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Case Name Committee for Public Counsel Services v. Chief Justice of the Trial Court CJ-MA-0004
Docket / Court SJ-2020-12926 ( State Court )
Additional Docket(s) SJ-2020-0115  [ 20-115 ]  Supreme Court (MA)
State/Territory Massachusetts
Case Type(s) Criminal Justice (Other)
Prison Conditions
Special Collection COVID-19 (novel coronavirus)
Attorney Organization ACLU Chapters (any)
Case Summary
COVID-19 Summary: This is an emergency petition to the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court seeking, among other responses, releases of many prisoners. No action yet.

On March 24, 2020, the ACLU of Massachusetts, along with the Committee for Public Counsel Services and the Massachusetts ... read more >
COVID-19 Summary: This is an emergency petition to the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court seeking, among other responses, releases of many prisoners. No action yet.

On March 24, 2020, the ACLU of Massachusetts, along with the Committee for Public Counsel Services and the Massachusetts Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, filed this emergency petition asking the Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts to take immediate action to limit the outbreak of COVID-19 in Massachusetts correctional facilities. Specifically, the petitioners asked that the Court exercise its superintendence powers under state law to: 1) reduce the volume of those entering Massachusetts correctional facilities by requiring trial courts to weigh the threat of COVID-19 when analyzing the need for pretrial detention; 2) order release of those held pretrial who do not pose a public safety risk; and 3) deem served the sentences of those who are vulnerable to COVID-19, near the end of their sentence, eligible for parole, or who do not pose a threat to the public. The petitioners named the Chief Justice of the Trial Court as respondent.

The petitioners argued that the exercise of the Court’s supervisory powers was “necessary to protect substantive rights.” They claimed that subjecting non-dangerous prisoners to a likely outbreak of COVID-19 violated the Eighth Amendment and Massachusetts prohibition on cruel and unusual punishment. In addition, they claimed that continuing detention during the COVID-19 pandemic did not comport with substantive and procedural due process as guaranteed by the Fourteenth Amendment and the analogous state provision.

Just prior to the filing of the petition, three incarcerated individuals and one officer received positive COVID-19 diagnoses in Massachusetts. In response to this pandemic, the Supreme Judicial Court had already closed courthouses, canceled trials, and ordered hearings by videoconference.

On March 25, the Court ordered that the petitioners add the following parties as respondents: the Department of Correction; each county Sheriff; each District Attorney; the Parole Board; and the Attorney General.

On March 25, the Middlesex District Attorney filed a response to the petitioner’s request for relief. The party expressed concern for unconditional release and advocated for the court to immediately convene an emergency committee involving various stakeholders. On March 27, the Berkshire District Attorney also filed a response brief, opposing a potential decarceration order from the Supreme Judicial Court but supporting the appointment of the Special Master.

On the same day, the Bristol District Attorney responded and requested that the court dismiss petitioners claim. Similarly, sheriffs of 14 counties requested that the court deny the petition, arguing that continuing detention did not violate the Eighth Amendment or analogous state provisions, the petitioners failed to exhaust administrative remedies, and the remedy would pose potential harm to public safety. In contrast, the Suffolk District Attorney’s March 27 response brief expressed support for the relief sought by the petitioners. On March 28, the Attorney General filed a brief requesting that the court adheres to certain principles in fashioning relief.

On March 25, the Court had appointed a Special Master to explore a possible negotiated settlement and make recommendations to the court. The Special Master submitted a Report and Recommendations to the court on March 30. For pretrial proceedings, it recommended factoring age and health in detention decisions and suspending existing warrants for non-violent probation violations, failures to appear, and alleged commission of new offenses excluding certain felonies and violent offenses. It included a review process for considering the release of certain prisoners and a reporting provision for prisons and jails. The Attorney General, and the District Attorneys of Berkshire County, the Northwest Counties, Middlesex County and Suffolk County supported the Report. The petitioners supported the framework, the timelines, and the individualized review recommendations, but objected to the definition of certain excluded offenses. The petitioners also filed a reply brief on March 30, advocating for immediate of an order that allows for rapid and individualized incarceration reduction.

Prisoners’ Legal Services moved to intervene on March 30. As Massachusetts’s sole provider of civil legal services to those in prison, the organization argued that its expertise and knowledge were necessary to develop a solution that incorporates its clients’ voices. PLS sought additional relief including: (1) release of all individuals civilly committed to a correctional facility under state law provisions, whether held at the Massachusetts Alcohol and Substance Abuse Center operated by the Department of Correction or the Hampden County Jail and House of Correction; (2) consideration for release of all persons civilly committed to the Massachusetts Treatment Center who have not been adjudicated a sexually dangerous person, as well as all persons committed to Bridgewater State Hospital for evaluation of competency or criminal responsibility; (3) a policy that no person should be categorically excluded from relief due to the underlying criminal offense, without consideration of actual dangerousness; (4) consideration for release of all individuals over 50; and (5) an order that the Parole Board (a) explicitly consider COVID-19 when it evaluates whether release is “incompatible with the welfare of society” pursuant to state law, and (b) shall presumptively grant parole to all parole eligible individuals unless it makes a determination based on clear and convincing evidence that the person cannot live at liberty without violating the law.

On Tuesday, March 31, the court heard oral argument on the emergency petition. The parties included MACDL, Committee for Public Counsel Services, the Attorney General, District Attorneys, and sheriffs of 14 counties. The court may issue a response the same week. Subsequently, on April 1, the court ordered that Department of Correction and the
Sheriffs to submit post-argument letters answering
questions about percentages of prisoners who share eating, sleeping, and recreation spaces within six feet.

In response to the hearings, on April 3, the Supreme Judicial Court ruled that people held pretrial on bail and have not been found dangerous or charged with a violent or otherwise excluded offense are entitled to a hearing within two business days of filing their motions. At the hearings, they will be entitled to a rebuttable presumption of release. Also, the court ordered the Department of Correction and each sheriff to provide daily reports on the number of COVID-19 tests and number of positive results for all people in their custody and correctional officers as well as the number of people released pursuant to the order's procedures and guidance. The court urged the parole board to expedite hearings of parole-eligible individuals.

The case is ongoing.

Lily Sawyer-Kaplan - 03/24/2020


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Issues and Causes of Action
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Issues
Constitutional Clause
Cruel and Unusual Punishment
Due Process: Procedural Due Process
Due Process: Substantive Due Process
General
Conditions of confinement
Medical/Mental Health
COVID-19 Release Requested
Plaintiff Type
Non-profit NON-religious organization
Causes of Action State law
Defendant(s) Chief Justice of the Trial Court
Plaintiff Description The Massachusetts Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers is an association representing more than 1,000 trial and appellate lawyers who are members of the Massachusetts Bar and who devote a substantial part of their practices to criminal defense. The Committee for Public Counsel Services was created by state law to plan, oversee, and coordinate the delivery of indigent criminal legal services.
Indexed Lawyer Organizations ACLU Chapters (any)
Class action status sought No
Class action status granted No
Filed Pro Se No
Prevailing Party None Yet / None
Public Int. Lawyer Yes
Nature of Relief Injunction / Injunctive-like Settlement
Source of Relief Litigation
Filed 03/24/2020
Case Ongoing Yes
Additional Resources
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  Committee for Public Counsel Services v. Chief Justice of the Trial Court (Oral Argument)
SJC Oral Arguments, Suffolk University Law School
Date: March 31, 2020
By: Gants, C.J., Gaziano, Lowy, Budd, Cypher, Kafker, JJ
[ Detail ] [ External Link ]

  Committee for Public Counsel Services v. Chief Justice of the Trial Court
ACLU
Date: Mar. 24, 2020
By: ACLU
[ Detail ] [ External Link ]

Docket(s)
No docket sheet currently in the collection
General Documents
Re: CPCS et al v. Chief Justice of the Trial Court & others, SJC-12926; Amicus Letter in Support of Petitioners
CJ-MA-0004-0026.pdf | Detail
Date: 03/03/2020
Source: State Court Website
Emergency Petition for Relief
CJ-MA-0004-0001.pdf | Detail
Date: 03/24/2020
Source: ACLU
Interim Order
CJ-MA-0004-0002.pdf | Detail
Date: 03/24/2020
Source: State Court Website
Re: Committee for Public Counsel Services and Massachusetts Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers v. Chief Justice of the Trial Court, No. SJ-2020-
CJ-MA-0004-0003.pdf | Detail
Date: 03/24/2020
Reservation and Report
CJ-MA-0004-0004.pdf | Detail
Date: 03/25/2020
Source: State Court Website
Order
CJ-MA-0004-0005.pdf | Detail
Date: 03/25/2020
Source: State Court Website
Commonwealth's Response to Emergency Petition for Relief Pursuant to G.L. c. 211, § 3
CJ-MA-0004-0006.pdf | Detail
Date: 03/25/2020
Source: State Court Website
RE: CPCS, et al v. Chief Justice of the Trial Court SJC-12926
CJ-MA-0004-0007.pdf | Detail
Date: 03/26/2020
Source: State Court Website
Re: Committee for Public Counsel Services and Massachusetts Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers v. Chief Justice of the Trial Court, No. SJC-12926
CJ-MA-0004-0012.pdf | Detail
Date: 03/26/2020
Source: State Court Website
Brief of Dominick Donovan and Others as Amici Curiae in Support of Applicants
CJ-MA-0004-0008.pdf | Detail
Date: 03/27/2020
Source: State Court Website
Re: Committee for Public Counsel Services and Massachusetts Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers v. Chief Justice of the Trial Court, SJC-12926
CJ-MA-0004-0009.pdf | Detail
Date: 03/27/2020
Source: State Court Website
Berkshire District Attorney's Response to Emergency Petition for Relief Pursuant to G.L. c. 211, § 3
CJ-MA-0004-0010.pdf | Detail
Date: 03/27/2020
Source: State Court Website
Opposition to the Petitioners' G.L. c. 211, § 3 Petition by the District Attorneys for the Bristol, Cape & Islands, Essex, Hampden, Middle, Norfolk, & Plymouth Districts
CJ-MA-0004-0011.pdf | Detail
Date: 03/27/2020
Source: State Court Website
The Sheriffs' of the Fourteen Counties of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts Response to Petitioners' Emergency Petition for Relief
CJ-MA-0004-0013.pdf | Detail
Date: 03/27/2020
Source: State Court Website
Re: Committee for Public Counsel Services and Massachusetts Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers v. Chief Justice of the Trial Court, No. SJC-12926
CJ-MA-0004-0014.pdf | Detail
Date: 03/27/2020
Source: State Court Website
Re: Committee for Public Counsel Services and Massachusetts Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers v. Chief Justice of the Trial Court, No. SJC-12926
CJ-MA-0004-0015.pdf | Detail
Date: 03/27/2020
Source: State Court Website
Suffolk County District Attorney Rachael Rollins Response Regarding the Covid-19 Crisis
CJ-MA-0004-0016.pdf | Detail
Date: 03/27/2020
Source: State Court Website
Re: SJC-12926: Prisoners Legal Services of Massachusetts Amicus Letter in Support of Petitioners CORRECTED VERSION
CJ-MA-0004-0017.pdf | Detail
Date: 03/27/2020
Source: State Court Website
RE: No. SJ-2020-0115, Submission of Mental Health Legal Advisors Committee as amici curiae in support of the emergency petitioners seeking relief pursuant to G.L. c. 221, § 3
CJ-MA-0004-0018.pdf | Detail
Date: 03/27/2020
Source: State Court Website
Response to Petition by Chief Justice of the Trial Court, Department of Correction, Parole Board, Probation Service, and the Attorney General
CJ-MA-0004-0019.pdf | Detail
Date: 03/30/2020
Source: State Court Website
Reply Brief of the Petitioners on Reservation and Report from the Supreme Judicial Court
CJ-MA-0004-0020.pdf | Detail
Date: 03/30/2020
Source: State Court Website
Order (D. Mass.)
CJ-MA-0004-0021.pdf | Detail
Date: 03/30/2020
Source: State Court Website
Supplemental Opposition to the Petitioners' G.L. c. 211, §3 Petition by the District Attorneys for the Bristol, Cape & Islands, Essex, Hampden, Middle, Norfolk, & Plymouth Districts
CJ-MA-0004-0022.pdf | Detail
Date: 03/30/2020
Source: State Court Website
Re: Committee for Public Counsel Services and Massachusetts Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers v. Chief Justice of the Trial Court (SJC-12926) amicus curiae letter in support of Petitioners’ Request for Relief
CJ-MA-0004-0023.pdf | Detail
Date: 03/30/2020
Source: State Court Website
Re: Special Master's Report and Recommendations
CJ-MA-0004-0024.pdf | Detail
Date: 03/30/2020
Source: State Court Website
Special Master's Report and Recommendation
CJ-MA-0004-0025.pdf | Detail
Date: 03/30/2020
Source: State Court Website
Prisoners' Legal Services of Massachusetts Motion to Intervene
CJ-MA-0004-0027.pdf | Detail
Date: 03/30/2020
Source: State Court Website
Emergency Petition of Proposed Intervenor Prisoners Legal Services of Massachusetts
CJ-MA-0004-0028.pdf | Detail
Date: 03/30/2020
Source: State Court Website
Order
CJ-MA-0004-0029.pdf | External Link | Detail
Date: 04/01/2020
Source: State Court Website
Post-Argument Letter in No. SJC-12926
CJ-MA-0004-0030.pdf | External Link | Detail
Date: 04/01/2020
Source: State Court Website
Untitled
CJ-MA-0004-0031.pdf | External Link | Detail
Date: 04/01/2020
Source: State Court Website
Untitled
CJ-MA-0004-0032.pdf | External Link | Detail
Date: 04/02/2020
Source: State Court Website
Post-Argument Letter in No. SJC-12926 RE: April 1, 2020 Order
CJ-MA-0004-0033.pdf | External Link | Detail
Date: 04/02/2020
Source: State Court Website
The Sheriffs' of the Fourteen Counties of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts Response to the Court's Order of April 1, 2020
CJ-MA-0004-0034.pdf | External Link | Detail
Date: 04/02/2020
Source: State Court Website
Untitled
CJ-MA-0004-0035.pdf | External Link | Detail
Date: 04/02/2020
Source: State Court Website
Hampden County Responses to SJC Questions
CJ-MA-0004-0036.pdf | External Link | Detail
Date: 04/02/2020
Source: State Court Website
Rule 16(I) Letter by the District Attorneys for the Bristol, Cape & Islands, Essex, Hampden, Middle, Norfolk, & Plymouth Districts
CJ-MA-0004-0037.pdf | External Link | Detail
Date: 04/02/2020
Source: State Court Website
Untitled
CJ-MA-0004-0038.pdf | External Link | Detail
Date: 04/02/2020
Source: State Court Website
Response of Prisoners Legal Services to the April 2, 2020 Letters of the Department of Correction and the Fourteen Sheriffs
CJ-MA-0004-0039.pdf | External Link | Detail
Date: 04/02/2020
Source: State Court Website
Untitled
CJ-MA-0004-0040.pdf | External Link | Detail
Date: 04/02/2020
Source: State Court Website
Untitled
CJ-MA-0004-0041.pdf | External Link | Detail
Date: 04/03/2020
Source: State Court Website
Civil Action Commenced in the Supreme Judicial Court for the County of Suffolk on March 24, 2020
CJ-MA-0004-0042.pdf | External Link | Detail
Date: 04/03/2020
Source: State Court Website
show all people docs
Judges Budd, Kimberley S. Court not on record show/hide docs
CJ-MA-0004-0002 | CJ-MA-0004-0004 | CJ-MA-0004-0005
Cypher, Elspeth B Court not on record show/hide docs
CJ-MA-0004-0005
Gants, Ralph D Court not on record show/hide docs
CJ-MA-0004-0005
Gaziano, Frank M Court not on record show/hide docs
CJ-MA-0004-0005 | CJ-MA-0004-0042
Kafker, Scott L Court not on record show/hide docs
CJ-MA-0004-0005
Lowy, David A Court not on record show/hide docs
CJ-MA-0004-0005
Monitors/Masters O'Connor, Brien T. (Massachusetts) show/hide docs
CJ-MA-0004-0024 | CJ-MA-0004-0025
Plaintiff's Lawyers Finnegan, Theresa M. S. (Massachusetts) show/hide docs
CJ-MA-0004-0036
Jacobstein, Rebecca A. (Massachusetts) show/hide docs
CJ-MA-0004-0001 | CJ-MA-0004-0020 | CJ-MA-0004-0035
Keehn, Benjamin H (Massachusetts) show/hide docs
CJ-MA-0004-0001 | CJ-MA-0004-0020
Kelleher, Victoria (Massachusetts) show/hide docs
CJ-MA-0004-0001 | CJ-MA-0004-0020
Kiley, Rebecca (Massachusetts) show/hide docs
CJ-MA-0004-0001 | CJ-MA-0004-0020
McCready, Laura K. (Massachusetts) show/hide docs
CJ-MA-0004-0001 | CJ-MA-0004-0020
Mulvey, Kristin (Massachusetts) show/hide docs
CJ-MA-0004-0001 | CJ-MA-0004-0020
Rangaviz, David (Massachusetts) show/hide docs
CJ-MA-0004-0001 | CJ-MA-0004-0020
Rossman, Jessie J. (Massachusetts) show/hide docs
CJ-MA-0004-0001 | CJ-MA-0004-0020
Segal, Matthew (Massachusetts) show/hide docs
CJ-MA-0004-0001 | CJ-MA-0004-0020 | CJ-MA-0004-0040
Wood, Chauncey B. (Massachusetts) show/hide docs
CJ-MA-0004-0001 | CJ-MA-0004-0020
Defendant's Lawyers Anderson, Charles W Jr. (Massachusetts) show/hide docs
CJ-MA-0004-0030 | CJ-MA-0004-0033
Bair, Dan V. II (Massachusetts) show/hide docs
CJ-MA-0004-0013 | CJ-MA-0004-0034
Blodgett, Jonathan (Massachusetts) show/hide docs
CJ-MA-0004-0011 | CJ-MA-0004-0022 | CJ-MA-0004-0037
Campbell, Cailin M (Massachusetts) show/hide docs
CJ-MA-0004-0041
Cruz, Timothy J. (Massachusetts) show/hide docs
CJ-MA-0004-0011 | CJ-MA-0004-0022 | CJ-MA-0004-0037
Early, Joseph D. (Massachusetts) show/hide docs
CJ-MA-0004-0011 | CJ-MA-0004-0022 | CJ-MA-0004-0037
Gulluni, Anthony D. (Massachusetts) show/hide docs
CJ-MA-0004-0011 | CJ-MA-0004-0022 | CJ-MA-0004-0037
Harnais, Robert (Massachusetts) show/hide docs
CJ-MA-0004-0013 | CJ-MA-0004-0034
Harrington, Andrea (Massachusetts) show/hide docs
CJ-MA-0004-0010 | CJ-MA-0004-0031
Haskell, Eric A. (Massachusetts) show/hide docs
CJ-MA-0004-0019
Healey, Maura (Massachusetts) show/hide docs
CJ-MA-0004-0013 | CJ-MA-0004-0019 | CJ-MA-0004-0034
Klenoff, Mindy S. (Massachusetts) show/hide docs
CJ-MA-0004-0019
Kravitz, David C. (Massachusetts) show/hide docs
CJ-MA-0004-0019 | CJ-MA-0004-0032
Morrissey, Michael W. (Massachusetts) show/hide docs
CJ-MA-0004-0011 | CJ-MA-0004-0022 | CJ-MA-0004-0037
O'Keefe, Michael D. (Massachusetts) show/hide docs
CJ-MA-0004-0011 | CJ-MA-0004-0022 | CJ-MA-0004-0037
Quinn, Thomas (Massachusetts) show/hide docs
CJ-MA-0004-0011 | CJ-MA-0004-0022 | CJ-MA-0004-0037
Rollins, Rachael Splaine (Massachusetts) show/hide docs
CJ-MA-0004-0016 | CJ-MA-0004-0041
Ryan, Marian T. (Massachusetts) show/hide docs
CJ-MA-0004-0006 | CJ-MA-0004-0031
Sullivan, Jane A (Massachusetts) show/hide docs
CJ-MA-0004-0038
Sullivan, David E. (Massachusetts) show/hide docs
CJ-MA-0004-0006 | CJ-MA-0004-0031
Other Lawyers Bauer, Max (Massachusetts) show/hide docs
CJ-MA-0004-0008
Cox, Michael (Massachusetts) show/hide docs
CJ-MA-0004-0012
Greenberg, Ruth (Massachusetts) show/hide docs
CJ-MA-0004-0007
Holbrook, Coco (Massachusetts) show/hide docs
CJ-MA-0004-0018
Honig, Jennifer (Massachusetts) show/hide docs
CJ-MA-0004-0018
Kassel, Phillip (Massachusetts) show/hide docs
CJ-MA-0004-0018
LaClair, Jessica (Massachusetts) show/hide docs
CJ-MA-0004-0026
Lowney, Liam T. (Massachusetts) show/hide docs
CJ-MA-0004-0009
Matos, Elizabeth D. (Massachusetts) show/hide docs
CJ-MA-0004-0017 | CJ-MA-0004-0027 | CJ-MA-0004-0028 | CJ-MA-0004-0039
Murphy, Martin F. (Massachusetts) show/hide docs
CJ-MA-0004-0023
Naples-Mitchell, Katharine (Massachusetts) show/hide docs
CJ-MA-0004-0003
Parton, Caitlin (Massachusetts) show/hide docs
CJ-MA-0004-0018
Pingeon, James R. (Massachusetts) show/hide docs
CJ-MA-0004-0017 | CJ-MA-0004-0027 | CJ-MA-0004-0028 | CJ-MA-0004-0039
Raring, Nicholas J. (Massachusetts) show/hide docs
CJ-MA-0004-0026
Shih, Meredith (Massachusetts) show/hide docs
CJ-MA-0004-0023
Siegel, David M. (Massachusetts) show/hide docs
CJ-MA-0004-0023
Smith, Leon (Massachusetts) show/hide docs
CJ-MA-0004-0015
Tenneriello, Bonita (Massachusetts) show/hide docs
CJ-MA-0004-0017 | CJ-MA-0004-0027 | CJ-MA-0004-0028 | CJ-MA-0004-0039
White, Jesse (Massachusetts) show/hide docs
CJ-MA-0004-0017 | CJ-MA-0004-0027 | CJ-MA-0004-0028 | CJ-MA-0004-0039

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