Budd discusses court modernization, eliminating bias in annual address

Thursday, Nov. 17, 2022

SOJ Photo 5 - Group Shot -11-15-2022
From left: Trial Court Chief Justice Jeffrey A. Locke, Supreme Judicial Court Chief Justice Kimberly S. Budd, Massachusetts Bar Association President Grace V.B. Garcia and Trial Court Administrator John A. Bello at the 2022 State of the Judiciary Address.
Supreme Judicial Court Chief Justice Kimberly S. Budd discussed the future of court operations following the COVID-19 pandemic along with ongoing efforts to eliminate bias in the legal system as she delivered her Annual State of the Judiciary Address on Nov. 15. Sponsored by the Massachusetts Bar Association, the event was broadcast on a livestream from the John Adams Courthouse in Boston and featured a panel discussion moderated by MBA President Grace V.B. Garcia. 

Budd began her remarks by reflecting on the challenges of the pandemic and the actions taken by judicial leaders to maintain the flow of cases while in-person access to courthouses was restricted. After more than two years of periodically conducting virtual hearings and streamlining other court business, the courts will now work to determine which procedural changes instituted on a temporary basis should remain in place going forward, Budd said.

“As a result of this experience, we have learned a great deal about how we can harness technology and other procedural improvements to create a system that is more efficient, and that meets the needs of court users more effectively,” Budd said.  

To make the system more accessible and user-friendly, Budd said, the Trial Court plans to modernize all aspects of its technology infrastructure using $165 million in bond funding earmarked by the legislature earlier this year. 

Budd also highlighted the judiciary’s continued emphasis on addressing institutional inequities and other forms of bias within the commonwealth’s courthouses, and thereby ensuring equal treatment for all lawyers, staff and members of the public. She said that she and her colleagues remain mindful of the need to combat racial disparities in criminal sentencing, as identified in a 2020 Harvard Law School study, as well as instances of intolerance reported by affinity bar members in 2021.

“The SJC and the Trial Court have implemented several initiatives aimed at reviewing and improving the court system both as a workplace and as a public institution,” Budd said, later adding, “We know that the commitment to furthering the courts' anti-racism efforts must continue to be a priority.”

Prior to Budd’s address, Garcia opened the event with an outline of her year-long focus on “communication, collaboration and community” to support the administration of justice and respect for the rule of law. She noted that the MBA and the Trial Court have a deep-rooted partnership built on a common vision for the legal system, citing their joint advocacy for the IT bond bill and judicial pay increases. In addition, Garcia touted the recent establishment of five paid internships in the Trial Court for students in the MBA’s Tiered Community Mentoring Program.

“Time and time again, the MBA has partnered with the courts on our shared goals,” Garcia said. “Many recent efforts have been collaborative, and today is another example … As president this year, I hope to build on our strong relationship with the judiciary.”

To conclude the program, Garcia moderated a panel discussion that included Budd, Trial Court Chief Justice Jeffrey A. Locke and Trial Court Administrator John A. Bello. The panel answered questions submitted to the MBA by members of the bar, with topics ranging from the lessons of the pandemic to the status of case backlogs and diversity, equity and inclusion efforts.

Click here to view the 2022 State of the Judiciary Address.