I received the following e-mail from the Chief Justice of the Probate and Family Court, Judge Paula Carey, today [November 9, 2009]:
IT IS WITH DEEP REGRET THAT WE MUST TEMPORARILY CLOSE THE CONCORD SESSION OF THE PROBATE AND FAMILY COURT DUE TO THE BUDGET CRISIS AND THE SHORTAGE OF STAFF TO RUN THE SESSIONS IN CONCORD. WE WILL CONTINUE RUNNING THE MARLBORO AND LOWELL SESSIONS AT THIS TIME. WE CAREFULLY LISTENED TO THE VALID CONCERNS EXPRESSED BY THE BAR, HOWEVER, OUR CURRENT CIRCUMSTANCES MAKE IT EXTRAORDINARILY DIFFICULT TO CONTINUE TO DELIVER JUSTICE IN ONE LOCATION LET ALONE FOUR LOCATIONS IN MIDDLESEX COUNTY.
IN THE LAST COUPLE OF MONTHS, THE MIDDLESEX PROBATE AND FAMILY COURT LOST TEN PEOPLE DUE TO VOLUNTARY RETIREMENTS AND LAYOFFS. OUR REMAINING EMPLOYEES SIMPLY CANNOT SERVICE THE SESSION IN CONCORD AND STILL OPERATE IN CAMBRIDGE EFFECTIVELY GIVEN THE VOLUME OF CASES IN MIDDLESEX COUNTY. THE EFFECTIVE DATE OF THIS CHANGE IS JANUARY 1, 2010. WE EXPECT THIS SUSPENSION OF SESSIONS IN CONCORD TO BE TEMPORARY AND WILL WORK TO OPEN THE SESSION WHEN WE ARE ABLE TO OBTAIN STAFF SUFFICIENT TO DO SO.
THE CAMBRIDGE PROBATE AND FAMILY COURT WILL ATTEMPT TO ACCOMMODATE THOSE TRAVELING LONG DISTANCES IN THE CAMBRIDGE, MARLBORO AND LOWELL SEESIONS. ADDITIONALLY, THE CURRENT POLICY OF UNCONTESTED CASES BEING HEARD BY ANY JUDGE, INDEPENDENT OF THE INDIVIDUAL CALENDAR SYSTEM, WILL CONTINUE IN MARLBORO PROVIDED PRIOR ARRANGEMENTS ARE MADE. LASTLY, WE EXPECT TO HAVE A DEDICATED EMAIL ADDRESS TO PERMIT YOU QUICKLY ADDRESS PROBLEMS YOU MAY BE HAVING WITH SCHEDULING. THANK YOU FOR YOUR INPUT.,
As back ground, Chief Justice Carey attended a bench/bar meeting in Cambridge. Attorneys with offices in Shirley, Ayer, Hopkinton and all over Middlesex County attended that meeting. They all made clear that it takes them at least an hour, and often close to two hours during the morning rush hour to travel to the Cambridge Probate and Family Court vastly increasing costs to their clients. The bench/bar meeting attendees were unanimous in requesting that the session not be closed.
One positive note: Chief Justice Carey stated that she had, in fact, issued an order that LAR had in fact been activated statewise in the Probate and Family Courts. However the sole notice appears to have been in Massachusetts Lawyers Weekly in May. I suggested that a “Standing Order” with regard to LAR being available in the Probate and Family Courts was needed; if that Order is posted I will provide notice and more information about what “LAR” is. So far, there is no Standing Order and no Public Notice regarding LAR on the Probate and Family Court’s webiste.
The closure of the Concord sitting of the Probate and Family Court in January of 2010 will be a severe blow to northern Middlesex County, an area with almost no public transportation.