Chief Justice Margaret H. Marshall Cites Bench-Bar Collaboration
and Innovation in Major Address to the Legal Community
Speaking to approximately 300 lawyers and judges in the Great Hall of the John Adams Courthouse at the Massachusetts Bar Association’s Bench-Bar Symposium, Supreme Judicial Court Chief Justice Margaret H. Marshall today said that “excellence, sustained by collaboration” has been her guidepost for the Massachusetts judicial branch since she became Chief Justice seven years ago. Chief Justice Marshall stressed that “superb substantive justice” continues to be delivered in courthouses throughout the state and that the court’s administrative reforms are progressing at a remarkable pace because of the leadership and commitment exhibited by Chief Justice for Administration and Management Robert A. Mulligan, the Trial Court Chief Justices, and other judges, clerks, and staff within the judicial branch.
She said, “Massachusetts is in the vanguard of a growing national movement to bring systems of management and accountability to our court system.”
Chief Justice Marshall emphasized that an effective judiciary requires the support of lawyers dedicated to “sustaining, improving, and protecting our courts.” She noted that many lawyers have been particularly helpful in volunteering their time in lawyer-for-the-day programs in courts and in participating for the first time this month in a pilot program involving limited representation in cases in Suffolk and Hampden Probate and Family Courts to help people who cannot afford full legal representation.
Chief Justice Marshall said, “Massachusetts is emerging as a national leader in addressing the challenges presented by self-represented litigants.” She said limited representation will expand the number of litigants who come to court with attorneys enhancing fairness, efficiency and accessibility to our legal system.
In the area of judicial administration, Chief Justice Marshall said the court’s roadmap for management reform has been the Monan Committee report issued in 2003. Since then, time standards for civil and criminal cases have been established in all departments of the Trial Court, staffing models to guide resource decisions have been adopted, and CourTools, a national model developed by the National Center for State Courts for measuring and improving the expeditious processing of cases, has been implemented in the Trial Court. She said the courts are making “demonstrable progress” in efforts to improve the delivery of justice. She thanked the Court Management Advisory Board, comprised of lawyers and community members, for their work on court administration issues.
The jury system in Massachusetts is becoming more efficient and user-friendly, Chief Justice Marshall said. She cited the summonsing of jurors, the experience of jurors at trial, the one day/one trial system, and the statewide public education campaign initiated by the Office of Jury Commissioner as being helpful in increasing the willingness of people to serve as jurors.
Other initiatives in collaboration with the bar include the project to compile existing Massachusetts evidence law into a single, easy-to-use document and a new multi-jurisdictional rule, effective January 1, which will govern how lawyers licensed in other states may practice law in Massachusetts.
Chief Justice Marshall noted the importance of civic education and support of the bar and said that she feels “renewed confidence in the strength of public support for our constitutional structure of government, for our separation of powers and checks and balances.” She said that the webcasts of oral arguments at the Supreme Judicial Court in cooperation with Suffolk University, the Court’s educational website, community outreach programs in the John Adams Courthouse and in other courthouses, and partnerships with educational and community organizations have helped the courts to reach out to teachers, students, and the public in an effort to make the court system more understandable and accessible.
At the end of her remarks, Chief Justice Marshall gave special recognition to Attorneys Edward J. Barshak and Robert J. Muldoon for their outstanding service and extraordinary contributions to the Board of Bar Examiners. Their combined service totals almost 70 years. Mr. Barshak, who was appointed in 1969 and served for many years as chair, completed his service last year. Mr. Muldoon, who also served as chair, was appointed in 1974 and recently completed his service. Chief Justice Marshall expressed the Court’s appreciation of their numerous achievements.
Following the Chief Justice’s address, a panel of distinguished judges, lawyers and media representatives discussed the topic, “ Supporting and Protecting the Independence of the Judiciary.”
Read the Full Speech
See Some Photos from the Event