The below is an excerpt from the Boston Globe's coverage of Court Advocacy Day at the Statehouse on March 19. Click here to read the full article.
Lawyers and judges warned lawmakers on Monday that budget constraints on the state's judiciary are imperiling the delivery of justice and compromising security in its courts.
Robert Mulligan, chief justice for administration and management, said a 17 percent reduction in court staff over the past four years has made it nearly impossible for the court system to keep pace with its caseload, but he said closing courthouses was "not on the table right now."
The Massachusetts Bar Association and the Boston Bar Association hosted a Court Advocacy Day at the Statehouse to lobby legislators to increase funding for the state's courts in the budget for the fiscal year starting July 1. The lawyers' group, backed by the state's top judges, said it was seeking about $25 million more than the $568 million that Democratic Gov. Deval Patrick has proposed in his fiscal 2013 spending plan.
Roderick Ireland, chief justice of the Supreme Judicial Court, acknowledged that virtually every aspect of state government had suffered budget cuts and been forced to compete for scarce financial resources over the past four years. But he said the courts hold a special role in society.
"The judiciary is not a program," Ireland said. "It is not an agency but a branch of government formed by our constitution."
The Massachusetts Bar Association has launched a statewide campaign to focus attention on the cuts, including billboards that suggest some courthouses may be forced to close without increased funding.
But Mulligan told reporters Monday that a moratorium against court closures will remain in place at least through July 1, when a new civilian administrator is expected to take over budgeting and other day-to-day management tasks for the trial court. The position was created under a court reorganization bill that was passed last year after a patronage scandal that rocked the state probation department.
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