtain mandatory discovery. The SJC endorsed the BBA’s position by ruling that motions filed by a defendant seeking mandatory discovery will no longer automatically toll the speedy trial clock.
The BBA’s brief was drafted by William M. Jay, Paul F. Ware Jr., Joshua M. Daniels, and Kevin P. Martin of Goodwin Procter LLP.
As the BBA urged, the SJC clarified that a defendant seeking missing mandatory discovery under the Massachusetts Rules of Criminal Procedure should move for sanctions or to compel, and the time to resolve such a motion will not be automatically excluded; exclusion will be an issue for the trial judge to assess in determining whether “the ends of justice served” by exclusion of time would “outweigh the best interests of the public and the defendant in a speedy trial.”
The SJC also adopted the BBA’s position that where “there is a good faith dispute that the parties have been unable to resolve as to whether the requested discovery is, in fact, mandatory under the rule, fairness may dictate that some or all of the time be excluded from the speedy trial calculus.”
The BBA’s Amicus Committee is chaired by Mark C. Fleming of Wilmer Cutler Pickering Hale and Dorr LLP. The BBA’s policy for filing amicus briefs and procedures for submitting amicus brief requests are available here.