Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Guest blogger gives a glimspe into the life of an intern.


My name is Melanie Dempster. I am a soon-to-be graduate of UMass Amherst, and was fortunate enough to have landed a summer internship in the Salem Superior Court for the Honorable Judge Lowy. As the only intern not yet in law school, on my very first day in Superior Court I was given a crash course on the dark side of human nature. I sat in on a trial where two men were being tried on charges relating to a bank robbery in Saugus, MA that led to a police chase and shootout, resulting in a fatality. The trial went on for 3 weeks. Victims and witnesses came and went, some on the stand for numerous days. After a short 45-minute deliberation, the jury found both defendants guilty on all charges, and the two men were sentenced to life in prison. Still shaken by the facts of that case, I went to observe a neighboring courtroom just in time to see the closing arguments in a trial where a young man (age 25) was charged with the gruesome murders of his mother and grandmother. In his closing argument, the prosecuting attorney gave a graphic retelling of the night of the murders. Pictures of the deceased hung in the background while he spoke to the jury, waving the same bloody knife that was used in the killings. Everyone in the courtroom was hypnotized and hanging on to his every word; it felt like a television courtroom drama. After deliberation, the jury found the defendant guilty of first-degree murder by extreme atrocity and cruelty, and the young defendant was sentenced to life in prison. As someone not yet desensitized to the realities of criminal court proceedings, the facts of these cases echoed in my head for days afterwards. Heinous crimes I would read about in the news or see on T.V. were being mapped out and argued right in front of me!

The best part about watching these trials were the discussions they sparked. Initially, I thought not being in law school put me at a disadvantage, but I was wrong. The law clerks, and other interns, dissected the issues at hand, the laws that applied, and the arguments made by each side. A lot of times I sat back, listened, and learned.
One of the best parts of my internship at the courthouse is that I learn new things every day I’m here. All of the court staff, the judges, the law clerks, the law librarians, and court officers, are more than happy to stop what they are doing and help me with whatever I may need. At the hands of the law clerks, I have learned a few things they teach you in law school, for example, how to research and “shepardize” case law, draft a memo, or identify the issues at hand in any given case. Some people may find this painfully boring, but for a college student interested in a career in the legal field, I consider myself one of the luckiest college student. I have learned more than I ever imagined, and have been treated with nothing but kindness and respect. I wish I could stay all year!

Monday, August 18, 2014

Use Yah Blinkah!

This blogger chuckled, upon encountering this blinking suggestion on a portable sign board a few months ago.  I was already signaling to exit Route 95/128 in Newton when I read it, and felt quite smug about my excellent driving behavior.  Apparently, it was the first weekend a humorous safety warning was being used and the message went viral.

After the attention this first sign received, the Massachusetts Department of Transportation announced the #DOTspeak Highway Message Board Contest.  The contest was run through social media and solicited creative messages to calm road rage, encourage seat belt use, and combat distracted driving.  The three winning entries are scheduled to be used on high traffic weekends.

So, we hope you heeded the "Keep Calm and Drive On" message this past weekend.  Those in need of information on traffic matters can consult our Massachusetts Law About Traffic Violations  webpage.

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Governor signs bill changing voir dire in Superior Court

Governor Patrick recently signed into law (Chapter 254 of the Acts of 2014) a bill that will allow a litigant or their attorney to question prospective jurors in criminal and civil cases tried in the Massachusetts Superior Courts.  The court may grant additional time or impose reasonable limitations on allowable questions. 

Shortly after the passage of the legislation, the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court formed a committee to examine the jury selection process and make recommendations before the statute becomes effective in early 2015.  The committee will also look into potential amendments to civil and criminal court rules and work with the Superior Court to develop procedures to implement the new law. 

See also our webpage on jury selection.

Friday, August 15, 2014

SJC updates and eases standards for sealing criminal records

In Commonwealth v. Pon, the Supreme Judicial Court has revised the standards for sealing records.  The last time the SJC address the issue was in 1995, in Commonwealth v. Doe, 420 Mass. 142.  Since the statutes underwent a major revision in 2010, the court felt that the standards articulated at that time "no longer achieves the proper balance of interests."

The new case asks judges to "evaluate the particular disadvantages identified by the defendant arising from the availability of the criminal record; evidence of rehabilitation suggesting that the defendant could overcome these disadvantages if the record were sealed; any other evidence that sealing would alleviate the identified disadvantages; relevant circumstances of the defendant at the time of the offense that suggest a likelihood of recidivism or of success; the passage of time since the offense and since the dismissal or nolle prosequi; and the nature of and reasons for the particular disposition"
For more information, see our page on Criminal Records, and the Court's page here.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

"From the Basket to the Casket"............


...........the now familiar mantra of the dedicated, long term Market Basket employee.  The ongoing Market Basket labor crisis is very much in the news and is affecting consumers as well as employees and distributors within our own communities.   With negotiations seemingly at a standstill for weeks on end the many non-union employees are left wondering about their workplace rights.  In response to numerous calls the Office of the Attorney General has created both a dedicated hotline and an informational webpage to answer some of the most frequently asked questions.
Another excellent resource is our own webpage:  'Massachusetts Law About Employment'.  With links to all aspects of employment law including 'Massachusetts Law About Employment Termination'  .
Here at the Lawrence Law Library one of our many print publications particularly on point at this time is 'Labor Law for the Union and Non-Union Workplace', an informative book published by the Boston Bar Association.  A Trial Court Law Library Card is all that's required to borrow this and other books and cd's from our extensive collection of legal materials. Open to the public, we serve the bench, the bar, the public and, of course, Market Basket employees!