CHIEF JUSTICE MARGARET H. MARSHALL CITES FIVE-YEAR
PROGRESS IN JUDICIAL ACCOUNTABILITY, ADMINISTRATIVE
REFORM, AND ACCESS TO JUSTICE
Boston, MA --- Citing specific accomplishments of the Massachusetts judicial branch in three major areas — judicial accountability, judicial administration, and access to justice — Supreme Judicial Court Chief Justice Margaret H. Marshall today said that substantial progress has been made to improve the judicial system during the past five years. Speaking to lawyers, judges, and other members of the Massachusetts Bar Association at their annual meeting held at the Marriott Copley Place Hotel, Chief Justice Marshall summarized improvements made in priorities that she announced in 2000, soon after her appointment as Chief Justice.
Today she also announced new court initiatives to be implemented soon in the areas of judicial enhancement programs for judges and the first web broadcasting of oral arguments at the Supreme Judicial Court in partnership with Suffolk University Law School.
Chief Justice Marshall credited Chief Justice for Administration and Management Robert A. Mulligan, the departmental Chief Justices of the Trial Court, judicial staff, the bar leaders and other lawyers, and legislators for their leadership, support, and work in carrying out the judicial reforms.
“Public trust is the backbone of an independent judiciary. Maintaining the public’s trust requires that judges adhere to the very highest standards of professional conduct. For me, judicial accountability and judicial independence are mirror images. Without one, we do not have the other,““ said Chief Justice Marshall.
Chief Justice Marshall stated that performance evaluations of more than 360 trial court judges by lawyers, court personnel, and jurors have been conducted in every county of the Commonwealth and that the overwhelming consensus of survey respondents is that most judges receive praise for their professional work. She said that Chief Justice Mulligan is beginning a new mandatory judicial enhancement program for the few judges who need improvement in aspects of judicial performance.
Chief Justice Marshall also said that “inadequate judicial salaries have a corrosive effect on our entire system of justice.“ She said “the time to make judicial compensation a priority is now“ and thanked the Legislature and Governor for the continued support of the Judiciary.
She said, “The judicial accountability of individual judges must go hand-in-hand with institutional accountability of the judicial branch for the expeditious and fair delivery of justice.“
Citing the critical assessment of the judicial branch in the Report of the Visiting Committee on Management of the Courts (the Monan Committee Report), Chief Justice Marshall said the Monan Committee Report “has guided profound and lasting changes in court management.“ She described several major reforms that have been implemented since the Monan Committee Report was released: criminal and civil time standards in every department of the Trial Court; the first-ever court Staffing Model Report with objective, accurate data used to allocate resources in a fair and equitable manner to courts throughout the state and used in making budgetary requests to the executive and legislative branches; and the implementation of MassCourts, the integrated information technology system, which will be used throughout the Trial Court. She also described “the thirst for administrative excellence“ in the accomplishments and goals of each of the seven Trial Court departments, led by the respective Chief Justices, and in the work of the clerks, registers, probation officers, and other employees.
“Each change will take time to implement and time to settle into the institutional culture of our courts. Our progress will require constant review and adjustment,“ said Chief Justice Marshall.
She also said, “But neither can we brook delay. The paramount goal of a fair, efficient and user-friendly court system calls for a clear, consistent focus. I promised in 2000 that I would bring that focus to my work as Chief Justice. I intend to see this mission through.“
Chief Justice Marshall also addressed the “third pillar of judicial excellence“ — access to justice — and said more work needs to be done to ensure that all citizens, including those who are self represented litigants, a growing number of the courts’ constituency, have access to the civil side of the courts. She described several achievements by the courts in broadening access to justice through improved interpreter services, providing court forms and instructions online, simplifying procedures, training judges and court personnel, and establishing a commission to address issues involved in the delivery of civil legal services.
Summarizing her vision and goals to improve the administration of justice, Chief Justice Marshall stated, “Together we will take to new heights the performance of our judges, the delivery of justice, and the availability of justice for all who seek it in our courts.“
Chief Justice Marshall’s speech can be found at www.mass.gov/courts