Mass. Bar, judges push court funds

Unusual collaboration features billboards, video

The state’s judges are lobbying Beacon Hill for more funding for the court system through an unusual collaboration with the Massachusetts Bar Association.

The MBA, which represents attorneys who practice in the courts, purchased billboard space this week drawing attention to the cash-strapped courts and urging people to visit the association’s website for more information. The website offers funding data put out by the courts and a video raising concerns about the impact of cutbacks nationally and here in Massachusetts.

Some of the concerns raised in the video mirror those in a recent story by CommonWealth on how the lack of manpower in the courts is slowing the delivery of justice and raising safety concerns. The story reported that court budgets have fallen 9 percent since fiscal year 2009 and employee levels have dropped 12 percent over the last two-and-a-half years.

The video crosscuts back and forth between officials from the Mass. Bar Association, the American Bar Association, and Massachusetts judges and court workers. Chief Justice Roderick Ireland doesn’t mince any words.  “If we don’t do something, it won’t be safe for the court employees or for the general public,” he warns.

Former Chief Justice Margaret Marshall suggests the court system is nearing a breaking point. “When you are breathing oxygen, you don’t notice it,” she says. “When you cut off the supply, you will notice it very quickly.”

Meet the Author

Bruce Mohl

Editor, CommonWealth

About Bruce Mohl

Bruce Mohl is the editor of CommonWealth magazine. Bruce came to CommonWealth from the Boston Globe, where he spent nearly 30 years in a wide variety of positions covering business and politics. He covered the Massachusetts State House and served as the Globe’s State House bureau chief in the late 1980s. He also reported for the Globe’s Spotlight Team, winning a Loeb award in 1992 for coverage of conflicts of interest in the state’s pension system. He served as the Globe’s political editor in 1994 and went on to cover consumer issues for the newspaper. At CommonWealth, Bruce helped launch the magazine’s website and has written about a wide range of issues with a special focus on politics, tax policy, energy, and gambling. Bruce is a graduate of Ohio Wesleyan University and the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University. He lives in Dorchester.

About Bruce Mohl

Bruce Mohl is the editor of CommonWealth magazine. Bruce came to CommonWealth from the Boston Globe, where he spent nearly 30 years in a wide variety of positions covering business and politics. He covered the Massachusetts State House and served as the Globe’s State House bureau chief in the late 1980s. He also reported for the Globe’s Spotlight Team, winning a Loeb award in 1992 for coverage of conflicts of interest in the state’s pension system. He served as the Globe’s political editor in 1994 and went on to cover consumer issues for the newspaper. At CommonWealth, Bruce helped launch the magazine’s website and has written about a wide range of issues with a special focus on politics, tax policy, energy, and gambling. Bruce is a graduate of Ohio Wesleyan University and the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University. He lives in Dorchester.

Maurice Cunningam, chairman of the political science department at the University of Massachusetts Boston, says there comes a point when the court system can’t tighten its belt anymore. “We’re at it right now,” he says.

Gov. Deval Patrick is expected to file his budget proposal for the next fiscal year later this month, with a final budget expected out of the Legislature in June.