In late October, the BBA held its annual leadership retreat and we were delighted with the results. The weekend began with a panel discussion entitled “Having an Impact: The Constitution, the Daily Mechanics of Government, and You.” It featured four panelists discussing the Massachusetts Constitution, perceptions versus realities in the operation of our state government related to judicial funding, and brainstorming ways lawyers can make a difference by working within this system.
BBA President Paul Dacier, who is known to carry around a copy of the state constitution, served as a spirited moderator. Navjeet K. Bal, former Commissioner of Revenue and current member of Nixon Peabody’s Public Finance Group, brought her extensive budgeting knowledge and the perspective of the executive branch. We learned about the judicial branch’s perspective from retired Judge John C. Cratsley, who served 33 years on the bench including as Regional Administrative Judge in Suffolk and Norfolk Counties. Robert J. McCarron, Vice President for State Relations and General Counsel for the Association of Independent Colleges and Universities in Massachusetts and former Director of Legal Affairs for the Massachusetts House Committee on Ways and Means, brought the perspective of the legislative branch. New England Law Boston Professor, Lawrence Friedman, rounded out the panel with his expertise on the state and federal constitutions.
The panelists revealed the inner workings of the budget process in Massachusetts – the massive pieces of the pie consumed by health care and education, the zero-sum-game position of the parties involved, and the importance for funds-seekers to build relationships with government leaders and give comprehensive reporting on their plans and achievements. The conversation touched on the constitution, the structure and process of government, the role of politics, and the human elements inherent in the Commonwealth’s budgeting process.
In the afternoon, the BBA leaders split into four discussion groups to reflect on the morning panel, explore the issues of court funding and consider their own potential for involvement in the government budgeting process. It was eye-opening to observe the idea-making process at work. On Sunday morning, the groups came together to reflect and share their experiences. We are still sifting through all of the thoughts and ideas and hope to emerge with some innovative solutions and new approaches for ways to advocate for adequate court funding.
While there will never be a quick-fix for improving judicial funding, the BBA’s leaders are committed to securing sufficient funding for the Commonwealth’s judiciary. One thing is for sure, it begins with engagement in the political process and relationship-building with our legislators.
– Jonathan Schreiber
Legislative and Public Policy Manager
Boston Bar Association