Bar and court leaders talk funding with legislators in Salem

Thursday, Jan. 10, 2013
Article Picture
Top, left: MBA President Robert L. Holloway Jr. and BBA President James D. Smeallie. Top, right: Superior Court First Justice John T. Lu speaks as Rep. John D. Keenan (left) and Trial Court Chief of Staff Robert Panneton (right) listen. Middle (left to right): MBA Director of Policy and Operations Lee Ann Constantine; MBA President Robert L. Holloway Jr.; Sen. Joan Lovely; and Trial Court Administrator Harry Spence. Bottom, left: Salem District Court Clerk Brian Lawlor. Bottom, right: Trial Court Administrator Harry Spence addresses meeting attendees. Photos by Jeff Thiebauth.

Leaders of the Massachusetts Bar Association, Boston Bar Association and Trial Court coordinated an informational meeting with Essex County legislators at the Salem District Court on Monday, Jan. 7. The gathering was an opportunity to depict the local impact experienced from court funding cuts.

Following introductory remarks from bar leaders and Trial Court Administrator Harry Spence, clerks, judges and others based in the Salem courthouse spoke to the reality of understaffed departments.

MBA President Robert L. Holloway Jr. and BBA President James D. Smeallie spoke to the need for adequate funding of the courts, as the third branch of government.  "The MBA and BBA have been working mightily to make sure that happens," said Holloway.

Spence described the court staffing of 6,300 personnel as "simply not enough" given the workload. That theme was reinforced by other court leaders who shared their perspective. Salem District Court Clerk Brian Lawlor said, "The wave is continually coming in and there hasn't been much relief….good times will hopefully be coming."

Spence noted the further delays experienced due to pro se litigants. "A confused self-represented litigant is a delay in the process," he said. In an attempt to ease such delays, Spence announced the roll out of court service centers, a pilot initiative to better address the needs of pro se litigants.

Spence ended the speaking portion of the gathering by thanking the attending legislators for their work on appropriating FY13 funds to the court, explaining that because of their support, the courts will not have to reinforce the years-long hiring freeze.

Legislators in attendance at the meeting included Representatives John D. Keenan (D-Salem), Lori A. Ehrlich (D-Marblehead), Theodore C. Speliotis (D-Danvers), Jerald A. Parisella (D-Beverly) and Senators Kathleen O'Connor Ives (D-Newburyport) and Joan Lovely (D-Salem).