LegisLative News

Massachusetts's Constables' Coalition strongly opposes House Bill 2252

  06/01/2017



This bill, if enacted, would eliminate most of the role of the constable in Massachusetts. 

HB.2252 was filed by Rep. Daniel Cahill of Lynn. MCC is representing constables throughout the Commonwealth, in front of the Legislature and the Massachusetts Executive Office of Public Safety (EOPSS) to advocate on behalf of the Office of the Constables in Massachusetts. Additionally, MCC is working to demonstrate to the Legislature and the Secretary the important role that the constable plays in the cities and towns of Massachusetts. 

Advancement of this bill would, in many cases, eliminate the Office of the Constable for many of the cities and towns in the Commonwealth.

Please oppose HB.2252!!


Massachusetts's Constables' Coalition Files Testimony in Support of Multiple Bills

  05/25/2017



Massachusetts's Constables' Coalition Files Testimony in Support of 
SB.794, HB.779, HB.750, SB771


On May 2, 2017 The Joint Committee on Judiciary held a hearing on multiple bills. During the hearing the Committee heard Senate Bill 794, House Bill 779, House Bill 750, Senate Bill 771. All of which the MCC supports. MCC filed written testimony to the committee, please find a copy of that testimony below.

Honorable William Brownsberger, Senate Chairman
Honorable Claire Cronin, House Chairwoman
Joint Committee on the Judiciary
Boston, Massachusetts 02133

Dear Chairwoman Cronin, Chairman Brownsberger and Members of the Committee:

On behalf of the Massachusetts Constables’ Coalition, I am writing in support of a variety of matters before the Committee that will improve the service of process (HB779, An Act Relative to the Service of Civil Process) and increase juror participation before grand juries and the Trial Court (HB750 / SB711 / SB794, Acts Improving Juror Service).  In short, these bills will benefit the residents and businesses of the Commonwealth by creating greater efficiencies in our judicial system.

As you may know, Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 41; §91 allows for cities and towns to appoint constables serve the writs and processes described in Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 41; §92 and warrants and processes in criminal cases. As stated in the same law, constables “shall have the powers of sheriffs to require aid in the execution of their duties … and …. shall serve all warrants and other processes directed to them by the selectmen of their town for notifying town meetings or for other purposes.”.  The Massachusetts Constables’ Coalition (“MCC”) was formed to advocate, educate, train, foster, develop, encourage and promote the common professional interests of constables who are appointed or elected to the Office of the Constable in Massachusetts.

With the aforementioned in mind, the MCC urges you to support the following legislation:
House Bill 779, An Act Relative to the Service of Civil Process.  As currently provided for in Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 41; §92, a constable “who has filed such a bond, in a sum of not less than five thousand dollars, may, within his town, also serve any such writ or other process in which the damages are laid at a sum not exceeding $7,000, and any process in replevin in which the subject matter does not exceed in value $7,000.”. This limitation serves to prevent parties from using constables from serving process in any matter where the damages exceed these amounts. 

Accordingly, HB779 proposes to increase this limit to $25,000 in an effort to reduce costs, reflect economic changes and increase service times for matters that fall within this amount.  In particular, increasing the limit of actions for which a constable may serve process to $25,000 will likely lead to a reduction in costs for the parties involved.  Constables, unlike deputy sheriffs, are locally based in a municipality.  As a result, there is often less cost due to travel for a constable to serve process. 

In addition, the amount of $7,000, while reflective of the amount used for small claims court sessions in District Court, should not serve to limit constables.  Notwithstanding the realities of inflation and other economic factors that have resulted in damages in judicial proceedings significantly rising, there is no rationale or empirical evidence that can be shown demonstrating deputy sheriffs can serve such process over $7,000, but constables cannot.  Constables, who bond their work and swear an oath to the municipality he or she serves, are as accountable, if not more so, than the deputy sheriff, who operates under the aegis of the elected sheriff. The current limitation simply makes no sense.

Finally, constables are currently granted permission by leave of the court, under both the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure and the Massachusetts Rules of Civil Procedure, to serve process for matters above the stated “ad damnum” amount in federal, state and local courts. Increasing the current amount, as proposed by HB779, will substantially reduce the paperwork and costs born by litigants and the court system in the interests of improved efficiency and the administration of justice. 

 HB750 / SB771 / SB794, Acts Improving Juror Service.  These pieces of legislation aim to address the Commonwealth’s constant struggle to summon eligible jurors for service on grand juries and juries of the trial court.  While the current jury system has seen increased participation, there remains a difficulty in having enough potential jurors appear.  For example, media accounts have highlighted a notable murder case on Cape Cod that was delayed due to the shortage of jurors and a court proceeding for delinquent jurors. SeeCarriere murder trial delayed by juror shortage”, Cape Cod Times, Doane, S., (May 10, 2012) (“As the selection process entered its second day, only 33 of the 53 Barnstable County residents summonsed to serve showed up”); see also, “Jury Commissioner: if you are called to duty, don’t ignore it”, Lowell Sun, Redmond, L., (Sept. 7, 2016)(“Marins was one of 23 people on the court docket that day to be arraigned for failure to attend jury duty, a huge jump from the handful of delinquent jurors that appear on the docket on a weekly basis.”).
In an effort to combat juror delinquency, these bills seek to update the juror notification system and penalties in a number of significant ways.  Of most importance to MCC is the use of constables and deputy sheriffs to serve final jury summons notices.  As servers of process, MCC’s members can attest to the impact that personal service has in general. Requiring constables and deputy sheriffs to serve personal notice of jury service will produce an improvement in the attendance of jurors.  Gone will be the excuses that the notice was “lost in the mail” or “consumed by some previously unknown dog”.  Instead, accountability and responsibility will be brought back to the juror notification and response system.  In doing so, the Commonwealth will be able to provide a more efficient system of justice for all parties involved.

The role of constables within the Commonwealth’s judicial system is an often unseen, but vitally important part of the process. Notice, as a part of due process, is the very foundation upon which our judicial system was built.  These bills further the common goal to improve the administration of our court system.  As a result, the MCC, which stands ready to assist this Committee in any manner, respectfully requests that these bills receive favorable reports.
I appreciate your consideration of this important matter.  If you have any questions or concerns, please do not hesitate to let me know.

Sincerely,
Scott Gonfrade
President


Massachusetts's Constables' Coalition Supports House Bill 779

  05/25/2017



Massachusetts's Constables' Coalition House Senate Bill 779

This bill, if enacted, would improve juror service responses

HB.779 was filed by Rep. James Dwyer (By Request). MCC is representing constables throughout the Commonwealth, in front of the Legislature to advocate on behalf of the Office of the Constables in Massachusetts. 

Below is an excerpt of the bill language. We encourage our members to read the full text of the language, available here.


An Act relative to the service of civil process.

Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives in General Court assembled, and by the authority of the same, as follows:


SECTION 1. Section 92 of chapter 41 of the General Laws, as appearing in the 2010

Official Edition, is hereby amended by striking, in line 13, the figure“$7,000”, and inserting in place thereof the following figure: “$25,000”


SECTION 2. Said section 92 of said chapter 41, as so appearing, is hereby further

amended by striking, in line 14, the figure “$7,000”, and inserting in place thereof the following figure:- “$25,000”....


Massachusetts's Constables' Coalition Supports House Bill 750

  05/25/2017



Massachusetts's Constables' Coalition Supports House Bill 750

This bill, if enacted, would improve juror service responses

HB.750 was filed by Rep. Claire Cronin. MCC is representing constables throughout the Commonwealth, in front of the Legislature to advocate on behalf of the Office of the Constables in Massachusetts. 

Below is an excerpt of the bill language. We encourage our members to read the full text of the language, available here.

An Act improving juror service.

Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives in General Court assembled, and by the authority of the same, as follows:


SECTION 1. Section 4 of chapter 234A of the General Laws, as appearing in the 2014 Official Edition, is hereby amended by striking out, in line 9, the words “the juror confirmation form” and inserting in place thereof the following words: - ¬a juror summons response.


SECTION 2. Section 19 of said chapter 234A, as so appearing, is hereby amended by adding, in line 15, after the word “commissioner” the following sentences - The jury commissioner may use a postcard summons for purposes of summoning grand and trial jurors. A postcard summons shall be considered an official juror summons for purposes of this chapter.


SECTION 3. Section 20 of chapter 234A, as so appearing, is hereby amended by striking out the first sentence and inserting in place thereof the following sentence:- The office of jury commissioner shall provide a notice of qualifications for juror service to each juror summoned under the provisions on this chapter.....


Massachusetts's Constables' Coalition Supports Senate Bill 771

  05/25/2017



Massachusetts's Constables' Coalition Supports Senate Bill 771

This bill, if enacted, would improve juror service responses

SB.771 was filed by Sen. William Brownsberger. MCC is representing constables throughout the Commonwealth, in front of the Legislature to advocate on behalf of the Office of the Constables in Massachusetts. 

Below is an excerpt of the bill language. We encourage our members to read the full text of the language, available here.

An Act improving juror service.

Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives in General Court assembled, and by the authority of the same, as follows:


SECTION 1. Section 4 of chapter 234A of the General Laws, as appearing in the 2014 Official Edition, is hereby amended by striking out, in line 9, the words “the juror confirmation form” and inserting in place thereof the following words:- a juror summons response.


SECTION 2. Section 19 of said chapter 234A, as so appearing, is hereby amended by adding, in line 15, after the word “commissioner” the following sentences:- The jury commissioner may use a postcard summons for purposes of summoning grand and trial jurors. A postcard summons shall be considered an official juror summons for purposes of this chapter.


SECTION 3. Section 20 of chapter 234A, as so appearing, is hereby amended by striking out the first sentence and inserting in place thereof the following sentence:- The office of jury commissioner shall provide a notice of qualifications for juror service to each juror summoned under the provisions on this chapter.....


Massachusetts's Constables' Coalition Supports Senate Bill 794

  05/25/2017



Massachusetts's Constables' Coalition Supports Senate Bill 794

This bill, if enacted, would improve juror service responses

SB.794 was filed by Sen. Cynthia Creem Assistant Majority Leader. MCC is representing constables throughout the Commonwealth, in front of the Legislature to advocate on behalf of the Office of the Constables in Massachusetts. 

Below is an excerpt of the bill language. We encourage our members to read the full text of the language, available here.

An Act improving juror service responses.

Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives in General Court assembled, and by the authority of the same, as follows:


SECTION 1. Section 4 of chapter 234A of the General Laws, as appearing in the 2014 Official Edition, is hereby amended by striking out, in line 9, the words “the juror confirmation form” and inserting in place thereof the following words:- a juror summons response.


SECTION 2. Section 21 of said chapter 234A, as so appearing, is hereby amended by striking out, in lines 5 and 6, the words “, and an alternate month, day, and year,”.


SECTION 3. Section 22 of said chapter 234A, as so appearing, is hereby amended by striking out the first sentence and inserting in place thereof the following sentence:- The office of jury commissioner shall provide a confidential juror questionnaire to each prospective juror......