Additional Court Locations to Adjust Public Office Hours Five Southeast Housing Court Clerks' Offices Develop Staggered Schedule; Two District Courts Expand Adjustment from Three to Five Days
Five additional court locations will adjust the hours of their clerks’ offices beginning July 2, 2012, to accommodate staff reductions. Two courts will expand the adjustment of their hours from three to five days. Adjusted hours became effective on a temporary basis at various locations in September and currently 38 court locations adjust office hours to facilitate case processing.
The five permanent clerks’ offices that comprise the Southeast Division of the Housing Court -- Fall River, New Bedford, Brockton, Plymouth, and Taunton -- have created a staggered schedule that closes each office for two days a week. Court users may go to any of the five locations to conduct business. At least two of the five locations will be open for business on any given day.
Last year, the Housing Court’s Southeast Division opened a fifth session at the new courthouse in Taunton after many years of holding sessions in four locations to cover Bristol and Plymouth counties. Staff of the division travel among the locations on a regular basis and the new schedule will better balance the coverage throughout the region.
The five Housing Court locations will be open as follows:
Mondays: Fall River, New Bedford, Brockton, Plymouth
Tuesdays: Fall River, Brockton, Taunton
Wednesdays: Brockton, Taunton
Thursdays: Fall River, New Bedford, Plymouth
Fridays: New Bedford, Plymouth, Taunton
In addition, the Lawrence District Court will extend its restricted counter and phone coverage from three days to five days between the hours of 1:30 and 3:30 p.m. The Newburyport/Ipswich District Courts also will expand from three days to five days its restricted telephone coverage between 1:30 and 3:30 p.m.
The scheduling of court sessions is not affected by the changes in office hours and access is available for emergency matters. This reduction in counter and telephone hours provides uninterrupted time for staff to prepare cases for court sessions and execute court orders, as well as to complete filing, docketing, scanning and other case processing.
Current staffing levels, caseloads and public concerns about extended backlogs compelled the decision to adjust office hours. The Trial Court has lost 1,348 people, an 18 percent reduction in staff since 2007, causing delays in many courts.
Departmental chief justices have worked with strained local courts to develop plans that would minimize public inconvenience and avoid adverse impact on court users. Departments already have deployed a range of strategies to implement technology and share staff across courts, utilize administrative office staff and interns, and centralize some functions. The departments are monitoring the impact of the restricted hours to ensure its effectiveness in improving operations.
The decision to reduce hours at some locations means that during the specified hours staff will be unavailable to answer general telephone inquiries or to assist the public in the clerk’s office. Telephone messages and signage at each location will provide information about the adjusted hours and emergency access information. The judicial response system which provides round-the-clock coverage for emergency situations will be unaffected.
An updated list of courts with modified public office hours is attached.