Lawyers Journal

Boston Municipal Court A message from Chief Justice Charles R. Johnson

The Boston Municipal Court Department serves a culturally vibrant and large urban population with diverse social and economic needs within the commonwealth’s capital city. The diversity of this clientele requires our judiciary and court personnel to serve indigent defendants as effectively as they serve financial and governmental institutions. I recognize that my administrative approach to meeting the challenges of delivering urban justice must exist within a paradigm of effective court management. I am committed to implementing management initiatives designed to increase accountability, measure performance and promote transparency to advance the court’s core mission to protect constitutional rights and ensure access to justice.

During the past year, the Boston Municipal Court Department, through its participation in the Trial Court’s Metrics Project, collected case disposition data that resulted in an empirically-based assessment of each court’s performance and identified areas in need of enhancement.

Consequently, the department instituted new business practices designed to improve the timely disposition of cases. Court personnel with specific expertise were relocated to courts that needed additional resources. Cases were transferred across divisional lines to facilitate timely access to trial by jury; specialized sessions dedicated exclusively to specific case types were established, including a prioritized firearms session and a mental health diversion session. In partnership with the Boston Bar Association and the pro bono services of many of its lawyers, the department significantly reduced civil case backlogs through the use of alternative dispute resolution services. MassCourts Lite, the Trial Court’s automated case management system, allowed the department to extract statistical case information for long-term planning and effective resource allocation.

At the request of Chief Justice for Administration and Management Robert A. Mulligan, the department undertook a metric initiative to measure “Access and Fairness” with a focus on constituent satisfaction, emphasizing the perception of individuals’ personal experience with the court. The final survey instrument consisted of three sections and was offered in English, Spanish, Vietnamese and Portuguese. Section I of the survey measured access to the court; Section II measured fairness; and Section III sought demographic information and specifics about the type of case that brought the respondent to the court. All eight divisions of the department participated in the survey. The committee collected more than 1,500 completed surveys from court users. This process enabled us to more clearly understand user perception of the courts and how we might improve upon the way we deliver justice.

In addition, the department videotaped all of its judges while presiding in their courtrooms and provided them with constructive feedback on how they were perceived by the public. We are confident that through videotaping, our judges will better appreciate the impact that effective courtroom presentation and demeanor have on the public’s perception of the administration of justice.

The department’s goals for fiscal year 2008 are to provide a wider array of young adult services, a comprehensive review of existing time standards, greater collaboration with the bar in formulating case flow management procedures, and a review of our business practices in an effort to achieve greater user satisfaction.

©2014 Massachusetts Bar Association