Massachusetts Bar Association leaders commended Chief Justice Robert A. Mulligan for the initiatives he has taken and are waiting to see what else he will accomplish this year.
"Chief Justice Mulligan cares deeply about the administration of justice," said MBA President Kathleen M. O'Donnell. "It is clear from his initiatives concerning judicial enhancement that he is committed to a quality judiciary. Additionally, he has focused on the efficient delivery of legal services by overseeing the development of time standards in every division of the trial court. The MBA thanks Chief Justice Mulligan for his commitment to our court system."
Judicial Administration Section Chair Marylin A. Beck said the section this year is working under the theme of fairness in the administration of justice. They are working on projects they expect to bring to the attention of Mulligan's and other court leaders in the coming months.
Among the projects the section is undertaking are establishing a uniform rules of evidence and specifically looking at which of the Proposed Rules of Evidence have been adopted and which have not. The section also is studying whether Massachusetts should adopt plain English jury instructions. Some states have adopted plain English jury instructions because they accept the premise that most juries can't absorb verbal instructions that are highly complex during the course of any given trial, said Beck.
One of the issues that will continue to be of concern to the Judicial Administration Section is the lack of resources in the court system.
"Clearly the court doesn't have the resources to handle all of the issues that need to be handled, and the bar association needs to get involved and help out," Beck said. "I think the goal for all of us is the fair administration of justice, to make sure justice is administered in a very fair, even-handed and consistent manner."
Beck said it is difficult to measure whether the Trial Court has improved significantly in the last year because it is too short of a time frame. However, she said the bench and the bar are doing their best to target problems and resolve them.
"I think all any of us can do is do our best and work at any issue that is in front of us, try to get one issue resolved at a time," Beck said. "And I think that's what Chief Justice Mulligan is doing. He is targeting issues that need resolution and prioritizing them, and I am sure he will move on to other issues once those are resolved."
Chris A. Milne, chair of the Civil Litigation Section, said he applauds Supreme Judicial Court Chief Justice Margaret H. Marshall in her selection of Mulligan for the position a year ago, because together with the Monan Commission Report they are identifying problems in the judiciary and coming up with solutions to fix them.
"Chief Justice Mulligan has taken over as CJAM at a time of crisis in the courts," Milne said. "There are a number of deep, systematic issues identified by the Monan Commission Report, which he is addressing. And he is doing that in an exemplary way, issue by issue. He is centralizing the command in the courts, dealing with the emergency situation as to security and laying out an intelligent blueprint for court facilities."
Family Law Section Chair Pauline Quirion noted that Mulligan and the Probate & Family Court should be commended for holding many public hearings and seeking a lot of input from the bar before adopting the Probate & Family Court time standards.
"The fact that the Probate Court and CJAM proceeded very carefully in developing the time standards and were so open to suggestions and feedback was quite impressive," said Quirion.
The standards went into effect on October 4.