Voice of the Judiciary
When I retired at the end of July of 2014, my judicial service had spanned three court departments and thirty-seven years – thirteen years at the Boston Juvenile Court, seven years at the Appeals Court, and seventeen years at the Supreme Judicial Court, the last four as Chief Justice. A number of people asked me to reflect on my experiences and share what I learned during that time. As I thought about it, I decided that I wanted to give voice to my time as Chief Justice, since that represented such a unique experience.
It has been quite a journey. In my Boston Juvenile Court days, sitting in what was then called the “Old Courthouse,” my courtroom was so cold in the winter that I wore an overcoat and scarf under my robe, and the clerk had to wear gloves to punch the keys of her typewriter. I remember looking up from the ground floor of that building to the upper floors of the great hall, never thinking that one day I would be on those upper floors, in a beautifully rehabbed “John Adams Courthouse,” looking down to the space where I started out. For me, as the first person of color to serve on the oldest appellate court in the western hemisphere, to be appointed its Chief Justice was not only a great honor, but also a heavy responsibility.
It was one thing to serve as an associate justice, but quite another to serve as Chief Justice, and I did not go into it lightly. In fact, when Governor Deval Patrick first wanted to nominate me, I turned the offer down. I knew what the stakes would be for me personally, as a person of color.
Fortunately, Mo Cowan, the Governor’s Chief Legal Counsel and later his Chief of Staff, was a persistent advocate, and after many conversations over several weeks, I was persuaded to reconsider and to accept the nomination. As he pointed out to me, it was an historic opportunity, and there was no telling when another opportunity for a person of color to be Chief Justice would occur.
In spite of my reservations, I took the plunge. I have to say that I feared that any mistakes I made would not only reflect on me, but also would make it more difficult for other people of color to follow me. What would be the point of being the first, if there would never be a second? So, for me, doing a good job was critical. That was my goal every day. Looking back, I am pleased with how things worked out and proud of what we accomplished. But there were challenges.
When I started as Chief Justice, the Judiciary was in the midst of a hiring freeze that had gone on for more than two years. Morale was at an all-time low because employees were being asked to do their own work and then take on extra work as a result of vacancies that could not be filled.
On top of that, the Justices had recently received a report from Independent Counsel Paul Ware about hiring and promotion in the Probation Department. The report concluded that the Commissioner of Probation had engaged in corrupt hiring that favored politically connected candidates, and indictments followed. Commissioner John O’Brien and Deputy Commissioner Elizabeth Tavares were eventually convicted of mail fraud, racketeering, and conspiracy to engage in racketeering; and Deputy Commissioner William Burke was convicted of conspiracy to engage in racketeering.
At the time, the Governor proposed that the Probation Department be moved from the Judicial to the Executive Branch. On the day I was nominated to be Chief Justice, even before I was sworn in, I was asked by the media about my position on moving Probation to the Executive Branch. I had to respectfully disagree with the Governor before my first day as Chief Justice. As it turned out, the Governor did not give up on this idea, and made the same proposal the following year, which meant that I had to publicly disagree with him a second time. Currently, the Probation Department remains under the authority of the Judicial Branch.
When I began as Chief Justice, the judiciary’s relationship with the Legislature was “cool,” to say the least, and our budget was significantly below what we needed just to stay afloat. We faced the likelihood of reducing court sessions, laying off employees, or a combination of those difficult options. To state the obvious, those were challenging times.
In my first Annual Address, which I gave in October of 2011, I indicated that I had three main objectives as head of the third branch of government: first, to build bridges with the courts’ constituents, including the Legislature; second, to make the court system more user-friendly and responsive to the public; and third, to educate the public, particularly our youth, about how the legal system operates.
From my first day as Chief, reaching out to the Legislature was a major priority. We organized two first-of-their-kind programs – an orientation program for new members of the Legislature, and a similar one for legislative staff. I visited regularly with Legislative Leadership, as well as the rank and file members of the House and Senate, sometimes spending several hours a week at the State House. We worked with the Speaker on the legislation creating the new position of the Court Administrator to bring professional management expertise to the Judicial Branch. The Justices also adopted the recommendations for transparency in hiring and promotion practices in the “Harshbarger” action plan. And I met regularly with the Governor and his staff to share information, exchange ideas, and to advocate for proper funding for the courts.
Through our efforts we were able to secure an adequate budget to fund the work of the court system, and we have been able to fill some of the critical positions. Our efforts also resulted in a pay raise for judges and clerks – the first in eight years. Based on my regular visits to courthouses across the Commonwealth to thank the staff for their work, I can see that morale of court staff has noticeably improved.
We also built bridges with the business community, meeting with the CEOs of the biggest businesses to discuss the court system, emphasizing the importance of the Business Litigation Session of the Superior Court. We described how it was in their best interests that courts have proper resources in order to ensure speedy and fair resolutions of their legal issues. We pointed out that it was also in their employees’ best interests to have a legal system that would provide speedy and fair resolution to their personal legal problems, because the sooner they were resolved, the more “present” the employees would be at work.
We enlisted support from the bar associations, to encourage their members to advocate for adequate funding for the judiciary and to share information on court initiatives. The Justices partner yearly with the Massachusetts Bar Association, the Boston Bar Association, and others, to “Walk to the Hill,” as part of Court Advocacy Day. Our collaboration with the Bar means a great deal to the members of the Judiciary.
We endeavored to make the courts more user-friendly as well as more transparent to the public. Recognizing that every day more than 42,000 people come to our courthouses (based on the FY2010 Annual Report on the Commonwealth of the Massachusetts Court System), and more and more self-represented litigants, we are attempting to demystify the legal process. Help desks or information kiosks were initiated in various courts to assist the public as they enter court houses. We also opened several courts for extended hours so that, in some cases, litigants could resolve their cases without having to miss a day of work.
Our Access to Justice Initiatives provide services and support to litigants without access to legal representation in civil cases, some of which concern the most basic necessities of life. And through specialty courts we are able to deal with substance abuse and drug and alcohol addiction, mental health, and veterans’ issues.
Another bridge we began to build was with our law schools. This year we held the first “Summit” with the deans of Massachusetts law schools. Our roundtable discussion covered many issues involving legal education in Massachusetts and ways to assist graduates to be more prepared for the “real world” of lawyering upon graduation.
I hope to continue to play a part in the lives of students, especially those at risk, even after I retire. This summer I again led the Judicial Youth Corps (JYC), the SJC’s program for high school students, as I have for the past twenty-four years. With the wonderful support of the Massachusetts Bar Association, we expanded the JYC to both Worcester (in 2009) and Springfield (in 2014). At this point we have more than 700 alums of the JYC. Some are now lawyers, teachers, business professionals, and we even have one judge.
One aspect of the JYC that I am especially proud of is the role that court employees play each year. Each of our students has a volunteer supervisor who works with the student the entire summer. They do not get a single extra penny for doing this, and they do it for just one reason – to help a kid. And many of the employees have volunteered each and every year for the past twenty-four years. Paul Liacos, a former Chief Justice of the SJC, was the visionary who founded the program back in 1990. I know he would be proud.
As I neared retirement in June of 2014, I was appointed Distinguished Professor of Criminology and Criminal Justice in the College of Social Sciences and Humanities at Northeastern University, where I have been an adjunct professor for the past thirty-six years. I joined the faculty full-time at the end of August. Among the courses I will be teaching is one that I am developing called, “The Third Branch of Government.” It will examine the interplay of the judiciary with the legislative and executive branches, as well as with external entities like business and the media.
One part of the course will be to look at the “theory” of how government is supposed to work. But another part will focus on the “reality” of government, and will look at how things actually work in the real world. And in that part of the course I hope to take my students on the road to see how government actually functions, from meeting with key players in all three branches, to observing the various processes of the branches unfold.
I hope to show my students what my experiences as Chief Justice have helped me to understand, which is that even though the three branches of government are “separate, independent and co-equal,” they are also all interdependent and connected with each other. For the third branch of government to perform its function properly, it must have the support and assistance of the other two branches of government. And without the support of the other two branches, the third branch will almost certainly be unable to provide the services that the public needs and expects in a timely, efficient, and fair way.
And with that, I will close. As I do, it bears repeating that my serving as Chief Justice these past four years has been the highest honor and privilege. But I did not do it alone. What made leading this Branch possible for me, from my very first day as Chief, was the tremendous support I received from my colleagues and staff. I am grateful to everyone who has helped me along the way. It has meant so much to me. I extend my best wishes to all in future years. All the best!!
Chief Justice Roderick L. Ireland serves as a Distinguished Professor of Criminology and Criminal Justice at Northeastern University. He served as Chief Justice of the Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts from 2010 to 2014. He received his B.A., 1966, from Lincoln University, Pennsylvania; his J.D., 1969, from Columbia Law School; an L.L.M. degree, 1975, from Harvard Law School; and his Ph.D., 1998, Northeastern University.
In Diatchenko v. District Attorney for the Suffolk District & Others, 466 Mass. 655 (2013), the Supreme Judicial Court invalidated the statutory provisions mandating life without the possibility of parole for juveniles convicted of first degree murder. The Diatchenko Court adopted the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Miller v. Alabama, 132 S.Ct. 2455, 2460 (2012), which required consideration of a juvenile’s “lessened culpability” and “greater capacity for change.” As a result of Diatchenko, sixty-one Massachusetts inmates became eligible for parole and entitled to parole hearings where they will be afforded “a meaningful opportunity to obtain release,” Diatchenko, 466 Mass. at 674, before the completion of their criminal sentence. This article provides guidance to practitioners appearing before the Parole Board for these and other life sentence hearings.
However laudable Diatchenko’s reform, it has collided with a countervailing pressure to tighten the standards for granting parole following the high-profile murder of a police officer committed by a parolee in 2010, and the subsequent public outcry which led to the resignation of five Parole Board members who had voted for his release. According to several studies, including by the Boston Bar Association and the Parole Board, once the data are corrected for high-profile offenses, recidivism rates are actually higher for persons who are released after serving a complete sentence than for those who are paroled. Proponents of parole attribute this difference to the supervision, programs, and assistance parolees receive after release to facilitate reintegration into society.
Reconciliation of the two viewpoints lies in the application of one of the primary goals of sentencing: rehabilitation. Commonwealth v. Goodwin, 414 Mass. 88 (1993). Parole offers a “carrot and stick” approach to achieving rehabilitation. The carrot, because parole can be granted at least in part based on an offender’s showing of rehabilitation, and the stick, because the Parole Board can place conditions on receiving parole, or rescind or revoke parole, based on failure to engage in programs, counseling, substance abuse treatment and a wide variety of other conditions. M.G.L. c. 127, § 5; 120 C.M.R. § 300.07. Importantly, offenders are not required to participate in treatment or educational opportunities offered during their incarceration, yet offenders often undertake such steps voluntarily with the goal of demonstrating rehabilitation and receiving parole. Similarly, conditions of parole and the creation of a release plan cannot be mandated except for those offenders subject to parole. Parole can thus be accurately described as both evidence of rehabilitation and a means of effecting the sentencing goal of rehabilitation. By extension, the best advice to attorneys representing either parolees or the Commonwealth in life sentence parole hearings is to focus on presenting a cohesive narrative that focuses on rehabilitation. The facts of the offense and an individual’s criminal history have already been established, but an attorney can situate those facts within a narrative arc of the offender’s development and future goals.
The Board must consider two factors in each parole decision: (1) the reasonable probability that the individual would not violate the law if released, and (2) the compatibility of release on parole with the welfare of society. Parole may not be granted “merely as a reward for good institutional conduct.” M.G.L. c. 127, § 130; 120 C.M.R. § 300.04. The Parole Board may consider a variety of evidence in its decision, including: prior criminal record; pending cases; the nature and circumstances of the offense; recommendations from parole staff; statements from victims or their family members; physical or psychological examinations; information the inmate provides, including letters of support and a parole release plan; information the District Attorney’s Office provides; and institutional behavior. 120 C.M.R. § 300.05
A typical hearing begins with an opening statement by the offender or his counsel, followed by questioning of the offender by each Board member. The offender may present testimony from supporters, including family members, employers, or experts (such as mental health experts), each of whom may be questioned by the Board. After the offender’s presentation, those opposing parole, including the victim or family members of the victim, may speak or present counter evidence. The offender’s counsel may present closing arguments, and the Commonwealth may also present a closing argument or position statement.
The Board’s published Guidelines for Life Sentence Decisions should serve as the framework for constructing argument and applying the evidence listed above. The Guidelines specify three questions to be addressed by the Board at each hearing:
1) Has the inmate’s period of incarceration been of sufficient length to adequately protect the public, punish him for his conduct, deter others, and allow for rehabilitation?
2) Is the inmate rehabilitated?
3) Are there reasons to conclude that the inmate will live outside prison as a sober, law-abiding, employed, productive person who is making positive contributions to his family and his community?
The key issues underlying each question are fully outlined in the Guidelines and fall into three main areas of inquiry: the offender’s past, his institutional behavior, and his action plan upon release.
In addition to understanding the facts and circumstances of the crime, the Board will ask if the individual has taken responsibility for and appreciates his role in the crime, including the impact it had on any victims. Has the offender’s story has changed over time and is the offender only acknowledging his behavior for the purpose of gaining parole? In that regard, assess if post-trial litigation can fit into a narrative of eschewing responsibility, or instead protecting a valuable substantive or procedural right. What is the criminal history beyond the offense of incarceration and does it reveal a pattern of violent behavior or crimes committed against particularly vulnerable victims (such as children or the elderly)? Has the offender had past defaults, bail revocations, or other factors which may indicate difficulty complying with conditions of parole?
An offender’s personal circumstances are also important, but can be a double-edged sword: they can serve as mitigating or aggravating factors depending on how they have been addressed. Does the offender recognize the role those circumstances may have played in the offense or how they may impact his life upon parole? Has he specifically tailored his rehabilitative efforts to areas of substance abuse, childhood trauma, or other relevant factors? Similarly, if the offender has struggled with mental health issues, have those issues led to previous commitments, and have they been adequately treated?
The Board considers two main areas of institutional behavior: first, the offender’s disciplinary record; and, second, how he has used his time in educational or other institutional activities. What is the total number of infractions received and what is the trend? Did infractions involve violence or contraband? Was the individual the instigator? What was the reason for any transfers within the Department of Correction? Did the offender use his time to enroll, regularly attend, and complete programs, or has he attended only sporadically or claimed he was unable to attend? How has he shown personal reflection and dedication to self-improvement? Has he achieved educational or vocational goals? Has he taken leadership positions or consistently worked during his incarceration? Has he been committed to any religion, vocation, organization, or family during his incarceration that will continue following his release? What efforts has he made to address the Board’s concerns since any previous hearing and denial?
Finally, the Board considers the offender’s plan for life after release: does the offender have an adequate support network, including a place to live and work, treatment for ongoing issues, and persons who are committed to his success? Be ready to show that these issues have been well thought out and not hastily thrown together. Has the defendant been pre-approved for housing or programs? Does he have an employer willing to offer a job? Are there family members or religious supporters aware of the transitional difficulties he will face and willing and able to shoulder the potential emotional and financial impact? Any testimony should focus on these issues and evidence of rehabilitation. Avoid discussion about personal hardship due to incarceration or any perceived harm to the offender because of the conviction.
There are steps counsel may take to try to assuage any Board concerns arising during the hearing. With permission, supplement the record following the hearing. This can be particularly useful to address questions regarding the parole release plan and provide conditional acceptance to programs, housing, or employment opportunities. The Board may be inclined to grant parole with pre-conditions and transition periods rather than deny parole with recommended steps an inmate take before his next review hearing. After listening carefully to the Board’s questions and testimony provided, use closing argument to address any trouble areas or discrepancies between what emerged at the hearing with the written materials provided to the Board.
Hearings mandated by Diatchenko began in May 2014 and have so far resulted in the parole of the first three juvenile offenders considered. Notwithstanding these recent decisions, the seriousness of life sentence offenses and the Board’s stated goal of achieving fairness and consistency across similarly situated offenders suggests that parole will not be granted often on a first review, even where an offender has taken responsibility for his actions and demonstrated significant rehabilitation. The three juvenile offenders had served twenty, eighteen, and twenty-two years, respectively, where they are now eligible for parole after serving fifteen years. The Board also required each of the paroled juvenile offenders to complete additional programs prior to release after one year in a lower security facility.
Overall, Parole Board statistics show that parole was granted to 21% of offenders serving life sentences (including for crimes other than first degree murder) who were over 18 years old on the date of offense, compared with 53% of those who were under 18 years old on the date of the offense. This suggests that the Board is seriously weighing the role of youth in both the commission of the offense and rehabilitation, as required by the Supreme Judicial Court.
Crystal L. Lyons is an Assistant District Attorney in the Appeals & Training Bureau of the Middlesex District Attorney’s Office, and a member of the BBJ Board of Editors. She clerked for the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals and graduated Order of the Coif from UCLA School of Law. The views expressed in this article are those of the author solely and do not reflect in any way the views or policies of the Middlesex District Attorney’s Office. The author is indebted to Stephen Hoctor for creating an earlier version of an article on this subject.
In its recent decision in Martin v. Simmons Properties, LLC, 467 Mass. 1 (2014), the Supreme Judicial Court (“SJC”) held that the rule it adopted in its landmark decision in M.P.M. Builders, LLC v. Dwyer, 442 Mass. 87 (2004) – which allows the owner of land burdened by an easement to relocate the easement or change its dimensions – applies to easements appurtenant to registered land. Rejecting a contrary holding of the Appeals Court, the SJC affirmed an underlying Land Court ruling that registered land is not exempt from the “modern rule” of M.P.M. Builders. Martin not only clarifies that M.P.M. Builders applies to registered land, it confirms that, in the wake of M.P.M. Builders, a long line of cases concerning the rights of parties holding easements that are clearly described or are shown on a plan is no longer good law.
Plaintiff Clifford J. Martin (“Martin”) in 1969 purchased about one-third of an acre of registered land in a commercial-industrial district near the Medford-Somerville line. Martin’s parcel – Lot 3A – has the benefit of several easements, including an easement of passage over Way A, which crosses a number of other lots in the area. In 1993, defendant Simmons Properties, LLC (“Simmons”) purchased three of the lots that Way A crosses. Simmons made various improvements on its parcels, and some of those improvements protrude into Way A.
In 2007, Martin sued Simmons in Land Court, alleging 15 acts of encroachment on Way A. Some of these encroachments were initiated by Simmons; others predated its ownership of its lots. While conceding that, to date, none of these encroachments prevented him from using Way A to access Lot 3A, Martin claimed he was entitled to have the encroachments removed so he could use the full width of Way A. After trial, the Land Court ruled that Martin was not entitled to the removal of any encroachments from Way A.
The Land Court reasoned that, though the encroachments in Way A are within an easement referenced in Martin’s certificate of title, this confers on Martin no “absolute right to removal . . . .” While the certificate provides certainty as to Martin’s title – including the existence of his easement over Way A – the court saw no reason to forsake the usual rules of property law applicable to unregistered land, under which the owner of the burdened land (Simmons) may use its land for all purposes not inconsistent with the rights of the easement holder (Martin). The Land Court noted that, if Martin’s use of Lot 3A were to change, as a result of which the encroachments in question did materially interfere with his rights in Way A, Martin might then be entitled to “judicial adjustment” of the encroachments.
Martin appealed, and on the question of his right to removal of the encroachments, the Appeals Court reversed. After noting the distinction between easements intended to remain fully open and those intended to provide only a “convenient passage,” the court stated, “we are aware of no case that holds that only a convenient passage is intended when a right of way is reserved over a way defined and located by reference to a Land Court plan.” The Appeals Court found support for its view in a line of cases holding that, where the description of a right of way is definite and free from ambiguity – particularly where it is shown on a plan – the easement holder is entitled to use the entire width of the described way. Having placed Martin’s easement over Way A into this category, the court concluded that “[a] finding that the obstructions do not interfere with present or future uses is immaterial . . . .” With regard to encroachments that pre-dated Simmons’ ownership of its lots, the Appeals Court remanded the case to the Land Court for further findings to determine which party is responsible for their removal.
The SJC granted Simmons’ application for further appellate review and affirmed the Land Court’s ruling that the encroachments in Way A need not be removed. The SJC held that the case is governed by its 2004 decision in M.P.M. Builders, supra, in which the court announced the adoption of the “modern rule” of § 4.8(3) of the Restatement (Third) of Property (Servitudes) (2000). Section 4.8(3) provides that, unless expressly prohibited by the terms of an easement, the owner of the burdened property can make reasonable changes in the location and dimensions of an easement to permit “normal use or development” of the property, but only if those changes do not (a) significantly lessen the utility of the easement, (b) increase the burdens on the easement holder in its use and enjoyment, or (c) frustrate the purpose for which the easement was created. The SJC noted that, while M.P.M. Builders concerned the relocation of an easement, the same rule applies in a case like Martin, where the easement has not been relocated but rather its width has been narrowed in some places.
Regarding the fact that Martin’s easement is appurtenant to his registered land and is shown on a Land Court plan, the SJC rejected the Appeals Court’s view that this rendered the easement “immutable.” The SJC found nothing in its precedents or in the land registration act to suggest that different rules apply to easements appurtenant to registered land. The court noted that while the registration system provides certainty with respect to title – including by assuring owners of registered land that their easements continue to exist – it does not purport to grant additional property rights. Thus, the SJC concluded, “we adhere to our well-established precedent and consider the easement here under existing jurisprudence as to recorded land.”
Martin is an important decision for two reasons. First, it confirms that easements appurtenant to registered land are not accorded special status, and are subject to changes in their location and dimensions under the rule of M.P.M. Builders. Second, more broadly, it makes clear that the long line of cases on which the Appeals Court relied – standing for the proposition that where an easement is described with precision or is shown on a plan, the easement holder has the right to use the full width of the easement – is no longer good law. Under the “modern rule” of M.P.M. Builders, all easements are subject to changes in their location and dimensions unless by their express terms they prohibit such changes. Thus Martin highlights an important drafting note for grantees of easements: if you like the location and width of your easement, and you want to keep it, make sure it includes language prohibiting the kinds of changes otherwise authorized by M.P.M. Builders.
Donald R. Pinto, Jr. is a Director of Rackemann, Sawyer & Brewster, P.C. where he handles all types of real estate litigation. He is the founder and editor of masslandusemonitor.com, a widely-read real estate and land use law blog.
by Professor Daniel Kanstroom
Goldberg, J., Haynes v. Washington, 373 U.S. 503, 515 (1963)
In Commonwealth v. Sylvain,466 Mass. 422 (2013), the SJC held that the requirements placed on criminal defense lawyers to properly advise defendants about certain immigration consequences enunciated in Padilla v. Kentucky, 559 U.S. 356 (2010) are retroactive to 1997. The SJC, relying both on the Sixth Amendment and on art. 12 of the Massachusetts Declaration of Rights, diverged from the U.S. Supreme Court on the retroactivity question. This very important—but rather esoteric—immigration law case may have profound implications regarding the retroactivity of recent holdings in such areas as public trial rights during jury selection and juvenile sentencing.
The SJC achieved a just outcome while reminding the legal community why retroactivity is an extraordinarily difficult jurisprudential concept and why immigration law has long been known as a subject that could “cross the eyes of a Talmudic Scholar.” The daunting complexities presented by the case derived in part from certain anachronistic late nineteenth century legal doctrines establishing “plenary power” over noncitizens seeking to enter the United States as well as those facing deportation. The Court has held that certain noncitizens seeking to enter the United States have no enforceable constitutional rights and that deportation exercised under that power was not criminal punishment. Therefore, the specific constitutional norms attendant to the criminal justice system are largely inapplicable to deportees. See Fong Yue Ting v. United States, 149 U.S. 698 (1893).
For more than a century, the constitutional implications of these doctrines and their progeny frequently (but not always) defeated claims of ineffective assistance of counsel by deportees who were badly advised (or not advised at all) by their criminal lawyers. Noncitizens have the right to appointed counsel in the criminal justice system, but they do not have such a right in deportation proceedings. Deportation has often been deemed a civil “collateral” consequence of criminal conviction. Among other implications of this categorization, criminal defense lawyers have sometimes been found to have no professional duty to advise defendants about such consequences.
In 2010, however, the Supreme Court decided Padilla v. Kentucky, 559 U.S. 356 (2010), a case in which the question of ineffective assistance was squarely presented. Mr. Padilla, a long-term lawful permanent resident of the United States, had apparently been advised to plead guilty to a drug-related charge in criminal court, which—unbeknownst to him—virtually guaranteed his deportation and lifetime banishment from the United States and his family. The Court upheld his claim that his criminal defense counsel was ineffective due to this incorrect advice concerning the risk of deportation. This was in many respects a path-breaking, virtually unprecedented constitutional decision, with powerful Fifth and Sixth Amendment implications. See generally, Daniel Kanstroom, The Right To Deportation Counsel in Padilla v. Kentucky: The Challenging Construction of the Fifth-And-A-Half Amendment, 58 UCLA L. REV. 1461 (2011); see also, Daniel Kanstroom Padilla v. Kentucky and the Evolving Right to Deportation Counsel: Watershed or Work-in-Progress? 45 NEW ENGLAND L. REV. 305 (2011).
The Court, most significantly, recognized that deportation as a consequence of a criminal conviction now has such a close connection to the criminal process that it is uniquely difficult to classify it as either a “direct or a collateral consequence.” Padilla at 364. The two systems, in short, have become inextricably linked. Further, the Court recognized that “the landscape of federal immigration law has changed dramatically.” In the past there were only a “narrow class of deportable offenses and judges wielded broad discretionary authority to prevent deportation.” But now, the regime contains a much-expanded class of deportable offenses and it has limited the authority of judges “to alleviate the harsh consequences of deportation.” Id. at 357. As a result of these changes, the “drastic measure” of deportation or removal, . . . is now virtually inevitable for a vast number of noncitizens convicted of crimes. Deportation has become “an integral part—indeed, sometimes the most important part—of the penalty that may be imposed on noncitizen defendants who plead guilty to specified crimes.” Id. at 362 (emphasis added). From this logic, one can easily see why substantial due process protections, and also some of the more specific protections normally tied to the criminal justice system, are warranted. See generally Daniel Kanstroom, Deportation, Social Control, and Punishment: Some Thoughts About Why Hard Laws Make Bad Cases, 113 HARVARD LAW REVIEW 1890-1935 (June, 2000).
The question quickly arose whether the Padilla model would be retroactive. Unfortunately, Padilla itself did not address this question. In Commonwealth v. Clarke, 460 Mass. 30 (2011), the SJC held that Padilla was retroactive, at least as to convictions that became final after April 1, 1997 (the effective date of relevant changes to deportation law). The SJC followed a long-standing framework derived from Teague v. Lane, 489 U.S. 288 (1989). See also, Commonwealth v. Bray, 407 Mass. 296, 300-301 (1990) (adopting Teague model). The essential question from Teague and progeny was whether the Supreme Court in Padilla had announced a “new” rule. A “new” rule, very simply put, “breaks new ground or imposes a new obligation” on the government. If so, the Padilla norms would not be retroactive. In Clarke, the SJC concluded that Padilla was not a new rule because it was merely an application of well-recognized Sixth Amendment ineffective assistance of counsel standards. See Strickland v. Washington, 466 U.S. 668 (1984); Clarke at 34-46.
So far, so good; and so far, at least moderately clear. However, things soon got murkier. In Chaidez v. U.S., 133 S. Ct. 1103 (2013), the Supreme Court held that Padilla had in fact announced a “new” rule and therefore its holding should not be applied retroactively by federal courts. Chaidez, however, did not necessarily bind state courts. Indeed, the Supreme Court had recognized the propriety of such divergence in Danforth v. Minnesota, 552 U.S. 264 (2008) in which the Court held that Teague does not constrain the authority of state courts to give broader effect to “new” rules of criminal procedure.
In Sylvain, the SJC continued to view retroactivity differently from the Supreme Court. The SJC concluded that Padilla did not announce a “new” rule for the “simple reason that it applied a general standard—designed to change according to the evolution of existing professional norms—to a specific factual situation.” Sylvain at 435 (citing Clarke, supra at 36, 38-39, 43; Chaidez, supra at 1114-1116 (Sotomayor, J., dissenting). Importantly, the SJC based its ruling both on the Sixth Amendment and on art. 12 of the Massachusetts Declaration of Rights. As one excellent Practice Advisory notes, art. 12 may prove to be a broader source of rights for noncitizens than the Sixth Amendment. See CPCS, Immigration Impact Unit, Practice Advisory on the Retroactivity of Padilla in Massachusetts: Commonwealth v. Sylvain, 466 Mass. 422 (2013), October 2013.
The SJC also correctly noted that professional standards in Massachusetts have long required criminal defense lawyers to advise noncitizen clients about immigration consequences. Practitioners thus now face a certain dissonance in that criminal defendants prosecuted in federal courts who face or have faced deportation may only cite Padilla prospectively, while state court defendants in Massachusetts may use the Padilla ruling to seek to vacate convictions dating back to 1997. The practical difficulties involved in bringing such claims on behalf of deportees are still significant, however. See, e.g., Perez Santana v. Holder, No. 12-2270 (1st Cir. Sept. 27, 2013) (invalidating regulation barring such claims), and Bolieiro v. Holder, No. 12-1807 (1st Cir. Sept. 27, 2013) (same).
Sylvain may also portend greater assertiveness by the SJC in certain other arenas where retroactive application of constitutional holdings is at issue. The SJC has now made clear that it considers a “new” rule to be such only if the result is contrary to precedent. Sylvain, at 434. This is rather narrower than the approach taken by the Supreme Court, which has used the formulation of that which was not “apparent to all reasonable jurists.” The SJC formulation could thus expand state court remedies for other violations of constitutional rights. Indeed, the Court highlighted that retroactivity in Sylvain was required by “tenets of fundamental fairness.” Sylvain at 437, citing Commonwealth v. Amirault, 424 Mass. 618, 639 (1997). It therefore seems quite possible that Sylvain could influence such pending questions as the retroactivity of rulings about mandatory life without parole sentences for juveniles—See Diatchenko v. D.A. for the Suffolk District, SJC-11453—and public trial rights during jury selection. See Commonwealth v. Alebord, SJC-11354. Retroactivity analysis will thus have to consider, in addition to precedent, such factors as the evolution of practice, reliance, and deeper normative questions of justice and fairness.
Daniel Kanstroom is a Professor of Law and Director of the International Human Rights Program at Boston College Law School. He is also the Founder of the Post-Deportation Human Rights Project.
by Ruthanne Withers
In its recent decision, Morales v. Morales, 464 Mass. 507 (2013), the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court (“SJC”) clarified the standard used in child support modification cases. Previously, a litigant had the burden of proving that a “material and substantial change in circumstances” had occurred since entry of the prior child support order. Pursuant to the SJC’s decision in Morales, which reaffirmed the relevant statutory standard, a litigant must now show that an “inconsistency” exists between the prior order and the order that would result from the application of the Child Support Guidelines (“Guidelines”).
Due to changes in federal law regarding the collection and enforcement of child support orders, Massachusetts child support statutes were amended in 1994. One of the most notable amendments was the change in the standard used to modify child support orders. Before 1994, a litigant had the burden of proving that a “material and substantial change in circumstances” had occurred since entry of the last child support judgment. See, e.g., G.L. c. 208, §28, as amended by St. 1993, c. 460, §§60 to 62. Under current law, a child support order “shall be modified if there is an inconsistency between the current order and the order that would result from application of the child support guidelines.” See, e.g., G.L. c. 208, §28.
Mr. and Mrs. Morales were divorced by order of the Probate and Family Court in May, 2008. The Judgment of Divorce Nisi (“Judgment”) ordered Mr. Morales to pay child support of $172 weekly for the parties’ son. In May 2009, Ms. Morales filed a Complaint for Modification to modify the child support order due to her ex-husband’s increase in pay and promotion at work. After a two-day trial, the Probate and Family Court dismissed Ms. Morales’ Complaint for Modification on the grounds that she had not proven a “material and substantial change in circumstances” since entry of the May 2008 Judgment.
After the Appeals Court affirmed the lower court’s decision, Ms. Morales filed an application for Further Appellate Review, which was granted by the SJC. In March 2013, the SJC issued its decision and clarified the standard for modification of child support orders. Morales v. Morales, supra. The SJC concluded that the “trial judge, in ruling on the mother’s modification complaint, erred by applying a standard requiring a material and substantial change in circumstances (material and substantial change standard) rather that the standard set forth in G.L. c. 208, §28…”. Morales at 508.
The SJC’s decision is significant because there has long been a conflict between the modification standard cited in court decisions and the statutory language defining the standard for modification of child support orders. The inconsistency standard will simplify the judicial process, ease congestion in the courts, and reduce the amount of litigation involved in child support modification cases. Family law practitioners handling child support modification cases should not notice much change in terms of their approach to the subject as the Guidelines are still used for litigants whose combined incomes fall below $250,000. The most significant change will be that a client will no longer have to prove a “material change” has occurred since the last order. If the previous child support order is different from what it should be under the Guidelines, then the order shall be modified. However, it should be noted that if the original order deviated from the Guidelines, the new standard may not apply, and a client will have the burden of proving that a material change has occurred in order to modify the existing order.
Lower and moderate income litigants who are seeking to either increase or decrease a child support order, and who often do not have the financial resources to hire an attorney or engage in protracted litigation, will benefit the most from the clarified standard. Showing an objective “inconsistency” between a prior order and a proposed new order, instead of proving a subjective “material and substantial change in circumstances,” affords greater access to the courthouse because it is a simplified standard that the general public can easily grasp. In these tough economic times, when nearly 70% of litigants in some Probate and Family Courts are pro se, it is more important than ever to provide greater ease and access to justice for all Massachusetts litigants, especially those trying to navigate an often complex judicial system by themselves.
Ruthanne Withers is an Associate with the Attleboro law firm of Coogan, Smith, McGahan, Lorincz, Jacobi & Shanley, LLP. From 2005 through 2013, Attorney Withers was employed with the Family Law Unit of Community Legal Aid in Worcester. She represented the wife in the Morales v. Morales case.
Not Just the Facts: Commonwealth v. Walczak Tells Prosecutors When to Instruct Grand Juries on the Law in Juvenile Murder CasesPosted: July 10, 2013
by Alex Philipson
In the mid-1920’s, in one of America’s most sensational cases of juvenile homicide, teenagers Nathan Leopold and Richard Loeb bludgeoned a neighbor to death in Chicago. At about the same time, a thousand miles away in Boston, the Supreme Judicial Court declared that a prosecutor seeking an indictment should, in appropriate instances, do more than present evidence to the grand jury; he should also give advice on the law. See Attorney Gen. v. Pelletier, 240 Mass. 264, 307 (1922). Nearly a century later, the concerns of these seemingly unrelated cases—juvenile murder and grand jury instructions—came together in ways never before seen in Massachusetts.
In Commonwealth v. Walczak, 463 Mass. 808 (2012), in a plurality opinion, the SJC held that a prosecutor must instruct the grand jury on the law in any case where he or she seeks to indict a juvenile for murder, and where there is substantial evidence of mitigating circumstances or defenses other than lack of criminal responsibility. Specifically, the prosecutor has a duty to inform the grand jury of the elements of murder and the significance of mitigating circumstances or defenses for reducing or eliminating the juvenile’s criminal liability—using the model homicide instructions, modified for grand jury proceedings. In no other case had the SJC ever held that a prosecutor was required to instruct the grand jury on the law absent a request from the grand jury. See Commonwealth v. Noble, 429 Mass. 44, 48 (1999).
Unlike Leopold and Loeb, who set out to commit a thrill killing, Walczak had no intention of killing anyone when, embroiled in a fight with two other teenagers, he allegedly stabbed one of them to death. One night in August, 2010, Walczak, then sixteen years old, agreed to meet the victim and another youth on a street corner to sell them marijuana. The purported buyers had actually planned to rob Walczak of his drugs. When the three met, the victim and his friend told Walczak they were going to take his marijuana, and one poked him in the head. Punches were thrown and Walczak stabbed the victim several times in the neck and torso with a knife, killing him.
The Commonwealth sought and obtained an indictment for murder in the second degree. Walczak moved successfully to dismiss the indictment on grounds of insufficient evidence. See Commonwealth v. McCarthy, 385 Mass. 160 (1982). The judge ruled that the Commonwealth had failed to disprove that Walczak acted on reasonable provocation or sudden combat—mitigating circumstances that negate malice and reduce a homicide from murder to voluntary manslaughter—and that, as a matter of law, the evidence supported at most an indictment for manslaughter.
On appeal by the Commonwealth, the SJC unanimously held that the judge erred: the evidence was sufficient to show probable cause for murder in the second degree; the Commonwealth bore no burden to disprove mitigation in the circumstances; and the grand jury was free to believe or disbelieve the evidence of mitigation. Nothing about those conclusions was particularly surprising. The excitement began when the justices considered an alternative ground for affirming the dismissal of the indictment: the Commonwealth’s failure to instruct the grand jury on the legal significance of the evidence of mitigation—i.e., that if someone kills another based on reasonable provocation or during sudden combat the offense would be manslaughter rather than murder. On the need for these instructions the justices differed markedly, but a plurality concluded that the Commonwealth should have given the instructions.
In dissent, Justice Spina, joined by Chief Justice Ireland and Justice Cordy, argued that, regardless whether mitigating circumstances surround a homicide, the Commonwealth has no obligation to instruct on mitigation absent a request from the grand jury. But according to the plurality opinion, at least where there is “substantial” evidence of mitigation—evidence “so strong” that “concealing it would impair the integrity of the grand jury” because the evidence concealed probably would have influenced the grand jury’s decision about what charge, if any, to indict—the legal significance of that mitigating evidence must be explained. Presumably a reviewing court would examine the facts de novo to decide whether the evidence of mitigation was substantial enough to require the instructions, but Walczak is silent on this point.
Justice Gants, in his concurrence, joined by Justices Botsford and Duffly, thought the instructions should be given in all murder cases, juvenile and adult. For him, what made the instructions necessary were “due process” interests not limited to juveniles.
By contrast, Justice Lenk, who wrote her own concurrence, did not speak in terms of due process. Rather, she thought that what necessitated the instructions were “prudential” concerns arising from the special status of adolescents. For example, unlike an adult, a juvenile indicted for manslaughter rather than murder faces trial in Juvenile Court, which affords special protections for adolescents. That difference, and the generally reduced culpability of minors as compared to adults, were the reasons Justice Lenk thought the instructions were required in juvenile murder cases. But the instructions that Justice Lenk thought essential were those concerning such traditional mitigating circumstances as reasonable provocation and sudden combat; she did not say that a grand jury should also be instructed that a juvenile’s youth itself constitutes a mitigating circumstance. (She did think that, in addition to instructions on mitigating circumstances, the grand jury should be told that a juvenile indicted for murder would be tried in Superior Court, but she was alone in that view.) For purposes of resolving Walczak’s case, Justice Lenk, unlike Justice Gants, thought it unnecessary to go so far as to require mitigation instructions (on reasonable provocation and sudden combat) not only for juveniles but for adults too. As the narrower view—requiring the instructions only in juvenile cases—hers prevailed in the plurality opinion.
But this reader, at least, sees no reason why the instructions should not be given in both juvenile and adult cases, as Justice Gants suggested. Although Justice Lenk wanted to ensure that a grand jury would take into account a juvenile’s youth, mitigation and self-defense are not concepts unique to adolescents. Adults can act out of reasonable provocation, sudden combat, or self-defense just as much as adolescents can. Thus, regardless whether the subject of a murder charge is a juvenile or an adult, it would seem fair in either case for the grand jury to be instructed on mitigating circumstances and self-defense, where the evidence warrants it. But the plurality concluded that the instructions are needed only in juvenile cases.
Besides instructions on mitigation and self-defense, Justice Gants suggested that the grand jury “may even be instructed that the prosecution is entitled to an indictment of the crime charged if it is supported by probable cause based on the credible evidence.” Walczak, 463 Mass. at 841. In this way, he agreed with Justice Spina that the grand jury is not permitted simply to choose between murder and manslaughter if credible evidence of the greater offense has been presented. But, as Justice Gants explained, even if the evidence of malice is legally sufficient, the grand jury is still free to decide that the evidence of mitigation is more reliable and return an indictment for the lesser offense.
Questioning the wisdom of the plurality’s view, Justice Spina pointed out that the decision did not address how one may pursue judicial review of a grand jury’s “gatekeeper” decision (i.e., whether the juvenile will be tried in Superior or Juvenile Court) or the applicable standard of review. More fundamentally, Justice Spina saw the plurality’s position as an “improper judicial exercise of the legislative function.” He believed that where the Legislature, in the 1996 Youthful Offender Act, removed power from Juvenile Court judges to determine in which court a juvenile would be tried, it was not up to the SJC to give similar power to the grand jury. Any legislative response to Walczak remains to be seen.
A postscript to this story is worth telling. After the SJC affirmed the dismissal of Walczak’s murder indictment, the Commonwealth returned to the grand jury to present the case again. This time, with the benefit of instructions on the legal significance of the mitigating circumstances, the grand jury indicted Walczak for voluntary manslaughter. As a result, Walczak will be treated as the juvenile he was in August, 2010, when that botched robbery turned tragically into a fatal fight.
Alex G. Philipson is founder of the appellate boutique Philipson Legal, providing appellate representation and consulting services in civil and criminal matters. He was Senior Staff Counsel to the Supreme Judicial Court from 2003 to 2011.