Friday, June 22, 2012

New Ebook: Mass. Model Criminal Jury Instructions

We've added a new free ebook to our collection: the Mass. District Court's Model Criminal Jury Instructions. This book joins the eight other free ebooks we've created to make your legal research easier. You can download the book to your smartphone, tablet or ebook reader and have access to the jury instructions anywhere you go, even if you don't have internet access. See our ebook page for links and installation directions.

Note: This ebook is very large (over 1300 pages) and takes a bit longer than our other ebooks to download.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Our Chat Service Isn't Ending!

We use a product called Meebo to provide an interface for chat service on our website, where we can answer your questions in real time. Google recently acquired Meebo, and then promptly decided to end the service effective July 11. That is why our users see the notice "MeeboMe is being discontinued" on our Ask a Librarian page.

It is the providers of the little box that are ending service, not the libraries. Please rest assured that we will have a replacement for Meebo in place before July 11, a (slightly different) little chat box will be where it has always been, and online chat will continue as always. And if, for some reason, chat gets a little flaky in the interim, you can always send your questions by email. We have a staff of librarians still happy to help.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Profanity in Massachusetts

Middleborough did not recently outlaw profane speech. The bylaw prohibiting profanity has been on their books since 1968. It says:
"Whoever having arrived at the age of discretion accosts or addresses another person with profane or obscene language in a street or other public place, may be punished by a fine of not more than $20.00 dollars."
What Middleborough town meeting passed on Monday was a new bylaw making the old one easier to enforce. Article 24, section 2 Non-criminal disposition bylaw utilizes MGL c 40, s.21D  to make it easier for the police to enforce the existing rule. This says, in part, "the enforcing person..., as an alternative to initiating criminal proceedings, may give the offender a written notice to appear before the clerk of the district court..."

It is interesting to note that Massachusetts still has at least two state laws on profane or blasphemous speech.

MGL c.272 § 36.  Blasphemy
Whoever wilfully blasphemes the holy name of God by denying, cursing or contumeliously reproaching God, his creation, government or final judging of the world, or by cursing or contumeliously reproaching Jesus Christ or the Holy Ghost, or by cursing or contumeliously reproaching or exposing to contempt and ridicule, the holy word of God contained in the holy scriptures shall be punished by imprisonment in jail for not more than one year or by a fine of not more than three hundred dollars, and may also be bound to good behavior.

and MGL c.272,  § 36A  Profane, Obscene or Impure Language or Slanderous Statements Directed at Participant or Official in Sporting Event
Whoever, having arrived at the age of sixteen years, directs any profane, obscene or impure language or slanderous statement at a participant or an official in a sporting event, shall be punished by a fine of not more than fifty dollars.

Friday, June 08, 2012

New SJC Rule on Cameras in Court Effective Date Delayed

The SJC announced yesterday that SJC Rule 1:19, originally slated to become effective July 1, will not take effect until September 17, 2012. According to the press release, the delay is "to allow the courts additional time to prepare for its implementation...Judges, clerks, and security personnel in 101 courthouses throughout the state will receive information and training in the coming months and will develop protocols to comply with the rule’s provisions.  Newly hired and promoted court officers and associate court officers in the Trial Court will be included in the upcoming training sessions."

"Among the major changes are the following:

  The news media are defined as those who are regularly engaged in the reporting and publishing of news or information about matters of public interest.  This would include citizen journalists who meet this standard.
  The news media are allowed to use laptop computers and other electronic communication devices inside courtrooms if they are not disruptive to the proceedings.
  Those seeking to cover the courts using the permitted technology are required to register with the Public Information Officer of the Supreme Judicial Court, confirm that they meet the definition of news media and agree to follow the provisions in Rule 1:19.  In addition, registered news media must request permission from the court prior to using electronic devices in the courtroom.  A judge has the discretion to permit electronic access by a person who has not registered.
The Public Information Office is developing an online registration system for the news media and will be announcing those procedures soon.
  In addition to one video and one still camera, a second mechanically silent video camera is allowed for use by media other than broadcast television and still photographers.
  Motions to suppress may be electronically recorded.
  If news media ask to record multiple cases in a session on the same day, a judge may reasonably restrict the number of cases that are recorded to prevent undue administrative burdens on the court.
  The rule applies to clerk magistrates conducting public proceedings. "

Same-Sex Spousal Health Benefits

Here's a guide we've found helpful:
Same-Sex Spousal Health Benefits In Massachusetts After Goodridge, GLAD, November 2011. Covers private sector, public sector, federal employees, self-employed, COBRA, those who work outside of Massachusetts, and more. 
From the Introduction:

Although this publication was originally created only to deal with married same-sex couples living in Massachusetts, most of the legal information contained in this publication can be applied to states which recognize the marriages or civil unions of same-sex couples. If you have specific questions, please contact GLAD’s Legal InfoLine at 800-455-GLAD (4523).
Thanks, GLAD!

Tuesday, June 05, 2012

New CORI Law and Procedures for Sealing Records

Two new and really helpful sources on record sealing:
Know Your CORI Rights: Criminal Records Sealing and CORI Reform, Greater Boston Legal Services, 2012. Questions and answers on sealing your record, how to do it, when, why, and when it may not be necessary.
CORI Law Changes Effective May 4, 2012 (District Court Transmittal 1083), Mass. District Court, May 2, 2012. This 8-page document "summarizes the provisions pertinent to the District Court that are effective May 4, 2012, such as changes to the sealing law and the creation of new crimes." Includes forms.
These and many more links to information about the new CORI Law are available at our Mass. Law About Criminal Records.