AMHERST, Mass. - Proposed new rules governing how cases will be handled by the Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination (MCAD) are available on the Internet for the first time, thanks to a collaboration between the University of Massachusetts Center for Information Technology and Dispute Resolution and the MCAD.
The proposals were posted in February. Since then, more than 800 visits have been made to the site, according to Ethan Katsh, professor of legal studies and director of the center. Katsh and Jerrold S. Levinsky, acting general counsel to the MCAD and an adjunct assistant professor in legal studies at UMass, began looking for new ways to use Internet technology after Levinsky put an interactive version of his course syllabus online last fall. At that time, Levinsky says, he was working on the proposed MCAD regulations, so they decided to try posting those on a web site linked to the UMass legal studies department.
"Our intention was to dramatically increase the notice and comment period," Levinsky says. "It’s the first time the commission has done this and we believe the potential is tremendous for greater use and reliance on this technology." Levinsky says he has already received several dozen e-mail comments from the web site, plus many written responses.
Ordinarily, changes proposed in state regulations are publicized in the legal notices section of newspapers, the Massachusetts Lawyers Weekly, and the state register, Levinsky says. Lawyers and interested state officials use those sources to review and comment on the new rules. But by posting the new regulations on the Internet, the MCAD proposal has the potential to draw comments from a larger, more varied pool of people, Katsh and Levinsky say.
In addition to wider availability, the MCAD regulations on the Internet have been condensed and summarized in order to make them easier to read, Katsh says. "We decided that if we’re going to use this new technology, the regulations have to be written so that anyone will understand," Katsh says.
Levinsky said the MCAD will soon begin its formal comment period and publication of the proposal in the newspapers and the state register. After that, two public hearings will be held. After the public comment period, the commission will review all input before adopting revised rules, which will be posted on the Internet site.
The MCAD proposal web address is http://www.umass.edu/legal/mcadregs.html