Suffolk County Holds its First Bench/Bar Meeting

By: Jocelynne Welsh, Administrative Attorney, Probate and Family Court with the assistance of Elizabeth Cabral DiPippo, Probate and Family Court

On Wednesday, February 26, 2014 Suffolk County held its very first Bench/Bar Meeting.The event was attended by approximately 50 people, including Chief Justice of the Probate and Family Court, Angela M. Ordoñez, judges, court staff and members of the bar.

Chief Justice Ordoñez made welcoming remarks including a reminder of new initiatives: Limited Issues Settlement Conference (for more information, please contact: ); the Family Court Workshops for Mothers/Fathers (for more information, please contact: ); and the Status Inquiry Form.

This was followed by an attorney who spoke of the value her client received when they participated in the Limited Issue Settlement Conference. Discussions also included Suffolk County beginning a new program through the Boston Bar Association: ARC (“attorneys representing children”), the new Court Service Center being designed that will provide computer access, a language line, and meeting areas for litigants at the Suffolk Probate and Family Court.

Domenic DiCenso, Acting Register of Probate and Family Court in Suffolk, addressed the audience sharing that there are 32 Registry employees who are cross trained and well versed in all questions the public and the bar may have. Chief Probation Officer Marguerite Riley shared that when she began in 2005 there were 15 Probation Officers; today they are down to only 7 but they still achieve agreements on 50% of the cases referred to them.

Joan P. Armstrong, First Justice of the Suffolk Probate and Family Court, then invited the bar to share concerns and assured everyone that the judges and staff would consider the issues and report back at a later meeting.  Some of the concerns raised by the bar included missing files (which are not really “missing”, just not necessarily easily located), the length of time it can take to check in to a session, whether Suffolk would consider a staggered schedule – something now being implemented in other counties; whether assented-to motions may be FAXed to the court; electronic access to information broader than just docket entries for members of the bar; and quicker scheduling of 1As.

While thanking all present for coming, First Justice Armstrong announced the intention to hold these meetings on a regular basis. 

Jocelynne Welsh is an Administrative Attorney who has been working for the Chief Justice of the Probate and Family Court for the past 29 years. She has worked in various areas including Guardianships, Parent Education and Case Management matters.

Elizabeth Cabral DiPippo is the Communications person for the Chief Justice of the Probate and Family Court and has worked for the Trial Court for more than 16 years. Her primary responsibilities include website management for the Probate and Family Court, Communications, Newsletter editor and Fiscal and Payroll matters.