The message from nine of the state's chief justices was clear
and consistent: budget cuts have forced them to do more with less,
and technology has helped keep on top of the mounting
That overview came during the "Hail to the Chiefs" bench-bar panel
moderated by Supreme Judicial Court Associate Justice Ralph D.
Gants. The panel wrapped up day one of the Massachusetts Bar
Association's Centennial Conference on May 18 at the Boston
"Where we go from here remains a good question," Chief Justice for
Administration and Management Robert A. Mulligan said after giving
an overview of the courts' $85 million in budget reductions since
fiscal 2009. Just one day earlier, the Senate Ways & Means
Committee released its fiscal 2012 budget, which funds the Trial
Court at $519.8 million, a $24.3 million cut. He suggested civil
cases will be affected.
"We're at the point where we are going to have to take measures,"
Mulligan said. "We will not be able to deliver justice at every
courthouse from 8 to 4 five days a week."
The Business Litigation Session should not be affected, however,
Superior Court Chief Justice Barbara J. Rouse said. In its eleventh
year, the BLS has firmer trial dates and is trying more cases. "The
BLS has actually gotten more effective and productive," she said.
"The bottom line is the BLS is alive and well, but we're feeling
Despite a shortage of assistant clerks, District Court Chief
Justice Lynda M. Connolly said, drug, gun, mental health and
veteran sessions still manage to expedite cases across the state.
"One of the most exciting and innovative things we do in the
district court are these specialty sessions."
The bar and the judiciary must work together and "speak with one
voice" to better educate the Legislature and public about the need
for adequate court funding, Boston Municipal Court Chief Justice
Charles R. Johnson said. "We see the bar as the most effective
advocate for the judiciary," he said. "Without the bar, we do not
have a voice."
Volunteer lawyers have really stepped up their level of generosity
during this time of fiscal constraint, Probate and Family Court
Chief Justice Paula M. Carey said. There are only three law clerks
for 51 judges, who are all overworked. Decisions are delayed and
some counties have no secretaries. "I can't thank you enough for
the work you do in our courts," she said. "It's tough out
Housing Court Chief Justice Steven D. Pierce wants some of those
volunteers to move over to his court, where more help is needed for
self-represented litigants and with the Lawyer for a Day and
Limited Assistance Representation programs, he said. "We need
lawyers in our courts for a list of reasons so justice is done,"
Technology is helping the Appeals Court work smarter and more
efficiently while it struggles with a growing caseload, Appeals
Court Chief Justice Phillip Rapoza said. The court is moving away
from paper to electronic transactions, and has two new pilot
programs; one that allows for filing civil dockets online and
another that accepts electronic payments on a limited basis, he
said. "The bleak picture is an opportunity for new technology to
help us to conduct our business," Rapoza said.
Efficiency is also the focus of changes at the Juvenile Court, and
among the items staff and judges are being trained on is
videoconferencing, said Juvenile Court Chief Justice Michael F.
These tough economic times have made a tremendous impact on the
Land Court, which is dealing with a large number of foreclosures,
Land Court Chief Justice Karyn F. Scheier said. At the peak, the
court was receiving 130 cases a day. That number has now dropped to
70 cases a day, but is expected to rise once the mortgage industry
completes its reform of the foreclosure process. "We're triaging
every day," said Scheier, who added that she does not believe
judicial foreclosure is the answer.
"Hail to the Chiefs" closed with a reception, where SJC Suffolk
County Clerk Maura S. Doyle received the MBA Public Service Award.
Doyle is the first woman to hold the position of SJC Clerk for
Suffolk County since the position's inception in 1692, and the
first woman to hold a Suffolk County-wide elected office.
A Suffolk University Law School graduate, Doyle is responsible for
managing the SJC's single justice caseload, appeals from state
registration boards and agencies, all matters concerning the
admission of attorneys to the Massachusetts bar and attorney