MASSACHUSETTS ACCESS TO JUSTICE COMMISSION
June 11, 2020
We want to make sure you are aware of three new orders issued by the Supreme Judicial Court concerning: electronic signatures; humanitarian aid; and Supreme Judicial Court Rule 3:03.
The Supreme Judicial Court has issued an updated order authorizing use of electronic signatures by attorneys and self-represented parties (issued June 10, 2020, effective June 11, 2020). See the order for details. A summary is provided below.
Pursuant to that order whenever an attorney or self-represented party is required to sign a document to be served on another party or filed with the court, including an affidavit that must be signed by an attorney or self-represented party under the penalties of perjury, the attorney or self-represented party may electronically sign, unless the court specifically orders otherwise.
The order sets forth details on the form of, and the process for, the electronic signatures for attorneys, self-represented litigants, parties, and third party affidavits. It also includes the process for challenging the validity of signatures.
The order also provides a process for handling electronic signatures in certain cases where a self-represented party receives remote assistance through a Court Service Center, or from an attorney operating through a lawyer-for-the-day program or a legal aid organization who is not otherwise representing that party. The order further explains the process for handling electronic signatures of self-represented parties when they participate in mediation services offered by the Housing Court’s Housing Specialist Department.
The Supreme Judicial Court has also issued an order concerning humanitarian aid by non-profit organizations and Mass. R. Prof. C. 1.8(e) (issued and effective June 10, 2020).
When a non-profit organization that provides free legal and other services to indigent clients has received donations or other funding to provide humanitarian aid to persons in need, such as financial assistance to pay for food, clothing, shelter, or transportation, the organization’s use of such donations or other funding to provide humanitarian aid to its clients, or the clients’ families, shall not be deemed a violation of Rule 1.8(e) of the Massachusetts Rules of Professional Conduct, which generally prohibits lawyers from providing financial assistance to clients in connection with pending or contemplated litigation.
Supreme Judicial Court Rule 3:03
The Supreme Judicial Court has also issued a second temporary emergency order re: Supreme Judicial Court Rule 3:03 (issued June 10, 2020, effective June 11, 2020). Pursuant to this order, the Supreme Judicial Court has modified certain provisions of Rule 3:03 to allow for the limited extension of the Rule, under certain circumstances, in light of the reduced seating due to coronavirus at the September 30-October 1, 2020 administration of the Massachusetts bar examination.