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Massachusetts Supplemental Probate and Family Court Rule 201: Recording of Court Proceedings

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(1) In all Probate and Family Court divisions, all proceedings shall be held in a courtroom and recorded electronically, subject to the availability and functioning of appropriate recording devices. Said recording shall take place whether or not a court stenographer is present in the courtroom. Uncontested adoption hearings may be held in the lobby and need not be recorded. Proceedings, if recorded, may be held in a hospital or other location when a litigant is, for health reasons, unable to come to the courthouse or in other exigent circumstances.

(2) A copy of the original recording, or any portion thereof, may be requested by counsel or by litigants or by an agency party to the proceedings within one year of the date the proceedings are recorded, provided that failure to request said copy seasonably shall not be grounds for the delay of subsequent proceedings. Upon motion for good cause shown, the court may extend the time period within which a copy may be requested. The copy shall consist of a cassette or disk copy of the original recording, or such portion thereof as is requested, which copy shall be produced pursuant to such process and procedure as is prescribed by the Chief Justice for Administration and Management of the Trial Court and the Chief Justice of the Probate and Family Court, and which shall be playable on standard cassette or disk devices designed for home or office use. Said request for a cassette or disk copy of an original court proceeding shall be filed with the Register of the Probate and Family Court in the division in which the case was heard. Such request shall be on a form prescribed by the Chief Justice of the Probate and Family Court. Any person making such a request shall, in advance, notify all parties of the intention to make said request, to the end that multiple requests shall be made simultaneously wherever possible. The cost of said cassette or disk copy, which shall be prepaid, shall be determined by the Chief Administrative Justice pursuant to G.L. c. 262, § 4B, plus postage, except that there shall be no cost for a cassette or disk copy produced for the use of the court. Sections 27A through 27G of Chapter 261 of the General Laws shall be deemed applicable to a request by or on behalf of an allegedly indigent party and the cost of a cassette or disk copy shall be deemed an "extra cost" as defined in said section 27A.

(3) A cassette or disk copy shall, upon request as aforesaid, be made available to any party to a proceeding so recorded or to his counsel of record. A cassette or disk copy may be made available to any other interested person or interested agency in the discretion of the judge who presided over the proceedings. After the submission by said person or agency of a request in writing setting forth the basis of the request and the specific use to be made of the cassette or disk copy, said request is to be acted upon promptly, and any denial thereof or undue delay in obtaining a copy may be referred to the Chief Justice of the Probate and Family Court.

(4) A cassette or disk shall not be erased or tampered with nor its labels removed or defaced as long as the matter recorded is pending in any court or is subject to or the subject of appellate review. A cassette or disk which is thereafter erased shall be erased in its entirety. No cassette or disk shall be erased until a period of three years has expired from the date of the original recording. Duplication of a cassette or disk is expressly prohibited except where specifically authorized by the presiding justice of a Probate and Family Court, the Chief Justice of the Probate and Family Court, or the Chief Justice for Administration and Management of the Trial Court, as the case may be.

(5) A copy of a cassette or disk or a copy of any portion of the material contained in a cassette or disk shall not be used for a commercial purpose, for the purpose of public or private entertainment or amusement or for any other purpose detrimental to the administration of justice. A cassette or disk copy of an original recording of a proceeding from which the public was excluded shall be deemed confidential and subject to such additional restrictions with regard to its use as may be prescribed by the judge who presided over the session so recorded.

(6) All persons receiving a cassette or disk copy shall comply with the provisions of sections (4), (5) and (6) of this rule and shall be subject to the imposition of appropriate sanctions for non-compliance, including contempt proceedings. It shall be the responsibility of a person requesting a copy of a cassette or disk from the register of probate to take all necessary and reasonable precautions to prevent any incident of non-compliance with said sections, including but not necessarily limited to notifying persons who are permitted to use said copy of the provisions of said sections.

As added, effective July 1, 1981; amended, effective July 1, 1983; amended April 29, 1992, effective June 1, 1992; amended December 14, 2011, effective January 2, 2012.

Reporter's Notes (1981): Supplemental Rule 201 was reserved when the Massachusetts Rules of Domestic Relations Procedure and the Supplemental Rules of the Probate and Family Court Department were promulgated in 1975.

Reporter's Notes (2012): Adds references to disks as new recording systems make copies to disks, not to cassettes. ·Eliminates option of lobby conferences or other proceedings outside of a courtroom absent exigent circumstances. Eliminates the sub-title "Under the Control of the Court." That line in that position did not add anything to the rule.