News Releases
April 04, 2024

Policy and News from the Courts, Week of April 1

Letter or Statement

BBA Advocates for State-Budget Priorities

In a letter to the House Ways & Means Committee Chair (which you can read here), BBA President Hannah Kilson asked for support on a number of priority items. The letter to Chair Aaron Michlewitz covers:

  • Funding for legal services, through MLAC, in the amount of $55 million
  • Maintenance funding for the Trial Court, as well as an additional appropriation of $4.8 million to allow the Court to cover after-hours bail fees, rather than continuing to require detainees to pay out-of-pocket
  • Much-needed funding for the CPCS line-items
  • Approval of a statewide Access to Counsel program, to provide legal representation to qualified tenants and owner-occupant landlords
  • Adoption of a measure to expand access to government services for residents with limited English proficiency

Governor’s Council Approves Cannabis Pardons, Confirms Two Judges

Yesterday, the Governor’s Council voted to approve of Governor Healey’s sweeping pardons for cannabis-possession convictions, now that these are no longer criminal offenses. By greatly expanding the use of the constitutional power to grant pardons the past year, the Governor and the Council have changed the narrative on clemency, rehabilitation, justice, and equity. This latest move will support both re-integration and public safety and address racial and ethnic disparities. We look forward to further use of this safety valve to redress errors such as wrongful convictions or unjust sentences and to recognize and reward individuals for successful rehabilitation. Additionally, we’ve endorsed automatic sealing of all offenses for cannabis possession.

The Council also gave final confirmation to two of Governor Maura Healey’s nominees to the Boston Municipal Court bench: Vanessa Vélez, and Steven Kim. After serving as a law clerk for the justices of the Massachusetts Superior Court, Judge Kim has worked as a Suffolk County prosecutor and as a defense attorney in private practice, handling both civil and criminal defense matters, as well as with the JAG Corps in the U.S. Army National Guard. Judge Vélez, most recently the Deputy Chief Counsel of the Private Counsel Division for CPCS, began her career as a solo practitioner practicing civil and criminal law and as a bar advocate, and teaches in the Trial Advocacy Workshop of Harvard Law School.

Vacancies on the Bench

The Judicial Nominating Commission is accepting applications for several current and upcoming vacancies on the state courts, including:

  • Two judgeships on the Probate & Family Court (due April 13!)
  • One judgeship on the Land Court (due April 22nd*)
  • Two judgeships on the Appeals Court, as well as the position of chief justice (due May 1)

* Note that the vacancy web-page linked to above has not yet been updated to reflect this extended deadline.

For more information about the process of applying for a judgeship in Massachusetts, see our recent Affinity Bar Event – AALAM’s Demystifying the Path to the Bench – Insight into the Judicial Nominating Commission.