MBA testifies to keep Probation in judicial branch

Issue May 2011

Massachusetts Bar Association President Denise Squillante testified before the Joint Committee on the Judiciary on behalf of the MBA on March 30 to have the Probation Department remain in the judicial branch, and for the Legislature to pass sweeping court reform.

Squillante testified that the Probation Department crisis is a "mere symptom of larger structural management defects with the judicial system."

Following House Speaker Robert A. DeLeo's recent announcement of his intention to draft court reform legislation - including the hiring of a non-judge to oversee the courts' business operations, Squillante said the MBA looks forward to discussion of systemic court reform.

"We have a unique opportunity to accomplish meaningful reform of the court system. The time has come for the appointment of a professionally trained court administrator to oversee all management functions of the court system," Squillante said. "We must be innovative in our approach to court management to ensure that we have the most efficient and effective system possible."

Also representing the MBA, Executive Management Board member Lee J. Gartenberg spoke in favor of Senate Bill No. 708, which changes the language in General Laws chapter 279, section 3, from requiring imposition of a full suspended sentence upon revocation of probation to giving a judge additional options, including committing the defendant to community corrections, a graduated sanction or imposing all or any portion of the suspended sentence.

The legislation was drafted by the MBA following Commonwealth v. Holmgren, 421 Mass. 224 (1995). In Holmgren, the Supreme Judicial Court held that when a probation violator who has a suspended sentence is before a court for a surrender hearing, the judge can either keep the person on probation or impose the full suspended sentence