Lawyers and judges from across the state will urge legislators this month to provide adequate funding for the court system as well as ensure access to justice for all citizens of the commonwealth.
This year's MBA-sponsored Lobby Day for the Courts will be held Tuesday, March 18 at 11 a.m. in Nurses Hall at the State House. Several prominent members of the bench and bar are scheduled to speak, including Chief Justice Margaret H. Marshall of the Supreme Judicial Court; MBA President Joseph P.J. Vrabel; Chief Justice of Administration and Management Barbara Dortch-Okara; and William J. Leahy, chief counsel for the Committee for Public Counsel Services (CPCS).
"Last year's MBA Lobby Day for the Courts was the pivotal event that brought the diverse constituencies of the bench and bar together at a time when many viewed the courts as drifting and non-responsive to the fiscal crisis," said Vrabel. "Court funding and access issues still remain critical concerns, and I call on all members of the association to join in this important - and effective - lobbying effort."
Marshall said funding the court system at an adequate level is imperative to preserving justice.
"The court system must have adequate funding to meet the minimum standards of fairness and justice guaranteed by our Constitution," Marshall said. "Justice for all will become an empty slogan if we cannot protect or meet the needs of citizens whose welfare and livelihood depend on an effective administration of justice.
"I commend the bar association leaders, lawyers, and interested citizens throughout the commonwealth who are voicing their concerns on Lobby Day in a concerted effort to inform legislators that the judiciary must have the necessary funds in order to deliver justice fairly and efficiently for all."
The day will begin with a brief speaking program, after which lawyers and judges will meet with their individual legislators throughout the State House. The program is expected to conclude around 1 p.m.
Lobby Day for the Courts will be held this year on the 40th anniversary of the landmark U.S. Supreme Court right-to-counsel decision of Gideon v. Wainwright. A number of county bar advocate programs and attorneys will be present to lobby for increased compensation for bar advocates.
Joining the MBA for Lobby Day for the Courts will be members of CPCS, which oversees legal representation to the indigent.
"We were hoping it would be on the anniversary of Gideon so we could call attention to the conditions that many of these privately assigned counsel attorneys work under, including the hourly rates that are paid, which are some of the lowest in the nation," said CPCS general counsel Anthony J. Benedetti.