Monday, January 28, 2008

MA to Review Rules Limiting Judicial Comment

The Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court announed today that it has appointed a panel to consider whether to revise the rule limiting public comment by judges. Canon 3B(9) of the Massachusetts Code of Judicial Conduct requires judges to "abstain from public comment about a pending or impending Massachusetts proceeding in any court." The rule came under fire most recently in when Republican presidential candidate and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney condemned his own judicial appointee for her release of Daniel Tavares, who is charged with shooting a Washington couple in November. Many observers believed the judge and the public were disadvantaged by her inability to explain her decision.

Asked about the incident during her speech at the Nov. 30 annual meeting of the Massachusetts Newspaper Publishers Association, SJC Chief Justice Margaret H. Marshall indicated she might revisit the rule. In today's announcement, the court said:
"The Committee's task is to provide the Justices with a recommendation regarding changes, if any, that should be made in the canons or commentary to that provision of the Code, or such other recommendations relating to public comment by judges that the Committee wishes to make. The Justices have asked the Committee to submit its report within three months."
Chairing the 11-member committee is Superior Court Judge E. Susan Garsh, a former media lawyer. Other members include lawyers, judges and a law professor.

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