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Massachusetts Judges vow to shut 11 courts

Two very common questions one has when they become involved in a law suit is what should they expect and how long will the process take? The answers to these questions just got very complicated.
A recent Boston Globe article discussed the political and legal problems that decreased funding is causing the Massachusetts court system. The decrease in funding has led to increasing delays in courts addressing cases. In turn, this has caused frustration for citizens involved in law suits in Massachusetts.
Being a party to a law suit in Massachusetts was already a time consuming and sometimes confusing process for people unfamiliar with the process. Getting a law suit through the Massachusetts court system when there were more funds available took years and that time line may now become longer. Massachusetts Courts now have less staff and fewer judges. This means it takes longer for a case to reach trial. Furthermore, court house closing are threatened, which will lead to further delays as more cases will be handled in fewer courts by fewer judges.
Some leading judges have gone so far as to ask the governor to stop appointing new judges to fill vacancies so that the limited funding can be used to meet existing needs. The Boston Globe article is below:

July 13, 2011|By Michael Levenson and Noah Bierman, Globe Staff
The state’s top judges, angered by budget cuts approved Monday, urged Governor Deval Patrick yesterday to stop appointing new judges and said they have no choice but to close 11 courthouses and lay off employees.
In a strongly worded statement, Roderick L. Ireland, chief justice of the Supreme Judicial Court, and Robert A. Mulligan, chief justice for administration and management, said the budget Patrick signed jeopardizes the right of every person, guaranteed by the Massachusetts Constitution, to swift justice.
The request for a moratorium on judicial appointments was submitted in a separate letter sent to the governor by the seven justices of the Supreme Judicial Court, four of whom are Patrick appointees. After years of budget cuts, they said, the court system does not have enough support personnel for additional judges and would have to lay off three staff members for each judge appointed.
“We make this request … with great reluctance and deep regret,’’ the justices wrote. “The people of Massachusetts deserve better. But the fiscal jeopardy into which the operation of the Trial Court has been placed demands extraordinary action.’’
The governor’s legal counsel, Mark Reilly, issued a statement calling the judges’ pronouncements “confusing at best.’’ He rejected their request that the governor stop appointing judges.
“As of last week when the budget numbers were known, more than one trial court chief judge continued their active lobbying of our office to fill judicial vacancies,’’ Reilly said. “In light of that plea to appoint more judges, we are surprised by today’s claim that the courts cannot manage their fiscal affairs without this attempt to constrain the governor’s constitutional authority. We look forward to their explanation. In the meantime, the governor will continue to exercise the powers granted to him by the Constitution of this Commonwealth.’’
Judges have frequently threatened to close courthouses, but usually those warnings occur earlier in the budget process, when there is still time for the governor and Legislature to reverse proposed cuts.
But yesterday’s statements were issued after the budget had been signed into law. The judges insisted they had no other choice but to follow through on closings after losing $96 million, or almost 16 percent, of their funding in the last three years.
The trial court has lost 1,115 employees in four years, and more than 60 percent of the courts are staffed below the level necessary to ensure the prompt delivery of justice, the judges said.

To learn how to maximize your chances of moving your case to a faster and more favorable result, please contact one of the Massachusetts litigation attorneys at Doherty, Ciechanowski, Dugan & Cannon, P.C.