As COVID cases began rising as the weather got colder, MACDL president John Amabile sent a letter to the Chief Justices of the SJC, Superior, and District Courts recommending best practices for court administration (see PDF of the letter below). The recommendations were aimed at mitigating the spread of disease and making our practice more efficient. MACDL recommended statewide directives for restoring remote hearings, accepting electronic filings, and staggering start times for in-person proceedings. We have not heard back from the Chief Justices, but in light of the alarming increase in COVID cases over the past few weeks, these recommendations are no longer sufficient. More dramatic measures are necessary in the short term.

Like everyone, we are anxiously waiting to hear from court leadership about plans for January. Jury trials have been cancelled in other states for the entire month of January and we are waiting to hear what Massachusetts courts are planning to do. For lawyers with medical conditions, small children, and/or other vulnerable people in their households, this wait is particularly stressful. We are aware that the judges in federal court plan to meet on January 4, 2022 to discuss the status of jury trials. We do not know what the state courts have planned. As things stand, the presiding judge of each courthouse is deciding on their own whether to proceed with jury trials in January.

MACDL encourages lawyers with medical conditions or vulnerable people in their households to request continuances and remote proceedings. It is possible that court leadership will fail to lead and leave it up to individuals to raise concerns regarding their particular circumstances. No lawyer or litigant should be forced to appear in person if they do not feel safe doing so. If you run into opposition, please reach out to MACDL and your county bar advocate programs for institutional support.

Keren Goldenberg, Chair
MACDL Communications and Social Media Committee

To view/download full text of the letter click the image below

Letter to Chief Justices regarding COVID and Jury Trials