Thursday, Jul. 7, 2011
From left to right: MBA's Standing Committee on Bar Advocates Chair Edward P. Ryan Jr., MBA President Denise Squillante, Committee for Public Counsel Services Chief Counsel Anthony Benedetti and Chief Operating Officer and Chief Legal Counsel Martin W. Healy address bar advocate representatives at a Feb. 7 meeting. Photo by Tricia Oliver.
State budget advances to Gov. Patrick’s desk
Last Friday, the Legislature enacted the $30.6 billion FY12
state budget. The product of weeks of deliberation by a conference
committee composed of members of both branches, the FY12 budget
provides pros and cons for the court system and other legal
The FY12 budget funds the trial court at $519.8 million, far
below the FY11 operating budget of $544.1 million and $85.3 million
below the FY09 appropriation. The courts are already faced with a
continuing hiring freeze and are down over 1,000 positions since
October 2008. Court leadership continues to aggressively pursue
every avenue where cost savings can be achieved. Rank and file
judges have forsaken pay by voluntarily participating in a pay
furlough. The impacts of this latest blow further deplete the
courts of already inadequate funding and resources.
Massachusetts Legal Assistance
The Massachusetts Legal Assistance Corporation was level funded
at $9.5 million for FY12.
Committee for Public Counsel Services
The FY12 budget calls for 25 percent of indigent criminal
defense cases to be assigned to Committee for Public Counsel
Services staff, while the remaining 75 percent will be assigned to
private counsel. This is a far cry from Gov. Deval Patrick's
proposal to shift to a system where 100 percent of cases would be
assigned to CPCS staff and case assignments to private counsel
would be eliminated. The MBA has long been a supporter of private
bar advocates in Massachusetts and has been an outspoken opponent
of the governor's proposal. The MBA will continue to fight for the
preservation of the Massachusetts private counsel system, which is
a nationally recognized model for the delivery of defense
The FY12 budget also changes the annual cap at which private
attorneys can accept new assignments from 1,400 to 1,350 hours and
lowers annual billable hours from 1,800 to 1,650.
Additionally, the budget mandates an interagency agreement
between the Probation Department and the Department of Revenue
regarding indigency verification.
The FY12 budget now awaits action by Gov. Patrick.