PUBLIC INFORMATION OFFICE
SUPREME JUDICIAL COURT
John Adams Courthouse
One Pemberton Square
Boston, Massachusetts 02108
Jennifer Donahue/Erika Gully-Santiago
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
March 1, 2021
2021 Edition of the Massachusetts Guide to Evidence Now Available
BOSTON, MA — The Supreme Judicial Court and its Advisory Committee on Massachusetts Evidence Law today announced the release of the 2021 edition of the Massachusetts Guide to Evidence. The Justices of the Supreme Judicial Court recommend use of the Guide by the bench, bar, and public.
"I appreciate and commend the Advisory Committee members for their annual efforts to update the Massachusetts Guide to Evidence to reflect new legal developments," Supreme Judicial Court Chief Kimberly S. Budd said. "The Guide is an invaluable education and research tool for attorneys, judges, and self-represented litigants seeking to understand and apply Massachusetts evidence law. This edition's new Section 1119, 'Digital Evidence,' will be helpful in navigating the increased use of and questions and practices involving such evidence."
The Massachusetts Guide to Evidence assembles existing Massachusetts evidence law in an easy-to-use document organized similarly to the Federal Rules of Evidence. The Guide includes extensive explanatory notes and citations to pertinent authorities.
The 2021 edition is the thirteenth annual edition of the Guide. An electronic version of the Guide is available without charge on the court's website, where it can be searched and downloaded. The Official Print Edition is published by the Flaschner Judicial Institute, which is again providing a complimentary copy to every sitting judge in the Commonwealth. The 2021 Guide will be available for purchase from the Institute soon at: https://www.flaschner.org/massachusetts-guide-evidence/ and Massachusetts Lawyers Weekly at: https://books.lawyersweekly.com/ProductDetails.asp?ProductCode=MGE21.
The 2021 edition of the Guide incorporates dozens of opinions issued by the Supreme Judicial Court and the Appeals Court between January 1, 2020 and December 31, 2020, and updates several sections to reflect the current state of the Massachusetts evidence law. For example, the 2021 edition contains significant revisions to the text and notes of Section 404(b) regarding prior bad acts, Section 412(a) regarding evidence of a victim's sexual orientation, Section 608(b) regarding impeachment of police officer witnesses' credibility with specific incidents of prior misconduct, and Sections 801 and 803 concerning the rule against hearsay and its exceptions. Additional significant revisions are found in Sections 1101(c)-(d) on the topics of the admissibility of evidence in probation violation hearings and suppression hearings and Section 1116 clarifying the analysis required to assess the exercise of peremptory challenges.
The 2021 edition also includes new Section 1119, titled "Digital Evidence." The Advisory Committee added this section in recognition of the fact that attorneys and self-represented litigants "have increasingly relied on evidence created and stored on cell phones and other personal electronic devices as proof in evidentiary hearings and trials, often requesting judges to view and personally inspect digital evidence on their personal devices." The section's note summarizes common evidentiary issues that arise with respect to digital evidence and cross-references other pertinent sections of the Guide. The section emphasizes the importance of the orderly presentation and preservation of digital evidence.
In 2006, the Supreme Judicial Court established the Advisory Committee to prepare a Massachusetts Guide to Evidence at the request of the Massachusetts Bar Association, the Boston Bar Association, and the Massachusetts Academy of Trial Attorneys. Since 2008, the Supreme Judicial Court has appointed a standing Committee to monitor and incorporate new legal developments and produce annual new editions of the Guide.
Appeals Court Justice Gregory I. Massing chairs the Advisory Committee and serves as editor-in-chief of the Guide. Massing was appointed chair upon the retirement of Appeals Court Justice Peter Agnes, who served as the chair and editor-in-chief through the completion of the 2020 edition. The other members of the Advisory Committee are Hon. Mark S. Coven (editor), of the District Court; attorney Elizabeth N. Mulvey (editor); Clerk of the Appeals Court Joseph F. Stanton (reporter); Hon. Heidi Brieger of the Superior Court; Hon. Barbara M. Hyland of the Probate and Family Court; Hon. Gloria Y. Tan of the Juvenile Court; Hon. Dalila Wendlandt, who served on the Committee until her appointment to the Supreme Judicial Court in December 2020; Hon. Sarah W. Ellis of the District Court, who was appointed in December 2020; Supreme Judicial Court assistant legal counsel Timothy E. Maguire; Appeals Court research attorney Sean C. Connolly; Boston College Law School Professor R. Michael Cassidy; attorney Edmund P. Daley III; Suffolk University Law School Clinical Fellow Benjamin K. Golden; Boston University School of Law Professor Jasmine Gonzales Rose; New England Law | Boston Professor Philip K. Hamilton, Appeals Court law clerks Katherine Horigan and Victoria Arend Carbone, Hon. R. Marc Kantrowitz (editor-in-chief emeritus), and Supreme Judicial Court Justice David A. Lowy, who has been a member of the Committee since its inception and now serves as a consulting member.