DEPUTY CHIEF COUNSEL FOR THE PUBLIC DEFENDER DIVISION OF THE COMMITTEE FOR PUBLIC COUNSEL SERVICES & another 
ACTING FIRST JUSTICE OF THE LOWELL DIVISION OF THE DISTRICT COURT DEPARTMENT.
Heard: November 9, 2016.
for Public Counsel Services. District Court, Drug court
session. Civil action commenced in the Supreme Judicial Court
for the county of Suffolk on February 23, 2016.
case was reported by Duffly, J.
R. Rudof, Committee for Public Counsel Services (Ryan M.
Schiff, Committee for Public Counsel Services, also present)
for the plaintiffs.
Bethany L. Stevens for the defendant.
Present: Gants, C.J., Hines, Gaziano, Lowy, & Budd, JJ.
matter is before us on a reservation and report, by a single
justice of this court, of a petition for relief under G. L.
c. 211, § 3. The petition, brought by the Deputy Chief
Counsel for the Public Defender Division of the Committee for
Public Counsel Services and the Deputy Chief Counsel for the
Private Counsel Division of the Committee for Public Counsel
Services (collectively CPCS), sought an order affirming
CPCS's independent authority under G. L. c. 211D to
select and supervise attorneys for indigent defendants in the
pilot program it had launched in the drug court session of
the Lowell Division of the District Court Department (drug
court). The issue arose after the Acting First Justice of the
Lowell District Court (Justice), citing the need for a
"team" approach to cases in the drug Court, removed
CPCS attorneys from drug court cases to which they had been
assigned and excluded CPCS attorneys from assignment to any
new case in the drug court.
single justice, in her reservation and report, observed that
"the matter raises some important legal questions that
ought to be decided by the full court, concerning specialty
courts in general and adult drug courts in particular, and
the respective roles and responsibilities of judges, [CPCS],
and individual defense attorneys." The issue highlights
the tension that may arise between an attorney's duty to
zealously advocate for the rights of the drug court defendant
and a drug court model that favors a collaborative and
nonadversarial approach to supervision of the drug court
defendant. We recognize that the success of drug court
outcomes depends in large part on an unconditional commitment
to the goal of treatment from all members of the drug court
team, including the drug court defendant. Nonetheless, we
conclude that CPCS has the sole authority under G. L. c. 211D
for the assignment of counsel to indigent criminal defendants
and that a judge may not override that authority to
accommodate a preference for attorneys willing to assume a
collaborative and nonadversarial role in drug court
The drug court model.
courts have been developed to provide the option of treatment
as an alternative to incarceration in cases where the
underlying criminal behavior is thought to be motivated by a
defendant's substance abuse. Executive Office of the
Trial Court, Adult Drug Court Manual, A Guide to Starting and
Operating Adult Drug Courts in Massachusetts at 2-3 (2015)
(drug court manual). Drug courts are defined as
"problem-solving courts that operate under a specialized
model in which the judiciary, prosecution, defense bar,
probation, law enforcement, substance use, mental health, and
social service communities work together to provide treatment
to people with substance use challenges" with the
ultimate goal of public safety and reduction of recidivism.
Id. at 3.
accomplish these purposes, drug courts necessarily are
different from regular criminal sessions during which a judge
may impose probation to accommodate a need for treatment
rather than a sentence of incarceration. A defendant's
success with substance abuse treatment in such circumstances
more often than not depends on his or her self-motivation and
the availability of resources to support the treatment
alternatives. Drug courts, by contrast, are premised on the
truism that successful treatment, though achievable, is
difficult for a defendant with little more than sincere
motivation and good intentions at his disposal. Thus, drug
courts are distinguished from regular criminal sessions by
the "integration of treatment and services with judicial
case oversight and intensive court supervision."
Id. at 39. In accordance with this formula for
success, the drug court model incorporates features,
described infra, not common in regular criminal
structure of the drug court is informed by
"evidence-based best practices" emphasizing the
necessity of a team approach to the development and oversight
of the defendant's prescribed course of substance abuse
treatment. Id. at 3. A judge is the leader of the
drug court team and, in that capacity, assembles the team
which typically includes the "program coordinator,
assistant district attorney, defense attorney, probation
officer(s), clerk, case manager, specialty court clinician,
treatment providers, local law enforcement, and
representatives from local organizations that provide
services to drug court participants." Id. at 8.
In keeping with the treatment purpose, team members must have
expertise in substance use disorders and therapeutic options,
and be sensitive to issues of gender, age, race, language,
and cultural issues that may bear on the drug court
defender's likelihood of success. Id.
Collectively, the team members have the knowledge ...