SalemNews.com, Salem, MA

Local News

April 7, 2014

Bill could increase Peabody's number of court cases

Speliotis looks to change Salem's jurisdiction of Danvers, Middleton

PEABODY — A bill filed by state Rep. Ted Speliotis, D-Danvers, could add Danvers or Middleton to the caseload of Peabody District Court, a move that could boost the fortunes of Peabody Square and make the court a more bustling one.

Changing the jurisdiction lines to even out caseloads at the courts and bringing Danvers and Middleton over to Peabody — along with Saugus — has been talked about for almost two decades.

In the past fiscal year, the caseload in Salem District Court, where Danvers and Middleton cases are handled now, was almost twice that of Peabody. Salem had 12,630 cases filed in fiscal 2013, while Peabody District Court had 6,863, according to the Massachusetts District Court Department.

Peabody Mayor Ted Bettencourt was among those who testified in favor of the bill on Beacon Hill. Speliotis said Danvers police favor the move, while Middleton police would prefer to stay in Salem.

“I filed the bill on behalf of Peabody District Court and the city of Peabody,” Speliotis said. “The court, in my opinion, is currently under-utilized, and I think it’s difficult for communities like Danvers to get over there.”

Currently, Peabody District Court covers only Peabody and Lynnfield. Salem District Court serves five communities: Salem, Beverly, Danvers, Middleton and Manchester-by-the-Sea.

Salem District Court is housed in the new $106 million J. Michael Ruane Judicial Center. Peabody’s courthouse underwent renovations for accessibility, its heating, ventilation and air-conditioning system, and other improvements in recent years.

A December 1995 report on district court jurisdictional lines by the chief justice for the administration and management of the trial court recommended that Saugus move to Peabody from Lynn and Danvers and Middleton transfer from Salem to Peabody.

“We’re just looking to help out,” said Peabody District Court Clerk-Magistrate Kevin Finnegan, who testified in support of the bill on Beacon Hill.

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