Supreme Judicial Court Chief Justice Ralph D. Gants Delivers State of the Judiciary Speech to Legal Community
BOSTON, MA -- The Hon. Ralph D. Gants presented his first annual address on the state of the judiciary to the legal community at the Massachusetts Bar Association's Bench-Bar Symposium in the John Adams Courthouse today.
Supreme Judicial Court Chief Justice Ralph D. Gants outlined four major initiatives in his speech, including a call to end minimum mandatory sentencing for drug offenses, a plan to compete against arbitration by ensuring that civil courts provide a menu of litigation options appropriate to each case, access to justice initiatives focused on the large number of self-represented litigants who need assistance navigating the court system, and improvements in the quality of jury voir dire to ensure a fair and impartial jury.
"The end of minimum mandatory sentencing for drug offenses would not mean the end of punishment and deterrence in drug sentencing. It would mean that individualized, evidence-based sentences will not only punish and deter, but also minimize the risk of recidivism by treating the root of the problem behind many drug offenses -- the problem of addiction," said Chief Justice Gants.
Regarding jury voir dire, Chief Justice Gants said, "By February 2015, when the new statute takes effect, there will be a provisional Superior Court standing order that will establish protocols for attorney voir dire, which will give attorneys a meaningful role in the selection of a fair and impartial jury."
Trial Court Chief Justice Paula M. Carey, Trial Court Administrator Harry Spence, and Massachusetts Bar Association President Marsha V. Kazarosian also delivered remarks.
"We are grateful to the bar and to our partners in the legislative and executive branches for a budget that enables us to move forward with initiatives we hadn't thought possible, such as Court Service Centers and specialty courts. This year, the Trial Court received $3 million dollars from the Legislature to fund nine additional specialty courts, bringing the number of specialty court sessions statewide to 35, which we are strengthening with training, a certification process, and creation of a Center of Excellence," said Trial Court Chief Justice Carey. "We are currently working to implement the provisions of the domestic violence legislation passed this year. The Trial Court’s Domestic Violence Education Task Force chaired by Judge Marianne Hinkle is developing a plan for comprehensive domestic violence training for all court staff and many external criminal justice partners."
"In the last two years, the development of the organizational infrastructure of the judiciary has advanced more rapidly than I ever would have predicted. Our human resource and training infrastructure is expanding and modernizing," said Trial Court Administrator Harry Spence. "The hiring process is now automated and professionalized and training for our staff has expanded dramatically. To achieve that goal, we will enter the world of online training, with mandated domestic violence training for all staff leading the way."
“This symposium is a great opportunity for the legal community, along with legislators and others who work so closely with us, to gather together for a common purpose," said Massachusetts Bar Association President Marsha V. Kazarosian. "The MBA looks forward to continuing to strengthen our relationships with our legal, judicial, and legislative partners as we work toward our common goal: providing access to justice for those who need it the most."
Chief Justice Gants was sworn-in as the 37th Chief Justice of the Supreme Judicial Court on July 28, 2014. He was first appointed to the Supreme Judicial Court in January 2009 as an Associate Justice. Prior to that, he served as an Associate Justice of the Superior Court since 1997. Chief Justice Gants has served as co-chair of the Massachusetts Access to Justice Commission since 2010, and has served as the Justice member of the Supreme Judicial Court's Standing Committee on Pro Bono Legal Services since 2011. He chaired the Standing Committee that revised the Model Jury Instructions on Homicide in 2013.