Boston Municipal Court Standing Orders Boston Municipal Court Standing Order 12-20: Jury trials during the exigent circumstances created by the COVID-19 pandemic
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As Chief Justice of the Boston Municipal Court Department, I issue the following Standing Order regarding jury trials held in the Boston Municipal Court Department (the “BMC”) during the pandemic and pursuant to my authority under G.L. c. 211, § 10, G.L. c. 218, § 38, and G.L. c. 220, § 5, as well as the Supreme Judicial Court’s Fourth Updated Order Regarding Court Operations Under the Exigent Circumstances Created by the COVID-19 (Coronavirus) Pandemic (issued September 17, 2020, effective September 17, 2020) (SJC’s Fourth Updated Order). This Standing Order shall remain in effect until further order of the court.
It is hereby ORDERED, effective October 15, 2020:
I. Commencement of Phase 1 jury trials
No jury trials shall be conducted before October 26, 2020. Beginning on that date, jury trials shall resume on a limited basis, in accordance with Phase 1 of the resumption of jury trials, as recommended by the Jury Management Advisory Committee (“JMAC”). See SJC-Fourth Updated Order, par. 9.
A. The Edward W. Brooke Courthouse: All Divisions of the Boston Municipal Court (the “Divisions”) shall hold jury trials in the Edward W. Brooke Courthouse, 24 New Chardon Street, Boston, MA 02114. The Chief Justice will assign each Division to a designated week during which the Division is to hold jury trials, limited to one trial at a time.
B. Eligible Cases: Only civil cases and non-custodial, single defendant criminal cases that do not have the potential of a mandatory minimum sentence shall be eligible to be heard in the BMC during Phase 1.
C. Identification of Eligible Cases: Each Division’s Office of the Clerk-Magistrate will provide a list of eligible cases to the First Justice or, with the approval of the First Justice, to the designated judge in the jury session.
D. Pre-Trial Hearing: The eligible cases shall be scheduled for an in person pre-trial hearing in the Division of origin to confirm trial readiness to the extent possible. The trial judge shall conduct an in-depth conference shortly before the trial date to address all potential pre-trial matters, identify any outstanding issues, gauge any potential for resolution, discuss the manner in which the jury trial shall proceed, including the presentation of evidence, resolution of legal issues to the extent possible, and take all steps possible to ensure trial readiness on the designated date. Specifically, the following shall be among the issues addressed at the pretrial hearing:
i. All discovery is complete;
ii. All motions have been resolved;
iii. All efforts to resolve the matter have been discussed;
iv. All witnesses have been contacted and availability confirmed;
v. The nature of the case does not necessitate a large venire;
vi. The number of interpreters needed; and
vii. The date, time and location of the jury trial has been confirmed with the Parties and their respective clients.
E. Prioritization: If the number of cases meeting the trial readiness factors exceeds the number of available dates in the Division’s designated week, the First Justice, or designated judge, shall prioritize the cases.
F. Post-Trial Conference: At the conclusion of each jury trial, the presiding justice shall engage in a discussion by videoconference or in-person with the trial participants, including attorneys, court officers, and clerks, to elicit their feedback on trial procedures with respect to COVID-19 safety protocols. The judge shall use the Discussion Guide provided by the Jury Management Advisory Committee to facilitate the conference. Once completed, the Guide shall be submitted to the Administrative Office of the BMC.
II. Scheduling of Phase 2 jury trials
All Divisions shall schedule priority cases for Phase 2 trials in their respective courthouses to begin in February 2021, with trial dates and location subject to change after the SJC reviews the JMAC’s evaluation of Phase 1. See SJC-Fourth Updated Order, par. 9. Should the JMAC recommend that Phase 2 jury trials be held only in the Edward W. Brooke Courthouse, the scheduling of those cases will be determined with the approval of the Chief Justice of the BMC, the Chief Justices of the other Trial Court Departments using the Brooke to hold jury trials and the Chief Justice of the Trial Court.
A. Process for Identifying Eligible Cases for Phase 2: The following protocols shall govern Phase 2 jury trials in the BMC:
i. Scheduling: Each First Justice will oversee the scheduling of jury trials, in consultation with the Clerk-Magistrate’s Office and the Parties, as well as Facilities and Court Security regarding the use of spaces and other resources.
ii. Prioritization: All custodial criminal cases shall be given priority based on consideration of all of the following factors:
- Any applicable statutory prioritization;
- The seriousness of the offense charged;
- Length of time the defendant has been held in custody;
- Any order for a speedy trial issued prior to October 23, 2020;
- Whether and when the defendant has objected to any continuance of a trial date;
- Whether and when a trial of the case has begun and concluded with a mistrial;
- Whether a person whose health or medical condition warrants special consideration is an alleged victim or necessary witness;
- If the defendant is not in custody, whether the defendant is subject to pre-trial conditions that impose substantial constraints on the defendant’s liberty; and
- The anticipated length of the trial, number of possible witnesses, and any potential to minimize necessary length by the use of stipulations or videoconference testimony for some witnesses.
B. Pre-trial Hearing: Following the prioritization of cases as provided for in Section I(A)(ii) of this order, a pre-trial hearing to determine trial readiness shall be scheduled and held in accordance with Section II(D) of this order for determining jury trial dates in Phase 2.
III. Scheduling of other jury trials
All jury trials scheduled after March 14, 2020, that, by certain SJC orders, were continued to a date no earlier than October 23, 2020, and that are not tried during Phase 1, are further continued to a date no earlier than the date of the commencement of Phase 2. See SJC-Fourth Updated Order, par. 10 & n5. Trial continuances ordered by the SJC are excluded from speedy-trial calculations under Mass. R. Crim. P. 36. See SJC-Fourth Updated Order, par 10.
Any deviation from this Order must be sought from the Chief Justice of the Boston Municipal Court Department.
This Standing Order shall be posted on the judiciary's “Court System Response to COVID-19” mass.gov webpage, which is located at https://www.mass.gov/guides/court-system-response-to-covid-19