Affiliated Entities of the Supreme Judicial Court
The Justices of the Supreme Judicial Court established the Board of Bar Overseers and the Office of Bar Counsel by rule in 1974 (section 5 of Supreme Judicial Court Rule 4:01). The Board of Bar Overseers collects annual registration fees from lawyers and applies them to fund its operations and those of the Office of Bar Counsel, the Clients' Security Board, and Lawyers Concerned for Lawyers.
The Bar Counsel, an independent prosecutor who serves at the pleasure of the Court, investigates grievances alleging professional misconduct against lawyers, and prosecutes formal charges against lawyers before the Board of Bar Overseers. The Board of Bar Overseers may dismiss charges, impose minor discipline, or recommend suspension or disbarment to the Court. The Board also hears petitions for reinstatement to the bar.
The Justices of the Supreme Judicial Court established the Clients' Security Board (CSB) by rule (Supreme Judicial Court Rule 4:04) in 1974. The Clients' Security Board has the duty to "discharge the collective professional responsibility of the bar." To that end, the CSB reimburses clients who have been the victims of embezzlement or misuse of funds by lawyers. These awards are funded entirely out of registration fees assessed against lawyers in the Commonwealth.
The Board of Bar Examiners, under the provisions of Supreme Judicial Court Rule 3:01, is responsible for administering the full bar examination twice annually.
The Supreme Judicial Court's Interest on Lawyers' Trust Accounts (IOLTA) program was created by court order in 1989. Under the IOLTA program, lawyers holding funds on behalf of a client must place the funds either in an account which pays interest to the client or in an IOLTA account.
The IOLTA program is administered by the Massachusetts IOLTA Committee, appointed by the Justices of the SJC. The Committee consists of nine attorneys appointed to three-year terms.
In 1973, the Massachusetts Legislature established the Mental Health Legal Advisors Committee (MHLAC) to ensure that the rights of persons who are or may be regarded as mentally disabled are recognized and protected(G.L. 221, §34E). MHLAC consists of fourteen judges and lawyers, appointed by the justices of the Supreme Judicial Court.
The Massachusetts Legal Assistance Corporation (MLAC) was established by the State Legislature in 1983 (G.L. c. 221A) to ensure that low-income people with critical non-criminal legal problems would have access to legal information, advice and representation. The board consists of the Chief Justice for Administration and Management of the Trial Court (or his/her disignee), and ten attorneys appointed by the Justices of the Supreme Judicial Court serving five year terms.
Massachusetts Access to Justice Commission
The Commission was created by the Court on February 28, 2005, in response to a proposal developed by the Massachusetts State Planning Board for Civil Legal Services. The Supreme Judicial Court reconstituted the Commission in February 2010. Twenty-three people were appointed to serve on the Commission; a twenty-fourth was appointed in February 2011.
SJC Justice Ralph Gants and
The Commission on Judicial Conduct is responsible for investigating complaints of judicial misconduct against state court judges and for recommending, when necessary, discipline of judges to the Supreme Judicial Court (G.L. c. 211C) . The Commission does not serve as an appellate court to review judges' rulings and cannot review, reverse or vacate a judge's decision. Nor does it have the authority to order a judge to step down from hearing a case or to provide a complainant with a different judge.
The Commission consists of nine members serving six-year terms. Three Judges are appointed by the Justices of the Supreme Judicial Court, three attorneys by the Chief Justice for Administration and Management of the Trial Court, and three members by the Governor.
The Committee for Public Counsel Services was established under G.L. c. 211D to oversee the provision of legal representation to indigent persons in the Commonwealth. The Committee consists of fifteen attorneys appointed by the Justices of the Supreme Judicial Court who serve three-year terms.
Lawyers Concerned for Lawyers Oversight Committee
Established under Supreme Judicial Court Rule 4:07, the Lawyers Concerned for Lawyers Oversight Committee oversees the appropriate use of the fund for the operation of Lawyers Concerned for Lawyers, Inc. The committee is comprised of six lawyers appointed by the Justices of the Supreme Judicial Court to serve four-year terms.