As the formal portion of the legislative session winds down, two
issues vital to the Massachusetts Bar Association remain unsettled
at the Statehouse.
Adequate funding for the court system remains a top priority for
the MBA. The MBA's recently released Crisis in Court
Funding Task Force Report captures stories of some every day
court users and how the funding crisis personally and drastically
Approximately 42,000 people use the court system every day,
excluding court employees and jurors. From July 1, 2007, through
May 10, 2010, the Trial Court lost 740 positions, a 9.7 percent
decline in staffing.
Staffing reductions combined with other budget cuts implemented
over the past two years have created backlogs and delays.
The House and Senate have now both passed their fiscal 2011
budgets and appointed a conference committee to work out the
differences between the two documents. The conference committee
budget cut the Trial Court accounts by $17.5 million from fiscal
On June 30, Gov. Deval L. Patrick vetoed an additional $11.4
million from the Trial Court's budget, bringing total cuts from
fiscal 2010 to $28.9 million. The Legislature will continue to meet
in formal sessions throughout July and the MBA will press for
overrides of the governor's vetoes.
The MBA has been an outspoken advocate on behalf of mandatory
minimum reform for a number of years. The House passed legislation
last month, which centers on reforms to the state's Criminal
Offender Record Information (CORI) laws. These reforms would
provide greater accuracy, seal records earlier and provide greater
clarity in these reports.
The Senate passed a broader version in November that, in
addition to reforming CORI laws, would grant parole eligibility for
certain nonviolent drug offenders and grant eligibility for work
release for those serving House of Correction sentences.
The MBA is supportive of and advocating for the Senate version
of the bill. Both bills are currently under consideration by a
conference committee appointed by both branches to work out the
differences between the two bills.
The Legislature will end its formal sitting on July 31, 2010.
After July, the Legislature will continue to meet in informal
sessions for the remainder of the year, where it is highly unlikely
that sentencing reform or other substantive measures will be