(BOSTON – 07/31/2022) The Massachusetts State Senate on Saturday 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.
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.
Senator Michael D. Brady (D-Brockton) remarked, “The pandemic has thrust us into an increasingly virtual and hybrid world. We are bringing our courts into the twenty first century by digitizing and modernizing the information technology infrastructure of courthouses and courtrooms. I am grateful to the Senate President, the Speaker and all of the legislative body for this spending bill necessary to support our Judiciary”
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.