As part of my testimony before the Joint Committee on the
Judiciary last month, the MBA stressed that the time has come for
the appointment of a professionally trained court administrator to
oversee all management functions of the Massachusetts Trial Court.
We were pleased to hear that House Speaker Robert DeLeo and Chief
Justice Roderick L. Ireland have filed court reform legislation
that includes this recommendation.
Such a move will bring to fruition more than 30 years of best
practices from the state and the nation.
For generations, the Massachusetts Bar Association's court
advocacy has steered court reform worthy of both patrons and
stewards of the legal system alike. The issue has remained high on
MBA presidential and legislative agendas over the years; and now,
in 2011, court reform is once again front and center.
The recommendation to enlist a management professional to oversee
the daily operations of the Trial Court has been a consistent
component to highly visible reports on court reform over the last
The call for modern court reform was ignited in the late 1970s
with the Cox Commission. The MBA was a key guest at the table
during those conversations, analyses and reporting. Although we
maintained an interest and lent a voice on court operations
following the Cox Commission throughout the 1980s, serious talks on
reform resurfaced in 1991 when the MBA spearheaded the
independently commissioned Harbridge House Report.
Then came the 2003 findings of the MBA Court Study Task Force and
the Supreme Judicial Court-appointed Visiting Committee on
Management in the Courts (more commonly known as the Monan
Commission), as well as the recent 2010 Report of the Court
Management Advisory Board.
A common thread to all of these was enlisting the expertise of a
court administrator to professionalize court management and
operations. The proposed change frees up judicial leaders to
provide more attention to judicial responsibilities that they were
selected to perform, rather than be bogged down with management
Speaker DeLeo's announcement on April 21 revealed that his
proposed bill calls for the Trial Court administrator to complement
a chief justice of the Trial Court, to replace the existing chief
justice for administration and management. Although the MBA has
long advocated for such a non-judicial administrator position to be
created, we have also stated our continued support of a chief
justice position in the Trial Court. There is an important role to
be played by both complementary positions, and we commend the Hon.
Robert Mulligan's leadership throughout his tenure as CJAM.
As with the tenets of Speaker DeLeo's legislation and those
included in the mentioned court reform reports, we must be
innovative in our approach to court management to ensure that we
have the most efficient and effective system possible. The citizens
of Massachusetts deserve that focus, as do we, as stewards of the