To date, we’ve met with the Chief Justices of every trial court department about conditions in their courts. We’ve also met with Senate President Murray and Speaker DeLeo recently to discuss our concerns about inadequate funding for the state’s trial courts. Now we’re preparing to go to the State House on March 19th with our colleagues from across the state to make our case on Court Advocacy Day. We will be asking the Legislature to fund the Trial Court at $593.9 million.
What the Numbers Mean:
- Governor Patrick’s proposed budget – released in January – would fund the Trial Court at $568.3 million. A good start, but still $24.6 million below the Trial Court’s budget request.
- The Trial Court’s budget request for Fiscal Year 2013 – beginning July 1, 2012 – is $593.9 million. The $593.9 million will maintain the Trial Court’s current operations and will also help them meet critical personnel and non-personnel needs, including restoring some basic services that have been cut over the last three years.
- The number of people who work in the Trial Court has declined by nearly 1,300 from July 1, 2007 to February 1, 2012. As of late February 2012, there were 6, 327 Trial Court employees. The $593.9 million will allow the Trial Court to finally fill critically needed positions – the highest priority being court officers to ensure public safety.
What the BBA is doing:
As Issue Spot has written, court funding advocacy is now a year-round effort. The BBA has spoken out on this each of the past three years (FYs 2010, 2011 and 2012). We’ve described – and it cannot be overstated – the importance of a capable, independent and adequately funded judicial system. We’ve chronicled the negative impacts cuts to the judiciary’s budget have had on the administration of justice and our community. Need we speak about the horrendous delays facing any litigant with a civil matter?
Court Advocacy Day on March 19th is just the beginning. The BBA’s Administration of Justice Section will host a State of the Courts event on April 12th. This timely event comes just one day after the House of Representatives is scheduled to release its state budget on April 11th. Following the House debate on the budget we will turn our focus to the Senate. In early May, the BBA will convene a virtual lobbying day, asking every one of its more than ten thousand members to call or email their Senators about state court funding.
As lawyers who use the courts every day, we know that the impact of court funding shortfalls is as wide as it is deep. It is essential that the private bar speak out and speak up about the dangerous effects of an underfunded judiciary. On March 19th, please show up at the State House and let lawmakers know just how important an adequately funded court system is to the Commonwealth.
– Kathleen Joyce
Director of Government Relations
Boston Bar Association