Courts

Famous Trials

by Lee Gesmer on January 5, 2009

Famous Trials

Trials.

We love them, we hate them. If you’re a client, you really hate them.  Or at least you should.

There are moments of high drama, but the vast majority of trials are as boring as watching grass grow. Even trials that attract the prurient interests of the public (think OJ or Spector), that force the world to watch with morbid fascination, are, for the most part, boring.  Why do you think that Court TV shows only the “highlights”?

Nevertheless, if you take an important trial and boil it down to its essence – take out all the tedium, the voir dire, the endless sidebars and evidentiary disputes, the scientific/technical testimony that is often incomprehensible, the marginal witnesses that everyone in the courtroom dozes through — and leave just the heart of the the case, what remains can be fascinating.

Oscar Wilde, 1895

Law Professor Douglas Linder has done just that at his site, Famous Trials.… Read the full article

Really Judge Murphy. Really !?!

by Lee Gesmer on December 19, 2008

Really Judge Murphy. Really !?!

Judge Ernest Murphy

Massachusetts Superior Court Judge Ernest Murphy won a $2 million libel verdict against the Boston Herald after the Herald incorrectly reported that he had said that a 14 year old female rape victim should “get over it.”

Fair enough, but that was not the end of the story. The Herald appealed (ultimately losing), but during the appeal Judge Murphy sent two letters to Patrick J. Purcell, owner and publisher of the Herald, which led to today’s SJC decision publically reprimanding Judge Murphy for this incident.

Here are quotes from the letters, taken from the SJC reprimand. The letters proposed a meeting between Judge Murphy and Patrick Purcell, were hand-written on Superior Court stationery, and proposed a luncheon meeting between Murphy, Purcell and (presumably) the Herald’s insurer. The letter went on to tell Purcell –

to “have one person … at the meeting…. Under NO circumstances should you involve [counsel in the lawsuit] in this meeting….

Read the full article

Today’s Boston Globe reports that Governor Deval Patrick will nominate Superior Court Judge Ralph Gants to the seat on the Supreme Judicial Court now vacated by Justice John Greaney. This is a great nomination – Judge Gants is truly a superstar of the Massachusetts Superior Court – without question one of the best, if not the best, minds on the state trial court. He has reportedly been on the “short list” of potential nominees for the last few weeks, and there was little question in my mind that he was the outstanding choice on that list. I expect his nomination to the SJC to be approved by the legislature in a heart beat.

Judge Judith Fabricant has been the number 2 judge in this session (the BLS2 session) since Judge Van Gestel’s retirement, but it’s unclear if she will provide what has become a tradition of leadership and excellence in the relatively short period of time since the BLS was created, or even whether she is interested in taking on the responsibility of leading the BLS.… Read the full article

The (very) Confusing State of the Law of Evidence in Massachusetts

“Parties are invited to cite to the Proposed Rules, whenever appropriate, in briefs and memoranda submitted.
Proposed Massachusetts Rules of Evidence (Supreme Judicial Court, December, 1982)”

“The provisions contained in this Guide may be cited by lawyers, parties, and judges, but are not to be construed as adopted rules of evidence or as changing the existing law of evidence.
Massachusetts Guide to Evidence, Section 1.1  (Supreme Judicial Court, November 2008)”

History does not repeat itself, but it does rhyme
Mark Twain
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On November 24, 2008, the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court issued a press release stating that “The Supreme Judicial Court and its Advisory Committee on Massachusetts Evidence Law today announce the release of the Massachusetts Guide to Evidence. The Supreme Judicial Court recommends the use of this Guide.”  The press release quotes Chief Justice Margaret Marshall, who states: “This new Guide will make the law of evidence more accessible and understandable to the bench, bar and the public.… Read the full article