Thursday, January 31, 2008

SJC Invites Comments on Rule

Last February, the Supreme Judicial Court's Standing Advisory Committee on the Rules of Professional Conduct issued proposed changes to Professional Conduct Rule 1.14, Client with Diminished Capacity. After receiving a number of helpful comments, the committee revised the proposal. "The Committee has also proposed revising the comments to Rule 1.14 to incorporate several comments from the ABA model comments and to address issues raised in Care and Protection of Georgette, 439 Mass. 28 (2003)." They are now opening the revised proposed rule for comment.

You can find the notice "including the proposed revised rule and comments and dissenting statement, and redlined copies of the Committee's proposed revisions to Rule 1.14 indicating how the Committee's proposal differs from American Bar Association Model Rule 1.14 and from current Massachusetts Rule 1.14" at Notice Inviting Comment: Proposed Revisions to Massachusetts Rule of Professional Conduct 1.14.

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. "

Monday, January 28, 2008

Bill to Protect Child Survivors of Parental Homicide

The Joint Committee on the Judiciary heard testimony January 24 on a bill (H1547) that would make it easier to end the involvement in a child's life of a parent who killed the second parent. The bill provides that a conviction for murder would "create a rebuttable presumption that contact with the child and exercise of parental rights, including but not limited to care and custody of the child, by the convicted parent are not in the child’s best interests."

According to the Daily News Tribune, the committee heard from Patrick Holland, who was eight years old when his father killed his mother. His father wanted to see Patrick's school reports and otherwise stay involved in the boy's life from prison, and it took Patrick four years in court to terminate contact with him. Patrick asked legislators to ease the process for other children in his situation. According to the article,"'Kids in my situation have already been through a loss. They don’t need to go through more hardships,' Holland said. 'This law would create options and allow them to do what they want, where I was never able to.'"

Friday, January 25, 2008

Governor's Budget

Governor Deval Patrick submitted his budget recommendations on Wednesday, and we want to commend him for the ease of access provided on the web. Finding a given line item or outside section of the budget had always been a nightmare. Now, the site is intuitive, easy to use, and thorough in its coverage. For each broad category or line item, you can easily see the FY2009 recommendation, and then with one click view Historical Budgets from FY2005 to date, or Historical Spending, or Employment Levels. Outstanding!

Thursday, January 24, 2008

House Passes Limits on Cell Phones While Driving

Yesterday, the House passed H4477, AN ACT FURTHER REGULATING THE USE OF CERTAIN COMMUNICATION DEVICES WHILE OPERATING A MOTOR VEHICLE. While the bill has received a great deal of attention because it specifically bans text messaging while driving, it actually bans all use of hand-held cellphones and other electronic devices.

Drivers over 18 may use cellphones with hands-free capability. "A violation of this section shall be punishable by a fine of $100 for a first offense, by a fine of $250 for a second offense and by a fine of $500 for a third or subsequent offense."

Drivers under 18 may not use cellphones at all, even with hands-free headsets. In addition to the fines above, a junior operator who violates the law will have their license or permit suspended for 60 days for a first offense, 180 days for a second offense, and a full year for a third offense.

Exceptions are provided for calls to emergency services. According to the Boston Globe, "an amendment approved yesterday stipulates that drivers can use their hands to dial and hang up the phone without a violation, as long as they use an earpiece or speakerphone during their calls."

The Senate has yet to vote on the measure. The Globe reports, "knowledgeable Senate source said Senate President Therese Murray is not likely to bring the measure up for a vote in the near term."

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Energy saving lamps and mercury

We have all been encouraged to use Energy Star lights, such as the compact fluorescents bulbs. These can consume 75% less energy than a comparable incandescent light. They last longer, and use less energy. What have we got to lose? The problem is that these lights are made with mercury, and we can't throw them in our regular trash or traditional recycling programs. In 2006, the state passed a law that would mandate consumer friendly recycling by manufacturers, and an education program for the public. It states in part : "No person, household, business, school, healthcare facility or state or municipal government shall knowingly dispose of a mercury-added product in any manner other than by recycling, disposing as hazardous waste or using a method approved by the department."(sec. 6I)
The Dept. of Environmental Protection has an information page on mercury, and has posted the final regulations for recycling mercury-added products. At this time, recycling options are limited, but the regulations kick into gear starting in March.
Now we can save energy and not adversely impact the environment.

Monday, January 14, 2008

Elder Care Directory

The Family Caregiver Handbook: Finding Elder Care Resources in Massachusetts is a publication/website produced by the MIT Workplace Center which acts as a "'gateway' to key elder care organizations across the Commonwealth, providing telephone numbers, locations and website addresses so that caregivers can find the most appropriate resources closest to their own community." Topic areas include housing, health care, insurance, financial, transportation, recreation and more. While the substantive information provided is brief, the strength of this source is the referral information it provides. For example, just one subsection under "Caregiver Support," includes the following categories:

You'll find links to this and many other publications at our Massachusetts Law About Elders' Issues.

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Notice to Clients of Insurance Company Payments

Last month, the Division of Insurance issued DOI Bulletin 2007-15: Written Notice to Claimants of Payment of Claims in Third Party Settlements. Insurance companies are now directed to notify clients when payment of a settlement of $5000 or more has been made to the client’s attorney. Surprisingly, no notice to the claimant had been required in the past. Notice must include:

  • The amount of the check and the party to whom the check was mailed; and
  • The address of the party to whom the check was mailed; and
  • If payment is made by a draft or check, a copy of such draft or check; or
  • If payment is made by the electronic transfer of funds, the amount of such transfer, the date of such transfer and the party to whom the transfer was made; and
  • The statement, “If you have any questions about this notice, please contact your attorney.”

According to the Boston Globe, the new rule comes as a result of a very public case of malfeasance in which a Massachusetts attorney kept insurance settlement checks without notifying his clients that they had been received.

Monday, January 07, 2008

Religious Accommodation in Employment

"An employer's mere contention that it could not reasonably accommodate an employee is insufficient," according to the Supreme Judicial Court in MBTA v. MCAD, decided Friday. A person granted a conditional offer of employment had religious beliefs which prohibited him from working Friday evenings, and the MBTA then rescinded the offer, stating that to accommodate him would pose an undue hardship. The MBTA did not explore the options available, including voluntary employee shift swapping. "In the absence of evidence demonstrating a contractual bar to voluntary employee swaps, or other interference with employer operations, requiring an employer to facilitate such swaps as a means of accommodating the religious observances of its employees will not be considered undue hardship."

The court did not require "an investigative or interactive process" in all cases, however. An "employer is not required to engage in fruitless dialogue if it is absolutely clear no accommodation could be made without undue hardship. Such a demonstration, however, will often be difficult to make without the employer's having engaged in an interactive process with the employee and having made a good faith effort to explore the options that come out of such a process. The MBTA has amply demonstrated this point in the case before us."

Wednesday, January 02, 2008

Announcing RetrieveLaw!

Our library card holders can now access Massachusetts and Federal primary law from home via RetrieveLaw. The database includes:
  • Mass. SJC and Appeals Court cases
  • Mass. General Laws
  • CMR
  • Mass. court rules
  • Federal court cases
  • US Code
  • CFR
  • Federal court rules
We realize it has been a long wait for a new database, and thank you for your patience. As always, we welcome your questions and feedback. And, of course, we welcome new cardholders (it's free and easy)! See How to Get a Library Card for more information.

Tuesday, January 01, 2008

New Laws for 2008

Effective today:

Happy new year!