Chief Justice Mulligan updates MBA delegates

Issue January 2013

The Massachusetts Bar Association House of Delegates convened for the second time this association year at the MBA Boston offices on Thursday, Nov. 15, 2012. Featured guest speaker for the meeting was Chief Justice of the Trial Court Robert A. Mulligan.

Mulligan provided a cautiously optimistic update on the fiscal health and performance of the Massachusetts Trial Court to the MBA delegation. He explained that positions are being filled at a modest rate following the court's $561 million allocation in the Fiscal Year 2013 state budget. Although the years-long hiring freeze has been lifted, the current 6,266 current Trial Court positions represent a nearly 18 percent drop from the court's 7,629 filled positions in 2007.

He also addressed the forecasted expenses associated with the Department of Public Health Drug Lab scandal. According to Mulligan, the aftermath of this alleged mishandling of evidence will cost the courts $2.96 million for the remainder of FY13 and $5 million in Fiscal Year 2014.

In addition to personnel and other core expenses, Mulligan spoke about the court's clearance rates. A 95.6 percent clearance rate was realized in Calendar 2011, while a 95.3 percent rate was seen in CY12 (through the second quarter). In addition, since Fiscal Year 2008, case filings have decreased by 278,562 or 21.2 percent.

Mulligan also named Greenfield and Lowell as the communities next up to benefit from capital expenditures. The Greenfield Trial Court is budgeted at $60 million, while the Lowell Justice Center will cost $100 million. He also noted that Middlesex County is in need of a county-wide capital plan.

Following the Mulligan's presentation, action taken by the delegates at the meeting included:

A vote to support a draft resolution on emergency housing regulations in light of the current high housing costs and limited employment opportunities;

A vote to support Spousal Elective Share amendments to the Massachusetts Uniform Probate Code;

A vote to file legislation to amend the so-called "Three Strikes Rule;"

A vote to file amicus briefs in Johnson v. Kindred Healthcare and Licata v. GGNSC Malden Dexter; and

A vote to change the name of the General Practice, Solo & Small Firm section to The Sole Practitioner and Small Firm section.

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