On May 4, 2009, the Chief Justice of Administration and Management of the Massachusetts Trial Court launched a pilot program in the Norfolk Division of the Probate and Family Court Department through an Administrative Order entitled, in pertient part, “for the Interdepartmental Transfer of Certain Abuse Prevention Proceedings”. This pilot program authorizes a judge of the Norfolk Division of the Probate and Family Court to initiate interdepartmental transfers of civil protection order petitions pending in other court departments where the parties have related domestic relations matters pending in the Probate and Family Court.
This article discusses how the pilot program interferes with the rights and safety of domestic violence victims in Massachusetts, in hopes that the Trial Court will voluntarily discontinue the pilot program and return to the statutory scheme contemplated by the legislature and clarified through the long-standing Guidelines for Judicial Practice. First, this article outlines the background and legislative history of Chapter 209A’s venue and jurisdictional provisions, which illuminate the proper meaning and interpretation of its provisions. Second, it argues that the provisions of the pilot program directly contradict the purpose of Chapter 209A, and indeed, rewrite statutory language, permitting unconstitutional “back door” legislation by the judicial administration. Finally, this article argues that, by denying domestic violence victims an important choice of forum when seeking protection orders from Massachusetts courts, the pilot program may put their safety at greater risk.
Margaret B. Drew & Marilu E. Gresens, Denying Choice of Forum: An Interference by the Massachusetts Trial Court with Domestic Violence Victims’ Rights and Safety, 43 Suffolk U. L. Rev. 101 (2010).