House Speaker Robert A. DeLeo wants to transform the management
of the state's courts by hiring a professional business
administrator -- not a judge -- to handle all of its business
DeLeo announced his plan at a Boston Chamber of Commerce forum on
March 15, where he also stated his preference to keep the
scandal-ridden Probation Department under the authority of the
courts. Gov. Deval Patrick wants to place it under executive branch
"After having spoken with [Supreme Judicial Court Chief] Justice
[Roderick L.] Ireland and others … I believe that the functions of
Probation are properly within the judiciary and so, should remain
there. As the Harshbarger Report found, 'Probation officers act as
trusted advisors to the judge … helping to design and impose
probationary conditions that are most likely to help the offender
avoid both incarceration and re-offense.' This makes sense to
DeLeo's speech also addressed municipal employee health insurance,
gambling, hiring and tax policy, but he said the Probation
Department, and the judiciary in general, has consumed the bulk of
his attention recently. Legislation is being drafted, he said, that
would assign all business aspects of running the Trial Court
Department to "a professional, civilian court administrator with
substantial expertise in finance and management."
Those duties -- facilities management, personnel management,
accounting, capital planning, information-technology -- would be
best handled, he said, by "a person trained not as a lawyer but
instead, in the disciplines of business and management."
The separation of authority would allow the chief justices to
focus on running their courts, DeLeo said. Currently, Chief Justice
for Administration and Management Robert A. Mulligan oversees both
the legal and business duties of the Trial Court Department.
"In separating the judicial and business functions of the court,
the chief justices of each of the court departments will properly
maintain responsibility for all other core judicial functions, such
as monitoring caseload, assigning judges, judicial training and
judicial discipline," DeLeo said.
In a press release, the MBA applauded DeLeo's "thoughtful, bold
and decisive approach," saying it addresses more than 30 years of
recommended best practices by court management experts, including
an independent report it commissioned in 1991 and a 2003 court
"The MBA through its members has been in the forefront of every
debate surrounding judicial reform and legislation enacted during
the past 50 years," said MBA Chief Operating Officer and Chief
Legal Counsel Martin W. Healy. "Lawyers, judges, litigants and the
public deserve a system that is efficient and functions well.
Although the courts have made strides, so much more remains to be
accomplished. The tough economic climate, coupled with the recent
media and legislative scrutiny over the Probation Department,
provides a perfect opportunity to examine closely calls for greater
reforms. We look forward to working with the Legislature and the
courts to seek quick passage of court reform that includes a
professionally trained non-judicial court administrator."
DeLeo said he is encouraged that the judiciary and the Legislature
can work together.
"As I have been working closely with Justice Ireland, I believe
that tension is a thing of the past as both branches are squarely
focused on following the best practice in the administration of
justice," DeLeo said.
"As I have delved into this area, I have sought to learn from and
work closely with judicial leaders," he said. "My multiple meetings
with Chief Justice Ireland have been instructive and productive.
Largely because of what I believe to be a growing spirit of
partnership around problem solving, we are getting closer to
reaching the kind of consensus we need to assure excellence for our
entire court system. These discussions have informed my thinking,
as have the numerous independent reports and studies of the
Ireland and Mulligan released a joint statement March 16. "We
applaud Speaker DeLeo's efforts to work with court
leaders on issues regarding management of the courts," it said. The
statement noted that the current management structure was
established by legislation a generation ago, and said they "welcome
the challenge" of integrating management expertise for the courts'
"We are proud of the many reforms that we, and the Trial Court
Departments in particular, have made in court management since the
Monan Committee issued its report in 2003. We are committed to
improving the management of the courts in every way possible."