COMMONWEALTH OF MASSACHUSETTS
STATE HOUSE, BOSTON 02133
Senator Joan B. Lovely
2nd Essex District
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
August 3, 2022
Senate Passes Judicial Modernization Legislation
Bill invests in information technology used by the judiciary and closes loopholes around gun laws
BOSTON – On Saturday, July 30th the Massachusetts State Senate passed legislation to modernize aspects of the Massachusetts court system, including by closing loopholes around the Commonwealth’s gun laws. The bill supports Massachusetts courts’ increased use of technology in courtroom proceedings by investing in information technology for the judiciary branch and allowing certain administrative proceedings to be done electronically. Following renewed national scrutiny of state gun control laws in the wake of mass shootings and the Supreme Court’s decision to strike down gun control legislation in the state of New York, this bill also takes steps to strengthen Massachusetts’ gun control laws.
“I’m proud of the Commonwealth’s strong gun laws, which save our residents’ lives, and I’m proud that the Senate is taking quick action to defend them,” said Senate President Karen E. Spilka (D-Ashland). “Our courts do invaluable work. In an increasingly virtual and hybrid world, this legislation will support this work and allow our courts to continue to operate without interruption. I want to thank Chairs Rodrigues and Eldridge and their teams for addressing these issues, and to the members of the Senate for their support.”
“With the passage of this Judiciary IT bond bill, we are bringing the courts into the twenty first century by digitizing and modernizing the information technology infrastructure of courthouses and courtrooms,” said Senator Michael J. Rodrigues (D-Westport), Chair of the Senate Committee on Ways and Means. “In addition to the large-scale investments we make in this bill, we also make minor changes to ensure that our gun licensing laws comply with the Supreme Court’s decision in the Bruen case late last month, while preserving many facets of our existing gun safety laws and maintaining the fundamental rights of gun owners. I want to thank Senate President Spilka and my colleagues for taking swift action to move this bill forward.”
“As we continue to move into a more digitized world, it is imperative that our Commonwealth’s court system be equipped with the tools to do the same,” said Senator Joan B. Lovely (D-Salem). “I am proud to join my Senate colleagues to pass an IT Bond Bill to improve the technological infrastructure within our courts so justice can continue to prevail. With the passage of this legislation, we also affirmed our commitment to preserve and promote gun safety across our Commonwealth, while also respecting the Supreme Court’s Bruen decision. Thank you, Senate President Spilka, Ways and Means Chair Rodrigues, and Senator Eldridge for their leadership and attention to these urgent matters.”
“A Trial Court with adequate technological resources is one step to removing barriers from our justice system,” said Senator James B. Eldridge (D-Acton), Senate Chair of the Joint Committee on the Judiciary. “With the Judiciary IT bond bill being a top priority of the Judiciary Committee, I am proud that the State Senate has demonstrated its commitment to improving our Trial Courts. This will benefit litigants, attorneys, and everyone who utilizes the court system while improving access to residents with geographical, disability and socioeconomic barriers to the justice system. I would like to thank the Senate President and the Chair of Senate Ways and Means for their instrumental work on this legislation.”
In Massachusetts, a license to carry is generally required in order to own a firearm. While adjusting Massachusetts laws to comply with the Supreme Court ruling in New York State Rifle & Pistol Association, Inc. v. Bruen, this legislation establishes new restrictions on who can receive a license to carry. The bill prohibits a person who is subject to a harassment prevention order, also known as a restraining order, from obtaining a license to carry. In addition to addressing applicants for a firearm license themselves, the bill also creates new responsibilities for licensing authorities by requiring them to deny any application or renewal for a license to carry if the applicant is determined to pose a public safety risk.
Particularly since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, courts across Massachusetts have relied on conferencing technology to continue providing access to justice while also protecting the public’s health. More recently, hybrid arrangements have increased in-person court participation. To support technological solutions capable of improving court performance in this new landscape, this bill authorizes $164 million in bond obligations to improve and modernize the information technology infrastructure of the Supreme Judicial Court, Appeals Court, Trial Court and departments of the Trial Court.
Included in this bill are the following bond authorizations:
- $94 million to establish digital courthouses and courtrooms
- $35 million to establish modern security systems in the judiciary
- $35 million to modernize technology for court administrative operations
Additionally, the bill includes changes to encourage courts’ utilization of information technology. The bill allows courts to have certain documents be signed and stored electronically. Courts would be allowed to electronically imprint their seal.
Having previously passed the House of Representatives, the bill goes to the Governor for his consideration.