Statement by the Justices of the Supreme Judicial Court
in response to the Boston Globe Spotlight Team report
October 31, 2011
Some weeks ago, after learning of an investigation being conducted by the Boston Globe Spotlight Team into jury-waived cases in the District Court and Boston Municipal Court Departments involving charges of operating vehicles under the influence of alcohol and drugs, the Justices of the Supreme Judicial Court appointed an experienced and distinguished trial lawyer, Jack Cinquegrana, of the law firm of Choate Hall & Stewart, to conduct a confidential and independent preliminary inquiry into this matter. The appointment was made after consultation with Chief Justice for Administration & Management Robert A. Mulligan, Chief Justice Lynda M. Connolly of the District Court and Chief Justice Charles R. Johnson of the Boston Municipal Court, who have been fully supportive. The preliminary, fact-finding inquiry is currently underway.
Mr. Cinquegrana has been asked to determine the rate of acquittal in jury-waived trials on charges of operating under the influence of drugs or alcohol, and examine whether that rate differs from the national average and from the rate of acquittal in other criminal cases in District Court and Boston Municipal Court. Mr. Cinquegrana has also been asked to explore whether the acquittal rates of certain District Court and Boston Municipal Court judges are substantially greater than the statistical average, and, if so, to identify the possible reasons for the disparity. It should be underscored that this is a preliminary, fact-finding inquiry, not a disciplinary inquiry, and does not reflect any prejudgment by the Justices as to information contained in the Boston Globe article. The preliminary inquiry is intended to produce independent findings that we will review and consider in determining whether any further actions are appropriate.
As judges, we recognize the delicate nature of this preliminary inquiry. Our system depends on judges being able to decide a case fairly but independently, without fear or favor. A judge is obligated to find a criminal defendant not guilty if the government has not proved the case beyond a reasonable doubt; at the same time, a judge must find a defendant guilty where the crime has been proved beyond a reasonable doubt. Public confidence in the judiciary depends on its belief in the integrity of the judicial process, judges and their decisions. To preserve the public's trust and confidence, the courts must be, and must appear to be, fair and impartial in all cases. We have asked Mr. Cinquegrana to conduct the preliminary inquiry in a manner that respects each of these principles.
Mr. Cinquegrana is a former Assistant U.S. Attorney for the District of Massachusetts, Chief Trial Counsel in the Suffolk County District Attorney's Office and a past president of the Boston Bar Association.