Wednesday, January 30, 2008

SJC to Revisit Issue of Comments by Judges

On Monday, the Supreme Judicial Court announced the establishment of an Ad Hoc Committee to study the issue of public comments by judges. The committee will study SJC Rule 3:09, section 3B(9), which reads:

(9) Except as otherwise provided in this section, a judge shall abstain from public comment about a pending or impending Massachusetts proceeding in any court, and shall require* similar abstention on the part of court personnel*.
(a) A judge is permitted to make public statements in the course of his or her official duties or to explain for public information the procedures of the court, general legal principles, or what may be learned from the public record in a case.
(b) This Section does not prohibit judges from discussing, in legal education programs and materials, cases and issues pending in appellate courts. This education exemption does not apply, however, to comments or discussions that might interfere with a fair hearing of the case.
(c) This Section does not apply to proceedings in which the judge is a litigant in a personal capacity.

According to Mass. Lawyers' Weekly, "The appointment of the 11-member panel comes two months after Superior Court Judge Kathe M. Tuttman came under withering criticism for her decision last summer to release on personal recognizance a man convicted of having killed his mother and now charged with the November murder of a newlywed couple in Washington. "