Statement of Chief Justice Roderick L. Ireland Regarding Court Management Reform
Legislation Proposed by House Speaker Robert A. DeLeo
April 21, 2011
The legislation proposed by the Speaker of the House of Representatives retains the office of probation in the judicial branch and creates an office of a non-judicial professional Court Administrator within the Trial Court. This legislation is designed to bolster progressive management efforts already underway in the court system.
Under the steady leadership of Chief Justice for Administration & Management Robert A. Mulligan since 2003, the Chief Justices of the Trial Court Departments have implemented many initiatives recommended by the Monan Committee, including the use of case management metrics, time standards in all court departments, staffing models, and major technology improvements, to name just a few. Their work in implementing these management tools has achieved remarkable results and has resulted in significant management improvements in court operations over the past eight years. The proposed legislation will offer ways to build on this work and enhance the effectiveness of the Trial Court's management system. I commend Speaker DeLeo for his interest in helping the courts move forward with a modern management structure to better support judicial operations and promote accountability to the public.
I am pleased that Speaker DeLeo's proposed legislation retains the probation service within the judicial branch and incorporates recommendations made by the Task Force on Hiring in the Judicial Branch appointed by the Supreme Judicial Court and led by Scott Harshbarger. The Probation Department has a long, successful history of service within the court system as probation officers play a vital public safety role in the community. Judges rely on them for their work in helping to reduce recidivism of offenders and for their broad knowledge of social service providers to help offenders rehabilitate. The legislation creates an Advisory Board to assist the Commissioner of Probation and the Court Administrator with the management of the probation service. It also creates a working group to ensure that probation and parole functions work in coordination when appropriate.
With respect to management structure, the principal areas of responsibility of the Chief Justice of the Trial Court and the Court Administrator are spelled out in the legislation. The Chief Justice of the Trial Court is the policy and judicial leader of the Trial Court and will concentrate on the judicial components of the office with authority to appoint the Chief Justices of the Trial Court Departments and to develop and oversee policies to guide judges and employees in the discharge of their duties. The Court Administrator, who will have significant leadership experience in the fields of management and finance, will focus on the administrative functions of the Trial Court. The Chief Justice and the Court Administrator will consult and collaborate in their work to improve the overall administration of the courts.
Court reorganization studies in past years, including the 1991 statewide bar association review conducted by Harbridge House management consultants, the Court's 2003 Monan Report, and more recent Court Management Advisory Board reports, have recommended that the Massachusetts Trial Court employ an experienced, professionally trained court manager to oversee the non-judicial components of court operations. The establishment of this top administrative position is a positive next step in the court system's continuing efforts to improve its management functions. Working with the Chief Justice of the Trial Court, the Court Administrator will help to ensure that the courts use modern and efficient management practices to support our trial judges and staff in the challenging work they do. This will benefit the people who rely on the proper functioning of our court system everyday.
On behalf of the Supreme Judicial Court, I support the Speaker's proposed court management reform legislation. I also applaud the collaborative way in which he sought, received, and considered recommendations from the Court's working group on management reform, and look forward to working with him on future court management initiatives to improve the administration of justice.