Probate and Family Court Chief Justice Paula M. Carey delivered
the "State of the Probate and Family Court" at the MBA Family Law
Section's 19th annual conference on Nov. 7 at the Chatham Bars Inn
on Cape Cod.
"We cannot compromise due process because of budget
constraints," Carey told the audience during her 30-minute address
on the second day of the Nov. 6 and 7 conference.
She spoke to the newly implemented Uniform Probate Code in
Massachusetts, resulting from key MBA-sponsored legislation signed
into law in January by Gov. Deval Patrick. According to Carey, this
measure simplifies and improves Massachusetts probate and trust
law. Carey described the UPC as "preserving the liberty and
interests of some of the most vulnerable citizens" and explained
that great lengths have been made in planning for its
implementation, including a designated subcommittee on the issue
and tapping the expertise of other states with similar
She spoke to the court's efforts to expand upon pilot efforts of
Limited Assistance Representation in Norfolk, Suffolk and Hampden
"Good things happen in our court," said Carey as she spoke of
the Probate and Family Court's outreach efforts with the community.
She touched upon informational sessions held in area community
colleges and high schools as a way to "demystify" the process of
the court system. She also spoke to the work of Associate Justice
Angela M. Ordoñez in getting off the ground a tiered mentor
program, administered by the MBA and involving judges and
attorneys, as well as law, undergraduate and high school students
(see story, page 1) .
She also thanked the group of volunteers who worked on the task
force to establish new child support guidelines. She specifically
praised the efforts of attorneys Fern Frolin and Marilynne Ryan for
their "extraordinary effort" in the process. She also commended
Chief Justice for Administration and Management Robert A. Mulligan
for his involvement and input during this project.
In addition, Carey explained that a Scheduling Task Force has
recently issued a report, which is currently out for comment from
She then devoted a good portion of her remarks to the "white
elephant in the room," or the budget crisis with which the
Massachusetts court system is faced. Carey described the crisis as
"very real" and added, "we all need to work together to deal with
Despite drastic budget cuts in the trial courts, Carey said "our
caseload has increased," noting that 158,000 cases annually have
grown to 165,000 cases in the last fiscal year. Carey is working to
develop a plan to prioritize cases.
She called on the bar to help advocate for the courts amid the
budget crisis. "If there ever was a time when we need you to help,
the time is now," said Carey, urging the lawyers in attendance to
call upon their legislators to thwart further cuts to the third
branch of government.
Carey's remarks were followed by four panels:
- Issues of Interstate Custody;
- The Hague Convention and Issues of International Custody;
- DOMA: What Hurdles Does DOMA Place in the Way of Same-Sex
Married Couples and Those Who are Divorcing; and
- Federal Tax Issues in Family Law.
The conference, attended by more than 140 attorneys from across
the commonwealth, was chaired by Family Law Section Co-Chairs
Thomas J. Barbar and Veronica J. Fenton.