Mass. High Court Protects Judge's Notes from Subpoena, Recognizes 'Deliberative Privilege'

Ruling in the case of a judge facing an ethics investigation, Massachusetts’ highest court has ruled that judges’ thought processes and deliberations are protected from disclosure.

In a unanimous ruling, the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court recognized a “judicial deliberative privilege,” the Boston Globe reports. The decision quashes a subpoena seeking thought processes of Boston Municipal Judge Raymond Dougan that are memorialized in notes or diaries. The court said that “protecting judges from the post hoc probing of their mental processes” ensures the finality of judgments and the integrity of judicial decision-making.

The Commission on Judicial Conduct had subpoenaed Dougan’s materials based on an ethics complaint filed by Suffolk District Attorney Daniel Conley, who alleged ethical violations in criminal cases, the story says. Conley issued a statement to the newspaper criticizing the decision.

“If a judge ever shows racial bias, bias against female attorneys, or bias against same-sex partners in family and probate court, this decision provides a powerful shield that will be used to keep him or her on the bench,” Conley said.

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