Trial Court Announces Opening of Fifth Court Service Center; 25,000 Court Service Center Users Since Inception in 2014
BOSTON, MA -- The Trial Court today announced that Court Service Centers are now operating in five courthouses across the state. The Trial Court’s hope is to locate one Court Service Center in each of the state’s 15 largest courthouses. The Court Service Centers are a key part of the Trial Court's mission to help people who are representing themselves in court to access the court system.
Court Service Centers provide resources to help members of the public and self-represented litigants navigate the court system. It is estimated that civil legal aid programs in Massachusetts turn away more than 60 percent of indigent clients who are eligible for civil legal aid and are seeking services due to a lack of adequate funding. Court Service Centers are one way that the court system is working to provide equal access to those who do not have attorneys. Earlier this month, the National Center for Access to Justice released its 2016 Justice Index, measuring how all fifty states, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico ensure equal justice for all. The Massachusetts court system ranked second in the nation overall, behind only the District of Columbia, and was ranked second in services for people without lawyers, due to the expansion of Court Service Centers across the state.
Trial Court Chief Justice Paula Carey and Trial Court Administrator Harry Spence will speak at the opening ceremony of the Springfield Court Service Center at noon on Friday, May 20th, located in the Hampden County Hall of Justice -- the fifth Court Service Center to open in the past two years.
“Like its counterparts, this newest Court Service Center in Springfield will provide a wide range of services tailored to the community it serves,” said Chief Justice Paula Carey. “The Massachusetts court system has experienced a dramatic increase in the number of people representing themselves in court over the past decade – especially for housing, small claims, and family-related matters. Court Service Centers are an essential part of the Trial Court’s ongoing efforts to provide greater access to justice for people with matters to bring before the court.”
In the last two years alone, there have been over 25,000 visitors to Court Service Centers across Massachusetts. In addition to Springfield, Court Service Centers are currently operating at five courthouses: Edward W. Brooke Courthouse in Boston; Franklin County Courthouse in Greenfield; Fenton Judicial Center in Lawrence; and the Worcester Trial Court Complex. An additional Court Service Center is planned for the Brockton Court Complex and is projected to open in the coming months. In April 2016, the Volunteer Lawyers Project of the Boston Bar Association presented the Trial Court with the with the Yvette C. Mendez Award in recognition of the role Court Service Centers have played in increasing access to justice for self-represented litigants.
“Court Service Centers are central to the work of the Trial Court, and go to the core of our mission to provide justice with dignity and speed,” said Trial Court Administrator Harry Spence. “The Justice Index ranking and BBA award for the work of the Court Service Centers are a sign that this work is really taking hold. However, there is much more to be done.”
Each Court Service Center provides resources and information that reflect the needs of the local communities they serve. Court Service Centers are staffed by attorneys employed by the Trial Court, with assistance from Trial Court law librarians, volunteer pro bono attorneys, college and law school students, and community volunteers. Employees and volunteers and provide neutral legal information; help filling out court forms in multiple languages; access to computers that connect to online resources; access to interpreter services and contact information for community resources, legal assistance programs, and social service agencies; and assistance with legal research.
All Court Service Centers are open during regular court hours: 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., Monday through Friday, except legal holidays, and are closed from 1:00 p.m. to 2:00 p.m.