S.1859 An Act relative to the Trial List in Superior Court Criminal Cases, sponsored by Senator Steven Baddour
H.1291 An Act relative to the Trial List in Superior Court Criminal Cases, sponsored by Representative Brian Dempsey
This bill amends G.L. c. 278, s. 1 to better manage the prioritization of criminal cases in Superior Court, where the most serious felonies – 2% of all criminal cases – are tried. Its goal is to allow the litigants, wherever possible and consistent with constitutional and statutory requirements regarding speedy trials, to control the priority of criminal cases that go to trial.
Specifically, this bill maintains the current law (by providing that when the District Attorney files the monthly list of cases to be tried, the cases shall be tried in that order) but specifies that the court cannot change the priority of trials or add new cases to the list unless both the Commonwealth and the defense agree, or one of them specifically requests the judge to do so. Under this bill, when the District Attorney and the defense agree to a trial date, or to a change of trial date, the court must honor that decision. It also clarifies that judges may not force the Commonwealth to trial or dismiss a case unless there has been a constitutional or statutory violation of the defendant’s right to a speedy trial. This bill does not affect the authority of judges to dismiss a case on constitutional or statutory grounds if there has been an unjustified delay in the defendant’s right to speedy trial.
This legislation is about managing the Superior Court trial list – setting priorities, marshalling resources, and giving the most authority to those with the greatest obligations. It makes certain that the prioritizing of cases is done by the DA, who represents the community’s interest in public safety and is the victims’ voice in the courtroom, and gives greater weight to the decisions of defense counsel, whose duty is to protect the constitutional rights of his client.