April 22, 2013

We know you have followed the news out of Boston last week and we write to thank you for your dedication and support as we return to business as usual.

We are grateful to our judges and staff who remained patient, flexible, and positive as we dealt with the extraordinary and uncertain situation on Friday through truly unprecedented events.

Court facilities in the locked-down communities of Brighton, Newton, Waltham, Cambridge were closed by 6:30 a.m. and first-day jurors in Middlesex County and downtown Boston cancelled by 7:00 a.m., as police authorities focused containment efforts on Watertown. Courts in the contiguous communities of Brookline, Somerville or Boston were not ordered to close.

When the Commonwealth's shelter in place order was extended to the entire city of Boston shortly after 8:00 a.m., it was immediately relayed and we greatly appreciate the resolve of those who remained in our courthouses under such uncertain circumstances. When the Mass. Emergency Management Agency announced that people working in locked-down communities should return home and remain there, that also was immediately relayed throughout the court system.

Trial Court Chief Justices arrived in Boston prior to the order, conducted their monthly meeting through the morning and closely monitored the situation for response as needed.

Courthouses symbolize the rule of law and provide anchors of stability and confidence in our communities, so should be closed only in the most extreme circumstances. When advised to go to the nearest safe location in an emergency, the public may expect courthouses to be a secure refuge. We believe that court staff recognize their essential role in affirming the stability of our society and they know that we never want them to jeopardize personal safety.

The victims of the criminal events at the Marathon continue to be in our thoughts. We now move forward and bring closure to what was a stressful and most unusual week. Thank you for your steadiness, understanding and support.

Robert A. Mulligan
Chief Justice of the Trial Court

Harry Spence
Court Administrator