Not yet a Declaration of Independence but Getting There

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In an op-ed in the Saturday Globe, Father Monan and Michael Keating deliver some very good news on the Trial Court. In March 2002 Pioneer released A Declaration of Independence, a detailed and highly critical report on the mismatch of resources to court caseload. On the heels of the Pioneer report, Chief Justice Marshall established the Visiting Committee on Management in the Courts and invited Father Monan, Chancellor of Boston College, to chair the committee. The Monan Commission “issued an harsh assessment of court operations” a year after the Pioneer report and developed numerous recommendations.

Two points of good news from the Mass Trial Court that deserve special highlight:

  • The Trial Court has adopted the National Center for State Courts’ performance metrics on such things as case time to disposition.
  • “Departments have invested significant effort to develop staffing models based on case complexity and volume in order to establish a baseline for equitably allocating scarce resources.”

Great news–and congratulations to Father Monan and Michael Keating for their continued efforts, as well as to the Chief Justice and CJAM Bob Mulligan for their efforts to change the culture within the court system.

A full Declaration of Independence would require that the Legislature go along with what the last four Governors, including Governor Patrick, have called for: Reducing the number of line items requiring certain staffing and budget arrangements, thereby allowing the courts to manage themselves in a manner that is more data-driven and efficient. Last I looked the number of line items for the court system was above 170. How about getting that down to 5 or 10?