Massachusetts State House.
Policy Library

Working Together: The BBA and The Courts

December 04, 2014

The BBA and our judiciary are committed to the fair and efficient administration of justice as well as the functioning of the judiciary as a co-equal branch of government.  So with  December upon us, we took the opportunity to do some reflecting on the past year, and particularly on the breadth and depth of judicial involvement with the BBA.

The BBA and the judiciary have historically had a close relationship.  We are proud to support the judiciary, and the BBA President annually meets with the chief justices of all the Trial Court departments, in addition to the Chief Judge of the U.S. District Court, District of Massachusetts; the Chief Judge of the U.S. Bankruptcy Court, District of Massachusetts; and the Chief Judge of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the First Circuit.  At these meetings we discuss the issues facing each individual court and various BBA and court initiatives.

This commitment goes far beyond one-on-one meetings with the chief justices, however, and we are especially grateful for their contributions to the bar.  As the Code of Judicial Conduct correctly notes, judges are in a “unique position to contribute to the integrity of the legal profession and to the improvement of the law, legal system, and administration of justice.”  One way they do this at the BBA is through participation in the Boston Bar Journal, both as article authors and as members of its Board of Editors.  And beginning in January, you’ll find more articles penned by judges and a “Voices of the Judiciary” feature in future issues of BBA Week.  Another way they contribute is by speaking at BBA programs – educating the bar and sharing ideas – all in an effort to improve the administration of justice.  In the last two years, over 100 BBA programs have featured active judges sharing their thoughts, opinions, and practice tips.

The BBA is pleased to work hand-in-hand with the courts on a number of important initiatives promoting diversity and improving access to justice.  A couple of examples:

Projects by the Public Interest Leadership Program (PILP). The BBA’s PILP promotes civic engagement and public service of young lawyers in the community.  The 2012-13 PILP class worked with the Trial Court to draft documents used for the first Court Service Center pilot program in the Brooke Courthouse.  These included a resource guide for self-represented litigants, FAQ sheets, and multilingual cover sheets for legal forms.  The Court Service Centers have already been making a difference for pro se litigants and the courts – helping to streamline the process for both the litigants and court staff, all of which benefits court efficiency and the administration of justice.

The 2013-14 PILP class is partnering with the BBA’s Community Re-Entry and Readiness Program Standing Committee to expand upon its work with the District Court’s Court Assisted Recovery Effort (“CARE”) and Reentry: Empowering Successful Todays and Responsible Tomorrows (“RESTART”) programs.  Both programs operate out of the District Court of Massachusetts and supervise federal probationers reentering the community.  CARE serves a population of probationers who struggle with drug addiction, and RESTART serves probationers who present a particularly high risk of recidivism.  Both programs feature increased supervision, including periodic meetings with the Court, swifter sanctions for non-compliance, regular drug testing, and tight coordination among service providers, the Probation Department, the Federal Defender’s office, the U.S. Attorney’s Office, and the Court.

 Judicial Internship Program. Launched by the BBA’s Diversity and Inclusion Section, the Judicial Internship Program provides professional experience of working in the court system to law students finishing their first and second years of legal education.  The Diversity & Inclusion Section’s Pipeline and Recruitment Committee works to connect the judges with potential interns, and BBA staff facilitates the program.  The internships have been served at the Boston Municipal Court, Massachusetts State District Courts, the Probate and Family Court, and the U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the District of Massachusetts.  Since the BBA began this program in 2010, 100 law students have taken part.  In the summer of 2014 alone nearly 3,000 hours of work were logged by the BBA’s 26 law student interns.

Finally, BBA members work with the courts on numerous issues related to legal practice and court procedure.  The BBA regularly reviews and comments on court rules, procedures, and the work of various court committees.  In the last year, our sections and committees examined everything from proposed amendments to the rules of professional conduct to the Report of the SJC Ad Hoc Committee on Bosch Litigation.  BBA Sections studied eyewitness evidence issues and rules of civil and criminal procedure, and submitted their comments to the Courts.

All of these connections strengthen the BBA and, we believe, the judiciary as well.  They give our members unique opportunities to advance personally and professionally and help us further each piece of our mission – to advance the highest standards of excellence in the legal profession, facilitate access to justice, and serve the community at large.

– Jonathan Schreiber
Legislative and Public Policy Manager
Boston Bar Association