News Releases
March 28, 2024

Policy and News from the Courts, Week of March 25

Letter or Statement

Focus on Access to Counsel

As a member of the Massachusetts Access to Counsel Coalition, the BBA has long supported a statewide program to provide counsel to income-qualified tenants and owner-occupant landlords in eviction cases. With the Legislature headed toward the end of its formal sessions on July 31, and next year’s state budget in the works, we submitted testimony this week to the Joint Committee on Ways & Means, asking for funding to start such a program (which Governor Healey included in her budget proposal), as well as statutory language to enact it (which she did not). You can find all testimony in support on the Coalition’s web-site.

In addition, the City Council held a hearing last week dedicated to this issue, and the BBA’s report—which demonstrated that every dollar spent on an Access to Counsel program returns $2.40 to the state—was repeatedly cited.​ The Council followed up this week by endorsing a resolution that “expresses its full support for the Access to Counsel Program in Massachusetts and urges the State Legislature to pass the aforementioned bills and line item to support the goal of ensuring representation for individuals facing eviction.”

Supreme Court Hears Mifepristone Case

This week, the U.S. Supreme Court heard oral arguments in a case challenging the FDA’s approval and regulation of mifepristone, a drug frequently used in medication abortions. A decision is expected in the next three months, and the BBA will be commenting at that time, with our Principles on Reproductive Rights in mind.

As those Principles state, “Reproductive rights are essential human and civil rights. Every person should have the full ability to exercise their rights to reproductive autonomy and self-determination.”

Access to safe medical care when terminating a pregnancy is a part of those basic rights. While the Supreme Court appears inclined to reject this challenge to the federal government’s regulatory authority—which would reduce access to safe and effective health-care—it seems the Court is likely to decide the case on the plaintiffs’ standing rather than the substantive legal issues. We therefore anticipate further efforts to encroach on these, and other, reproductive rights to follow.

Three Judges Confirmed to District Court

At their meeting this week, the Governor’s Council gave unanimous approval to two new District Court judges nominated by Governor Maura Healey: Francis Kenneally, the long-time clerk of the SJC, and Courtney Linnehan, a Middlesex County prosecutor. Earlier, the Council confirmed Jennifer Currie, previously the Worcester Juvenile Court Supervising Attorney for CPCS, to the Juvenile Court. We wish them all well on the bench. The Council also made plans for an upcoming hearing on the Governor’s proposal to issue blanket pardons for marijuana-possession convictions.

BBA President Addresses SJC Bench-Bar Event

At a bench-bar meeting in the John Adams Courthouse On March 27, BBA President Hannah Kilson spoke to the assembled bar leaders from across the state, pledging the BBA’s continued support for adequate state funding for the judiciary. The program, hosted by the SJC, also featured remarks from Chief Justice Kimberly Budd, Trial Court Chief Justice Heidi Brieger, Trial Court Administrator Tom Ambrosino, the Chief Access, Diversity, and Fairness Officer, Natoschia Scruggs, and MBA President Damian Turco. President Kilson also identified three themes that have arisen in her meetings to date with various chief justices:

  • Accelerated adoption of technology in response to the COVID-19 pandemic;
  • Commitment to DEI principles through addressing identified shortcomings in this area;
  • A focus on addressing the challenges and needs of self-represented litigants

She also stated that the BBA is supporting the Trial Court’s efforts to move the payment of after-hours bail fees off the shoulders of detainees and into the Trial Court’s budget.