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Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts,Suffolk.



Decided: June 20, 2014

Present: Ireland, C.J., Spina, Cordy, Botsford, Gants, Duffly, & Lenk, JJ. Philip R. Boncore (Jeffrey Rosario Turco with him) for the plaintiff. Peter Haley for Association of Magistrates and Assistant Clerks of the Trial Court of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, amicus curiae. Daniel P. Sullivan, Special Assistant Attorney General, for the defendants.

The Register of Probate and Insolvency for Suffolk County, Patricia Campatelli, was placed on paid administrative leave—suspended with pay—by the Chief Justice of the Probate and Family Court Department, the Chief Justice of the Trial Court, and the Court Administrator, pending further investigation of allegations of inappropriate conduct and mismanagement in the performance of her duties. Campatelli commenced this action in the county court to challenge her suspension by the three named court officials; her claim is that only the justices of this court possess the authority to suspend her, pursuant to G.L. c. 211, § 4. We do not interpret c. 211, § 4, to vest sole authority in this court or its justices to suspend with pay a register of probate, and conclude that the Chief Justice of the Trial Court, the Court Administrator, and the Chief Justice of the Probate and Family Court Department possess the authority to do so pursuant to G.L. c. 211B, §§ 9, 9A, and 10, respectively.

Background. Campatelli disputes the allegations and findings contained in the record regarding her conduct in office, but the facts relating to the legal issues before us are undisputed. In November, 2012, Campatelli was elected as the Register of Probate and Insolvency for Suffolk County (register of probate, or register); she took office on January 3, 2013. See G.L. c. 217, § 4. As register, Campatelli served in the Suffolk County Division of the Probate and Family Court Department of the Trial Court. On December 22, 2013, the Chief Justice of the Probate and Family Court Department, Angela M. Ordoñez (Chief Justice Ordoñez), citing G.L. c. 211B, § 10(vi), as authority, suspended Campatelli with pay pending further investigation of an allegation that Campatelli had physically assaulted a court employee after an office holiday party on December 18, 2013. The investigation, conducted by an attorney in the human resources department of the Trial Court, concluded that the allegation against Campatelli was unsupported, and Chief Justice Ordoñez terminated the suspension on December 30.

On January 15, 2014, Chief Justice Ordoñez, citing the same statutory authority, again suspended Campatelli with pay. As set forth in the Chief Justice's letter to Campatellli, this suspension was based on new allegations of Campatelli's (1) “failure to properly manage the office [of the registry of probate]”; (2) “unprofessional conduct and behaviors in the office and toward employees”; and (3) causing “turmoil and disruption” connected to both of the above.2 On January 17, 2014, the Chief Justice of the Trial Court, Paula M. Carey (Chief Justice Carey), and the Court Administrator, Harry Spence (Court Administrator Spence, or Court Administrator) citing their statutory authority under G.L. c. 211B, §§ 9 and 9A, respectively, appointed an investigator “to conduct a thorough inquiry and to report [his] findings, conclusions and recommendations, concerning the following [specified matters] in the management and administration of the Registrar's [sic ] Office at the Suffolk Probate and Family Court.” During his investigation, the investigator interviewed thirty-nine individuals, including registry staff, judicial staff, administrators, and an attorney with experience working in the registry; he also met with Campatelli twice. On March 3, 2014, he issued his report on the investigation, and Campatelli received a copy that same day. Relying on information obtained through interviews, documents, and transcripts, the investigator made findings3 regarding Campatelli's management of the register's office and concluded that “there are serious deficiencies in the conduct of [Campatelli] both as to her responsibilities and duties as [r]egister, in the way she interacts with a number of staff, and in the general climate she has created in the office with respect to staff that fall into her disfavor.” Two days later, on March 5, Chief Justice Carey, Chief Justice Ordoñez, and Court Administrator Spence notified Campatelli by letter that, based on the conclusions of the investigator's report, they were “referring this matter to the Committee on Professional Responsibility for Clerks of the Courts” (committee).4 The letter directed Campatelli, while proceedings before the committee were pending, to remain on paid administrative leave and to refrain from any contact with the Suffolk County Division of the Probate and Family Court Department or its employees. Thereafter, Campatelli filed a complaint in the county court, seeking a judgment declaring that the three court officials were without authority to suspend her, and a preliminary injunction permitting her immediately to resume her duties as elected register.5 The single justice reserved and reported the case to the full court.6

Discussion. 1. Preliminary issues. Campatelli brings her complaint pursuant to G.L. c. 231A, and seeks declaratory and injunctive relief. There is no right to bring a declaratory judgment action against the judicial department. See G.L. c. 231A, § 2 (procedure for obtaining declaratory relief under c. 231A “shall not apply to the governor and council or the legislative and judicial departments”). Accordingly, at least with respect to Chief Justices Carey and Ordoñez, Campatelli's complaint is subject to dismissal. See Fathers & Families, Inc. v. Chief Justice for Admin. & Mgt. of the Trial Court, 460 Mass. 508, 509, 952 N.E.2d 914 (2011) (affirming dismissal of complaint against Chief Justice for Administration and Management of the Trial Court because “the declaratory judgment statute, G.L. c. 231A, prohibits any action for declaratory relief against the judicial department”). Court Administrator Spence, of course, is not a judge and does not exercise judicial authority, although as the Court Administrator, he is part of the “judicial department.” Nevertheless, we do not need to resolve whether declaratory relief under c. 231A is available with respect to him,7 because Campatelli, apparently acknowledging that (at least as to some of the court officials) she may not pursue such relief, requests this court to consider her complaint as a petition for relief brought under G.L. c. 211, § 3.

The case raises important issues concerning the proper administration of the judicial branch. Given this court's statutory authority of “general superintendence of the administration of all courts of inferior jurisdiction,” G.L. c. 211, § 3, and our “inherent common law and constitutional powers to supervise the administration of justice,” Foley v. Lowell Div. of the Dist. Court Dep't, 398 Mass. 800, 804, 501 N.E.2d 1151 (1986), it is appropriate, as Campatelli requests, to consider her complaint as a petition brought under G.L. c. 211, § 3, and to decide the case on its merits. See First Justice of the Bristol Div. of the Juvenile Court Dep't v. Clerk–Magistrate of the Bristol Div. of the Juvenile Court Dep't, 438 Mass. 387, 391, 780 N.E.2d 908 (2003) (First Justice ) (court determined it appropriate to decide case pursuant to G.L. c. 211, § 3, where it “concerns an internal dispute between members of the judicial department, ․ raises important issues with implications for the effective administration of justice, ․ and states an important matter of public interest that may cause further uncertainty within the courts” [citations omitted] ).

2. Authority to suspend with pay. The essence of Campatelli's argument is that the three court officials cannot suspend her (or place her on administrative leave) with or without pay, because the Legislature has vested the authority to take such action solely in this court under G.L. c. 211, § 4. More specifically, she argues that the office of register of probate is one that exists as a result of legislative action, see Opinion of the Justices, 117 Mass. 603, 603–604 (1875); St. 1856, c. 173, § 1, and because of this fact, neither the office of register nor Campatelli as its occupant is subject to regulation by any exercise of inherent judicial authority. Rather, only the Legislature can prescribe whether and how suspension and removal may take place, and the Legislature has done so by enacting c. 211, § 4, which places authority over both exclusively with this court. Accordingly, the argument goes, because this court has not taken any action under c. 211, § 4, to suspend Campatelli or even to ratify the suspension ordered by the respondents, her suspension must be terminated and she must be reinstated immediately to her position as register.

We disagree with Campatelli on two separate grounds. First, as we shall explain, G.L. c. 211, § 4, does not provide the sole legislative authority to suspend with pay a register of probate, and each of the three court officials possesses statutory authority to do so under different provisions of G.L. c. 211B. See G.L. c. 211B, §§ 9, 9A, and 10. Second, consistent with these statutory provisions, the inherent judicial authority possessed by Chief Justices Carey and Ordoñez includes the authority to suspend a register of probate with pay when necessary for the proper administration of justice.8

a. Statutory authority. i. G.L. c. 211, § 4.9 It is important to note at the outset of this discussion of G.L. c. 211, § 4, that the precise issue before us in this case is the authority of the three court officials to suspend with pay—or place on paid administrative leave—a register of probate pending an investigation into allegations of professional misconduct and proceedings before the committee. General Laws c. 211, § 4, expressly vests the authority in a majority of the justices of this court to remove, among other officials listed in the section, a register of probate from her position.10 See Matter of Powers, 465 Mass. 63, 82, 987 N.E.2d 569 (2013) (“the Legislature, by statute [G.L. c. 211, § 4], has given this court the exclusive authority to remove clerks of court”). Nonetheless, we have interpreted this statute to include the power to suspend. See McGonigle v. The Governor, 418 Mass. 147, 151, 634 N.E.2d 1388 (1994) (“Although [c. 211, § 4,] does not specifically enumerate the authority to suspend ․, it is clear that the power to remove an official includes within it the authority to suspend that individual”). Campatelli contends that McGonigle stands for the proposition that, as with the power to remove, c. 211, § 4, also vests exclusive authority in a majority of the justices of this court to suspend a public official named in that statute, including a register. Therefore, she argues, the three court officials unlawfully encroached on this court's authority by placing Campatelli on paid administrative leave.

Campatelli's reading of G.L. c. 211, § 4, is not correct. That this court's exclusive power of removal under the statute includes the power to suspend does not, by itself, mean that the Legislature intended the court also to have the exclusive power to suspend. In other words, although the lesser power to suspend is an intrinsic incident of the greater power to remove, see McGonigle, 418 Mass. at 151, 634 N.E.2d 1388; Tobin v. Sheriff of Suffolk County, 377 Mass. 212, 214, 385 N.E.2d 972 (1979) (considering G.L. c. 221, § 72), that fact says nothing about what the Legislature intended, in enacting § 4, with respect to who may exercise the power of suspension—especially where, as McGonigle, supra, states, § 4, by its terms, does not mention suspension or the power to suspend. In arguing otherwise, Campatelli makes an analytical leap that is unsupported by the language of c. 211, § 4, and logic. Because § 4 does not restrict the authority to suspend a register of probate with pay to the justices of this court, we consider the statutes on which the three court officials rely for their authority to do so.

ii. G.L. c. 211B. Originally enacted in 1978 as part of a significant effort to improve the administrative capacity and operations of the courts, G.L. c. 211B, among other things, creates an administrative organization of the Trial Court and delineates administrative powers and duties of chief justices and certain nonjudicial officers and employees within it. See St.1978, c. 478, § 110. The three court officials contend that various provisions of c. 211B, most recently amended in 2011, see St.2011, c. 93, authorize them to suspend Campatelli with pay: Chief Justice Carey locates her authority in c. 211B, § 9 (xxiii) (§ 9 [xxiii] ); Court Administrator Spence locates his in c. 211B, § 9A (xii) (§ 9A [xii] ); and Chief Justice Ordoñez in c. 211B, § 10(vi) (§ 10[vi] ). We consider the scope of each court official's authority under the cited statutory provisions, beginning with Court Administrator Spence.

A. Court Administrator Spence, G.L. c. 211B, § 9A (xii). As “the administrative head of the trial court,” Court Administrator Spence is “responsible for the management of court personnel, facilities, administration, security, and court business and shall ․ have the authority necessary to carry out these responsibilities.” G.L. c. 211B, § 9A, second & third pars., as amended by St.2011, c. 93, § 52. To that end, § 9A vests significant administrative authority in him. See G.L. c. 211B, § 9A, first par. (Court Administrator has “general superintendence of the administration of the trial court, including, without limitation, the improvement of the administration of such courts and the securing of their proper and efficient administration”). Among the Court Administrator's specific enumerated powers are those found in § 9A (xii), which grants him the power to impose discipline, including suspension with pay, on employees and officers of the Trial Court; includes two provisos allowing him to transfer nonjudicial personnel; and includes in a separate sentence a third and final proviso (final proviso) stating that “this provision shall not apply to a ․ register of probate.”11

The parties disagree over the meaning of this final proviso. Pointing to the fact that § 9A (xii) deals first with discipline of Trial Court nonjudicial employees and, thereafter, separately, with transfer of such personnel, the three court officials argue that the final proviso's placement at the end of the second sentence in the subsection makes clear that this proviso is concerned solely with a “provision” in that second sentence addressing permanent transfers, and not with the earlier discipline provisions. In their view, because the final proviso is in the second sentence of § 9A (xii), and “bears no grammatical relation” to the subsection's first sentence—which contains the grant of authority to “impose discipline,” including suspension with pay—the proviso does not restrict the Court Administrator's authority to suspend with pay a register of probate. Campatelli argues that the final proviso applies to the whole of § 9A (xii), and therefore bars the Court Administrator from both transferring and disciplining a register of probate such as herself.

“Our primary duty in interpreting a statute is ‘to effectuate the intent of the Legislature in enacting it.’ ” Water Dep't of Fairhaven v. Department of Envtl. Protection, 455 Mass. 740, 744, 920 N.E.2d 33 (2010), quoting International Org. of Masters v. Woods Hole, Martha's Vineyard & Nantucket S.S. Auth., 392 Mass. 811, 813, 467 N.E.2d 1331 (1984). When the meaning of statutory language is plain and unambiguous, our obligation is to interpret the statute according to its words. See Thurdin v. SEI Boston, LLC, 452 Mass. 436, 444, 895 N.E.2d 446 (2008) (“Ordinarily, where the language of a statute is plain and unambiguous, it is conclusive as to legislative intent”). The meaning of the final proviso in § 9A (xii), however, is distinctly not plain and unambiguous; as the differing interpretations advanced by the parties reflect, the subsection on its face does not make clear whether the Legislature intended the final proviso to apply only to § 9A (xii)'s provisions regarding transfer, or to the entire subsection. Accordingly, “we consider ‘the cause of [the statute's] enactment, the mischief or imperfection to be remedied and the main object to be accomplished, to the end that the purpose of its framers may be effectuated.’ ” Water Dep't of Fairhaven, supra at 744, quoting DiFiore v. American Airlines, Inc., 454 Mass. 486, 490, 910 N.E.2d 889 (2009). To that end, we look to its legislative history. See Sullivan v. Chief Justice for Admin. & Mgt. of Trial Court, 448 Mass. 15, 24, 858 N.E.2d 699 (2006), quoting Murphy v. Bohn, 377 Mass. 544, 548, 387 N.E.2d 119 (1979) (“Statutes are to be interpreted, not alone according to their simple, literal or strict verbal meaning, but in connection with their development, their progression through the legislative body, the history of the times, [and] prior legislation”).12

The current version of G.L. c. 211B, § 9A (xii), was enacted in 2011. See St.2011, c. 93, § 52. The 2011 legislation essentially restructured the system of administration and management of the Trial Court, and in the process reorganized many of the provisions of G.L. c. 211B. See St.2011, c. 93, §§ 49–61. According to the legislative leaders, this initiative was part of a comprehensive court reform effort “focused on providing the Commonwealth with the most efficient and cost-effective infrastructure for the disposition of justice.” Court Reorg, Hiring Reform Compromise Teed Up for Friday Session, State House News Service (July 28, 2011) (quoting joint statement of Speaker of House of Representatives Robert DeLeo and Senate President Therese Murray). A key component of these changes was the elimination of the position of the Chief Justice for Administration and Management of the Trial Court (CJAM) that had concentrated all the judicial, administrative, and managerial powers and duties in one person, and the replacement of that single position with two new positions of Chief Justice of the Trial Court (CJTC) and Court Administrator.13 See G.L. c. 211B, §§ 1, 6, as amended by St.2011, c. 93, §§ 49, 52. In creating these two new positions, the Legislature divided the exact set of powers and duties that the CJAM alone had held between the new CJTC and Court Administrator. Through this process, the statutory authority formerly vested in the CJAM to discipline and transfer officers and employees of the Trial Court under G.L. c. 211B, § 9 (xxii), as inserted by St.1992, c. 379, § 77 (former § 9 [xxii] ),14 was transferred essentially word for word to the Court Administrator and set out as the new G.L. c. 211B, § 9A (xii) (quoted in note 11, supra ). Accordingly, because the ambiguous final proviso within the current § 9A (xii) originated in the former § 9 (xxii), we look to the legislative history of former § 9 (xxii) to help understand and resolve the ambiguity.

The former § 9 (xxii) was enacted as part of an earlier court reform effort undertaken by the Legislature in 1992. One, if not the central, feature of the 1992 legislation was the replacement of the position of Chief Administrative Justice of the Trial Court—a position created in court reform legislation passed in 1978, see St.1978, c. 478, § 110—with the CJAM position to emphasize the position's management role. See St.1992, c. 379, §§ 69, 73, 77.15 The legislative history of St.1992, c. 379, shows that the Legislature intended the CJAM to possess the authority both to discipline and transfer nonjudicial officers and employees of the Trial Court, and that the disciplinary authority expressly included the ability to impose suspension. This is evident from language in early versions of the bill that ultimately became c. 379, language that remained essentially unchanged as it moved through the House of Representatives and the Senate in late 1992. See 1992 House Doc. No. 5944, § 106 (authorizing CJAM to “impose discipline on such officers and employees [of the Trial Court], including dismissal and suspension with or without pay.” [emphasis added] ).16 See also 1992 House Doc. No. 6232, § 102 (adopting same); 1992 House Doc. No. 6210, § 98 (adopting same). Significantly, in each of the bills, the topics of discipline and transfer were dealt with in separate clauses and subclauses, and the only limitation regarding the CJAM's authority over the register of probate appeared within a separate subclause addressing transfer, not discipline.17

After 1992 House Doc. No. 6232 passed the House of Representatives and moved to the Senate on November 18, 1992, it was succeeded by additional versions, in which the language of the proposed § 9 (xxii) changed. See 1992 Senate Doc. No. 1783, § 68; 1992 Senate Doc. No. 1788, § 68. In these Senate versions of the legislation, the final proviso that is the source of the ambiguity we find in the current § 9A (xii) first appeared. But it is clear from the text and sentence structure of these Senate bills that (1) the changes that the Senate made to the proposed legislation it had received from the House all concerned the CJAM's authority to transfer nonjudicial personnel in the Trial Court, and not the authority to discipline; and (2) the final proviso, with its exception for elected and appointed clerks, clerk-magistrates, registers, and recorders, was intended to apply only to the provisions dealing with transfers of personnel—and, it appears, only permanent transfers at that—not with the entire subsection.18

Following the Senate's vote on December 23, 1992, a conference committee was appointed, and on January 5, 1993, that committee reported out a new bill that was passed by both branches of the Legislature and signed by the Governor on January 13, 1993, as St.1992, c. 379. Former § 9 (xxii) was enacted as part of this legislation, see St.1992, c. 379, § 77.19

The language of former § 9 (xxii), as enacted by St.1992, c. 379, § 77, is by no means a model of clarity. Considered in light of the history of its passage through the Legislature, however, we are persuaded that the final proviso in it was intended by the Legislature to ensure that the CJAM would not be authorized to transfer—at least on a permanent basis—any elected or appointed clerk, register of probate, or recorder. This proviso does not apply in any manner to the unambiguous directive in the first part of the first sentence of § 9 (xxii), stating that “when necessary to ensure the proper administration of justice,” the CJAM was authorized to “impose discipline” on nonjudicial “officers and employees” of the Trial Court, including suspension.

We return to this case. Because the Legislature transferred to the Court Administrator in substantially identical form the authority to impose discipline vested in the CJAM by the former § 9 (xxii), and informed by the legislative history of that earlier subsection, we conclude that the Legislature intended § 9A (xii) to vest in the Court Administrator the same statutory authority to discipline officers and employees of the Trial Court that it had given to the CJAM in 1992. Accordingly, Court Administrator Spence acted within his authority under § 9A (xii), when he placed Campatelli on paid administrative leave on March 5, 2014.

B. Chief Justice Carey, G.L. c. 211B, § 9 (xxiii). As the CJTC, Chief Justice Carey is “the policy and judicial head of the trial court of the commonwealth,” and has “general superintendence of [its] judicial policy ․ including, without limitation, the improvement of the administration of such courts.” G.L. c. 211B, § 9, first and second pars., as amended by St.2011, c. 93, § 52. Her statutory powers to carry out these functions are further enumerated in the twenty-three subsections of c. 211B, § 9.

We have reviewed previously the 2011 amendment to G.L. c. 211B that eliminated the position of CJAM, created an administrative and management structure for the Trial Court led jointly by the new CJTC and Court Administrator, and reallocated many of the CJAM's former powers to the Court Administrator including the authority to discipline and, in particular, to suspend employees and officers of the Trial Court. Focusing on the 2011 amendments of c. 211B, §§ 9 and 9A, Campatelli contends that there is no statutory power currently listed or described in the current version of § 9 that purports to authorize Chief Justice Carey to suspend a register of probate, or that even touches on this topic. Campatelli is correct, insofar as a direct legislative statement of authority goes. But Chief Justice Carey argues, and we agree, that in § 9 (xxiii), the Legislature has expressly recognized her inherent judicial power, and that inherent power includes the authority to discipline and, in particular, to suspend with pay an officer or employee of the Trial Court.

General Laws c. 211B, § 9, provides:

“The chief justice of the trial court ․ shall have the authority necessary to carry out [her] responsibilities including, but not limited to, the following:—


“the authority to exercise any inherently judicial power not otherwise specified in this section; provided, however, that nothing in this section shall authorize the chief justice to exercise any power reserved to the full court.”

As we discuss hereafter, the CJTC possesses the inherent judicial authority to “control and supervise personnel within the judicial system.” First Justice, 438 Mass. at 397, 780 N.E.2d 908, and this inherent authority encompasses the power to suspend with pay a register of probate when the effective administration of justice so demands. See id. at 397–398, 780 N.E.2d 908. Section 9 (xxiii) essentially incorporates the inherent judicial authority of the CJTC just described into the panoply of statutory powers that § 9 sets out. Accordingly, there is indeed a statutory basis in § 9 for Chief Justice Carey's suspension of the register on March 5, 2014.20

C. Chief Justice Ordoñez, G.L. c. 211B, § 10(vi). In addition to the authority that the CJTC and Court Administrator have over administration of the Trial Court, the chief justices of the several Trial Court departments are “responsible for the operation of their department, its clerks, other officers and employees.” G.L. c. 211B, § 10, first par., as amended by St.2011, c. 93, § 52. Section 10 enumerates the statutory powers and duties of the departmental chief justices, and therefore Chief Justice Ordoñez. Among those listed is the authority to impose discipline on officers and employees within Chief Justice Ordoñez's department, including suspension with or without pay. G.L. c. 211B, § 10(vi).21

The language of § 10(vi) in substance is essentially identical to that of § 9A (xii), concerning the power of the Court Administrator; of particular relevance here is that § 10(vi) contains the same ambiguous final proviso concerning elected and appointed clerks, clerk-magistrates, registers of probate, and recorders as § 9A (xii). And, as is true of § 9A (xii), the language of § 10(vi) finds its origins in the 1992 court reform legislation, St.1992, c. 379, that we considered in connection with the discussion of the Court Administrator, see part 2.a.ii.A, supra. See also G.L. c. 211B, § 10(v), as inserted by St.1992, c. 379, § 79, which is almost identical to the current § 10(vi).22 Significantly, it is almost identical as well to the former § 9 (xxii), as inserted by St.1992, c. 379, § 77.

The point we draw from these various connections is that the legislative history of St.1992, c. 379, reviewed at length supra, is relevant to the task of understanding the ambiguous final proviso in G.L. c. 211B, § 10(vi). As was the case with the Court Administrator, that legislative history indicates that the final proviso in § 10(vi) refers only to provisions in that subsection concerned with transfers of nonjudicial officers and employees of the Trial Court—not with discipline.

Campatelli also argues that our interpretation of § 10(vi) ignores the additional limitations imposed on Chief Justice Ordoñez's disciplinary authority in G.L. c. 211B, § 10(i) (§ 10[i] ). In particular, Campatelli asserts that, even if § 10(vi) authorizes Chief Justice Ordoñez to suspend Campatelli, the Chief Justice may not do so here because of § 10(i), which, Campatelli argues, limits the Chief Justice's authority to discipline to those disputes that are first raised between a first justice and the register of probate.23 She claims that because no dispute was ever raised between Campatelli and the first justice of the Suffolk County Division of the Probate and Family Court Department, Chief Justice Ordoñez had no authority to suspend Campatelli under § 10(vi) in December of 2013, or in January or March of 2014. We disagree.

First, notwithstanding § 10(i), nothing within the plain language of § 10(vi), or its legislative history, indicates that any formal dispute must be raised before the Chief Justice may exercise her authority to suspend under § 10(vi). Section 10(vi) contains no mention of a “dispute,” and its own implicit recognition of the Chief Justice's inherent judicial authority to impose discipline “to ensure the proper administration of justice” is inconsistent with such a procedural limitation. Section 10(i) does not alter our conclusion that Chief Justice Ordoñez acted within the bounds of her authority pursuant to § 10(vi) when suspending Campatelli.24

b. Inherent judicial authority. As the foregoing discussion reflects, all three court officials possessed statutory authority to suspend Campatelli or place her on paid administrative leave. Chief Justices Carey and Ordoñez assert that the suspension of Campatelli with pay pending the investigation of her conduct constitutes a proper exercise of their inherent judicial authority that exists apart from any grant of statutory authority.25 Campatelli disagrees, asserting that because the office of register of probate is “created and defined by statute,” her position is subject to the exclusive control of the Legislature such that she cannot be disciplined by any exercise of inherent judicial authority. Other than her attempt to ground this argument in her erroneous interpretation of G.L. c. 211, § 4, discussed previously, she cites no authority, and provides no explanation of why this is so. It is not.

Among the fundamental principles embedded in the Massachusetts Declaration of Rights is the right to prompt and impartial administration of justice. See arts. 11 and 29. See also First Justice, 438 Mass. at 396–397, 780 N.E.2d 908. “It is from these lofty principles that flows the concept of inherent judicial powers, ‘whose exercise is essential to the function of the judicial department, to the maintenance of its authority, [and] to its capacity to decide cases.’ ” Id. at 397, 780 N.E.2d 908, quoting Gray v. Commissioner of Revenue, 422 Mass. 666, 672, 665 N.E.2d 17 (1996). “Although inherent [judicial] powers may be recognized by statute, they exist independently, because they ‘directly affect ․ the capacity of the judicial department to function’ and cannot be nullified by the Legislature without violating [the separation of powers principles of] art. 30.” First Justice, supra, quoting Opinion of the Justices, 279 Mass. 607, 613, 180 N.E. 725 (1932).

The scope of inherent judicial authority must be broad enough to allow judges to perform core functions necessary for the proper administration of justice. As the Legislature explicitly and implicitly has recognized in both §§ 9 (xxiii) (CJTC) and 10(vi) (departmental chief justice), respectively, that authority necessarily extends beyond traditional adjudication to include “certain ancillary functions such as rule-making and judicial administration, which are essential if the courts are to carry out their constitutional mandate,” First Justice, 438 Mass. at 397, 780 N.E.2d 908, quoting O'Coins, Inc. v. Treasurer of the County of Worcester, 362 Mass. 507, 510, 287 N.E.2d 608 (1972), including the authority “to control and supervise personnel within the judicial system,” First Justice, supra, and the “power ‘to control ․ the actions of officers of the court and the environment of the court.’ ” Id. at 397–398, 780 N.E.2d 908, quoting Chief Admin. Justice of the Trial Court v. Labor Relations Comm'n, 404 Mass. 53, 57, 533 N.E.2d 1313 (1989). We previously have held that for clerks and assistant clerks, whose duties are “inextricably related to the work of the courts” and “essential to [their] effective functioning,” it is “imperative that a judge possess inherent authority to ensure that [they] perform their jobs faithfully and in a professional manner” and “are qualified and possess the skills and competence to enable them to perform their duties ․ in conformity with governing statutes, rules, orders, and standards of accountability.” First Justice, supra at 398–399, 401, 780 N.E.2d 908. See Powers, 465 Mass. at 82, 987 N.E.2d 569. Similarly, because a register's duties are also “in the main concerned with administering justice,” Retirement Bd. of Somerville v. Buonomo, 467 Mass. 662, 670 (2014), quoting Opinion of the Justices, 300 Mass. 596, 598, 14 N.E.2d 465 (1938), and are integral to the successful operation and functioning of our courts, see First Justice, supra at 398–399, 780 N.E.2d 908, those principles apply with equal force here.26 Cf. Matter of Antonelli, 429 Mass. 644, 649, 711 N.E.2d 104 (1999) (removal of register of probate is “closely connected with judicial business and does not involve the exercise of a nonjudicial function”). The decision to suspend Campatelli with pay falls well within the inherent judicial authority of Chief Justices Carey and Ordoñez “to control and supervise personnel within the judicial system.” First Justice, 438 Mass. at 397, 780 N.E.2d 908.

3. Preliminary injunction. When she filed her complaint in the county court, Campatelli filed with it a motion for a preliminary injunction, seeking an order that would immediately permit her to resume performing her duties as register of probate. The single justice reported the case to the full court without decision, including the request for preliminary injunctive relief. Campatelli has not addressed that request in her brief, and we therefore treat it as waived. In any event, as the previous sections of this opinion indicate, Campatelli's legal claim here has not prevailed, and the absence of a likelihood of success on the merits of her case defeats the request for preliminary injunctive relief. See, e.g., Berrios v. Department of Pub. Welfare, 411 Mass. 587, 598, 583 N.E.2d 856 (1992).

Conclusion. The case is remanded to the single justice for the entry of a suitable judgment in accordance with this opinion.

So ordered.


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