As an attorney who has been practicing law in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts for more than 35 years, I am angered by attorney Anthony Benedetti’s op-ed criticizing the Supreme Judicial Court for limiting court hearings to telephonic and video conferences (“Courts should not deny due process during pandemic,” Opinion, March 23). The SJC’s appropriate action, taken in light of the pandemic, safeguards the rights of those involved in the operation of the Massachusetts court system as well as the general public.
Courthouse security guards, maintenance staff, judicial clerks, lawyers, and judges also have the right to be protected from exposure to the corona virus. Juvenile defendants, children in the custody of the Department of Children and Families, and those under guardianship are not the only citizens whose rights must be protected. The Declaration of Independence declared that it is the purpose of government to protect the of all individuals to “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.”
The application of justice is not perfect, and in rendering decisions involving competing constitutional rights, the courts must sometimes balance these competing interests. The general public welfare requires a certain amount of sequestration to try to contain the coronavirus pandemic until the threat subsides.
Defendants and those in custody are not being denied their constitutional rights. Those rights are still protected, perhaps not in the manner to which we are accustomed, but in a manner that best protects the rights of all.