Having taken in the recommendations of the so-called Monan Report, the court system will now focus on accomplishing those challenges, Supreme Judicial Court Chief Justice Margaret H. Marshall told judges and attorneys gathered Jan. 24 for the closing luncheon of Annual Conference 2004.
"We have recognized the need for change," Marshall said. "We have adopted an effective plan for change. Now comes the difficult task: the pragmatic challenge of getting the work done, and making sure that it is done well."
Marshall lauded newly appointed Chief Justice for Administration and Management Robert Mulligan as a strong leader who will fulfill the SJC's mandate: to take the recommendations proposed by the Visiting Committee on Management in the Courts and make them into "concrete actions."
Three of Mulligan's high priorities will be developing a court-staffing model; implementing time standards for each of the trial court departments; and developing performance-evaluation systems to measure and assist in the improvement of the delivery of services by every unit of every trial court. Mulligan also will establish a clear chain of command for the trial court.
Marshall said the court system will make the Monan Report a reality by benefiting from strong relationships with the legislature and governor's office. As an example, the chief justice pointed to the legislature's response in January to provide additional funds to the trial court.
"These are exciting times," Marshall said. "We have a blueprint for management reform. We have strong leaders who will implement that reform. But in truth, a revolution in the delivery of justice requires the sustained commitment of many."
Marshall praised the work of several initiatives in the court system, including the Massachusetts Appeals Court for posting case information on its Web site; continued emphasis on access to justice through the revamped Office of Court Interpreter Services; and the study of pro se issues through Steering Committee on Self-Represented Litigants.
Marshall also called the Reinventing Justice Project of the West Roxbury Division of the Boston Municipal Court one of the most innovative court-community partnerships in the country. Through the project, prosecutors, defense attorneys, legislators and members of community churches, schools and health centers work together to solve problems. The chief justice recognized the court First Justice Kathleen E. Coffey for her leadership.
Marshall also said the implementation of MassCourts, a comprehensive case-management system for the entire court system, will be a priority. Mulligan also will look at the conditions of the courthouses, studying courthouse construction and renovation in light of fiscal constraints.
Court system leaders will continue to address issues raised regarding judicial performance evaluations, delays in trial transcripts preparation and the need for increased compensation for judges as Massachusetts ranks 47th in how it pays judges.
Compensating public defenders, prosecutors and those who provide civil legal aid to the indigent will remain a concern as well, as more and more attorneys are not able to work in such fields due to low compensation and high law school debt.
"These are facts, facts of great concern to me," Marshall said. "I know they are of concern to you. These are the facts that directly affect both substantive justice, and the delivery of justice. I have elsewhere described what I call 'three pillars of justice': substantive justice, judicial administration and access to our courts. Together these three pillars hold up the temple of justice. We need to, we must, make sure that all three pillars are strong, lest the temple crumble."