Chief Justice Roderick L. Ireland Focuses on Goals and Priorities in Annual Address to the Legal Community
In his annual address to the legal community, Supreme Judicial Court Chief Justice Roderick L. Ireland today focused on three major priorities of his tenure as Chief Justice: building bridges with key court constituencies; broadening access to justice by making courts more responsive; and educating the public, particularly youth, about the role of the judicial system. Speaking at the Massachusetts Bar Association's Bench Bar Symposium held in the John Adams Courthouse, Chief Justice Ireland reiterated his commitment to these goals and described the actions that are being taken to achieve them.
MBA President Robert L. Holloway, Jr. provided welcoming remarks and introduced the Chief Justice. Harry Spence, the new Court Administrator of the Trial Court, presented his initial perspectives on the state of the court system since his appointment to the position six months ago. Attorney Leo V. Boyle, past president of the MBA and former member of the Court Management Advisory Board, provided remarks on behalf of the bar. A special guest, District of Columbia Superior Court Magistrate Judge Kenia Seoane Lopez, was personally invited by Chief Justice Ireland to speak about her experience as a 1991 SJC Judicial Youth Corps student and how that program inspired her to follow a path that has led to an accomplished legal career.
Chief Justice Ireland spoke about the importance of cultivating positive relationships with key constituencies, including the legislative and executive branches. He also praised the Massachusetts Bar Association and other bar leaders in the state for their strong advocacy efforts to maintain adequate court funding.
"This year, although our budget is tight, we are beginning to reverse the drain on personnel that resulted from a multi-year hiring freeze. We are hopeful that the worst is behind us, and that we can start the process of addressing critical staffing needs for our courts," said Chief Justice Ireland.
He thanked the legislative leaders and Governor for their support. He mentioned the "two-way learning process" with legislators and others and lauded the new court education and informational training program geared specifically for legislative staff.
With respect to broadening access to justice by making the courts more responsive to the public, Chief Justice Ireland said that the Access to Justice Commission and Trial Court's Access to Justice Initiative are "going full steam." He cited the State Justice Institute grants that were awarded to the Trial Court to improve language access. He explained how technology advancements are improving court operations and how e-filing pilot projects to help litigants will be underway this year. He mentioned that the court websites are being redesigned to make them more understandable and navigable for the public. He also cited the progress of the strategic planning process that will pave the way to future improvements in the judicial system.
Chief Justice Ireland's third area of discussion focused on the importance of educating the public on the role of the judicial branch, especially young people. He described in detail the benefits of the well established Supreme Judicial Court's Judicial Youth Corps program designed for urban high school students. Started in 1991, the court education program provides young people with hands on learning about the courts through interactive group activities and summer internships in courthouses. More than 700 students have participated in the program since its inception. He praised the court employees who volunteer to supervise and mentor students in their court departments and thanked the judges, lawyers and employees who devote their time to teach the students about the importance of a rule of law and the judicial branch.
Chief Justice Ireland introduced D.C. Superior Court Magistrate Judge Kenia Seoane Lopez, a member of the first Judicial Youth Corp program in 1991. Judge Seoane Lopez gave an insightful and moving presentation of how the Judicial Youth Corps experience changed the direction of her life when she was just a teenager. Judge Seoane Lopez, a Cuban native, is the first Judicial Youth Corps alumna to be appointed to the bench, a position she attained this year.
In his concluding remarks, Chief Justice Ireland expressed his gratitude to the judges and court employees for their dedication to their mission and thanked the leaders of the other two branches of government for their continuing support of the judicial system.