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December 10, 2023 Fog | 46°F
The 193rd General Court of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts

Section 7: Hearing; recommendation for discipline; attorneys' fees

Section 7. (1) The commission shall schedule a hearing without undue delay after the appointment of the hearing officer by the supreme judicial court. The commission shall schedule the time and place of the hearing, and shall notify the judge and all counsel of the hearing. The judge shall be afforded ample opportunity to prepare for the hearing and may amend his written response to the charges.

(2) The judge and the commission shall each be entitled to discovery to the extent available in civil proceedings, within the time limits provided by commission rules. The judge and the commission shall each be entitled to compel by subpoena the attendance and testimony of witnesses, including the judge, and to provide for the inspection of documents, books, accounts, and other records.

(3) The formal hearing shall be public and shall be conducted before the hearing officer appointed by the supreme judicial court. At the hearing, all testimony shall be under oath, the rules of evidence applicable to civil proceedings shall apply, and the judge shall be accorded due process of law.

(4) An attorney or attorneys of the commission staff, or special counsel retained for the purpose, shall present the matter to the hearing officer. The commission shall have the burden of proving the charges by clear and convincing evidence. The judge and the commission shall be permitted to present evidence and cross-examine witnesses, subject to the rules of evidence applicable to civil proceedings.

(5) The raising of mental or physical condition as a defense constitutes a waiver of medical privilege.

(6) By leave of the commission or with the consent of the judge, the statement of charges may be amended after commencement of the hearing only if the amendment is technical in nature and the judge and his counsel are given adequate time to prepare a response.

(7) Every hearing shall be transcribed.

(8) The hearing officer shall submit to the commission and to the judge a report containing proposed findings and recommendations, the transcripts of testimony and all exhibits. Counsel for the judge and commission shall have twenty days after receipt of such report to submit written objections to the findings and recommendations, and said objections shall become part of the record.

(9) Before the commission reaches its decision, the judge and the complainant, if any, shall have the right to be heard before the commission regarding its recommendation for discipline, and their statements shall be transcribed. Such hearing shall be public, but commission deliberations regarding such recommendation shall be conducted in executive session. The commission shall reach a decision on the basis of the full record within ninety days after such hearing, unless there is good cause for delay. Its conclusions may differ from those proposed by the hearing officer. Its decision shall state specific reasons for all conclusions and recommendations.

(10) A recommendation for discipline shall be reported to the supreme judicial court only if a majority of all members of the commission concur that discipline should be recommended. Any dissent as to the need for or the form of discipline shall be transmitted with the majority decision. A copy of said recommendation and dissent shall be given to the judge and shall become part of the public record. The entire record, including transcripts, exhibits and the hearing officer's report, shall be transmitted to the supreme judicial court.

(11) If a majority of the members of the commission concur that discipline should not be recommended, the matter shall be dismissed, and the judge and complainant, if any, shall be notified of such dismissal.

(12) The provisions of subdivisions (10) and (11) shall not be construed to prohibit the commission from disposing of the matter by informal adjustment pursuant to section eight as a result of commission deliberations regarding a recommendation for discipline.

(13) The expense of witnesses shall be borne by the party that calls them unless:

(a) physical or mental disability of the judge is in issue, in which case the commission shall reimburse the judge for the reasonable expenses of the witnesses whose testimony related to the disability; or

(b) the supreme judicial court determines that the imposition of costs and expert witness fees will work a financial hardship or injustice upon him and orders that those fees be reimbursed.

(14) All witnesses shall receive fees and expenses in the same manner as witnesses in civil actions before the courts. A transcript of all proceedings shall be provided to the judge without cost. Except as provided in subdivision (13), costs of all proceedings shall be at public expense.

(15) With the approval of the supreme judicial court, a judge shall be entitled to the payment of reasonable attorneys' fees by the commonwealth in any case where the matter is dismissed by the commission at any stage after the filing of a sworn complaint or statement of charges, where the supreme judicial court determines despite a commission recommendation for discipline that no sanction is justified, or where the supreme judicial court determines that justice will be served by the payment of such fees.