Massachusetts Court System Dysfunctional
J.A.I.L. News Journal
Los Angeles , California March 9, 2003
Massachusetts Court System Dysfunctional
Globe AP Story
March 4, 2003
BOSTON -- The state's court system is mired in confusion, plagued by plummeting morale and so beset by poor management, it metes out "better j ustice" to some citizens than others, according to a scathing report released Tuesday.
The report, the product of a blue ribbon commission appointed by Chief Justice Margaret Marshall, recommended a series of sweeping reforms, including clearer administrative authority, tougher performance standards for lagging courthouses, and a more disciplined budget process.
The administration and management of the court system -- which includes the Supreme Judicial Court , Appeals Court and Trial Court -- is uneven at best and often "dysfunctional," leading to poor "customer service," according to the report. "The public wants reasonably priced, quick and courteous j ustice, but often receives the opposite," the report said.
The report also found that financial, organizational and managerial inequities in the j udicial system mean that some people receive better j ustice than others, even as courts' costs and staffing continue to grow.
From 1994 to 2002, the number of cases going through the court system remained about flat while costs j umped 79 percent and the number of workers increased by 25 percent -- even after the layoff of more than 700 employees last year, the report found.
To help solve the court's troubles, the Governor, Legislature and j udiciary must work together to create an administrative structure in the courts that guarantees accountability, the report said.
"The fundamental problem, simply put, is that no one really knows who is in charge at the local, regional or statewide level," said Boston College Chancellor J. Donald Monan, Chairman of the Commission.
The Commission also recommended the j udiciary adopt a "culture of high performance and accountability" and create tougher financial guidelines to make better use of every dollar. The report found that the way the j udiciary is structured creates some of the management problems.
Although the Supreme Judicial Court is the top court in the state, authority within the court system is controlled by the Governor or Legislature, making oversight more difficult, the report found.
Other recommendations in the report call for:
- Establishing standard costs for services:
- Tracking employees, managers and courts by efficiency, courtesy and timing;
- Publishing court rankings;
- Basing budgets and spending on current need, not historic trends;
The report comes j ust a week after Gov. Mitt Romney unveiled his state budget proposal, which includes sweeping changes for the courts, including consolidation of some courthouses.
The authors of the report say they hope Romney's recommendation will complement their own.
Comments by N.Y. JAILer-In-Chief Ron Loeber who sent this article:
Think about the words "customer service" and "[t]he public wants reasonably priced... justice". Those are words I would expect to hear from the management of a company which is in business for profit. And now they want to establish a price for justice. Whoa... stop the merry-go-round and let me get off.
Their "...costs jumped 79 percent and the number of workers increased by 25 percent even after the layoff of more than 700 employees...." Sounds like the solution to economic development to me. Note the mention of accountability is directed at the management of the court system, not the accountability of judges for their willful and malicious acts.
Comments by Ron Branson: We are told, "To help solve the court's troubles, the governor, legislature and judiciary must work together to create an administrative structure in the courts that guarantees accountability..." Ah, one would think this government would now be ripe for receiving the Judicial Accountability & Integrity Legislation (J.A.I.L.) prepared for them if they really want to get out of their predicament. I really doubt it, for they will undoubtedly consider J.A.I.L. too effective in getting the job done. I'm sure they would much rather play political football with this one. But, let's give this legislature a chance to show their integrity in their endeavor to clean up their state's judicial system. I am hereby asking our Massachusetts JAILers to test them at their word.
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