Massachusett’s top judges, the Supreme Judicial court, among others, (hereinafter, the “Judges”) are based in Boston. And they are not happy. Angered at the budget cuts approved Monday, they have urged Governor Deval Patrick to stop appointing new judges as they now already have to close 11 courthouses and lay off many employees.
In a strongly worded statement, the Judges say that said budget jeopardizes the right of every person, guaranteed by the Massachusetts Constitution, to swift justice.
“We make this request . . . with great reluctance and deep regret,” the Judges 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, has issued a statement calling the Judges’ pronouncements “confusing at best.” He has rejected their request that the governor stop appointing judges.
“I do think we have a crisis,” Representative Eugene L. O’Flaherty, a Chelsea Democrat said. “I disagree with the solution that is proffered by the court.”
Michael W. Morrissey, a former state senator who became a prosecutor this year, believes that closing courthouses is short-sighted. He said moving criminal trials out of the Brookline court, for example, would endanger community programs that work closely with the court and with the local police.
“It isn’t just a case of appearing in court,” Morrissey said. “It’s the layers of support you have around you.”
Attorney Sam’s Take On Lack Of Justice…Swift Or Otherwise
As I prepared to write today’s blog, I happened upon some comments posted by readers of Boston.com. Naturally, this led to my adding my own two cents. Many of said commentators seemed to be of the opinion that the Judges are on the right track. In fact, they went a bit further. They suggested that all the courts get closed down because their perception is that these institutions of Justice accomplish nothing close to Justice.
Naturally, if you have no courts, you don’t have much need for judges.
You can scoff at the anger toward the criminal (and, I would imagine, civil) justice system. Of course, you can scoff at a lot of opinions and realities. One might argue, though, that simple blind criticism without any thought to realistic solutions is how we got in this mess in the first place.
“Solutions” like closing all the courts, although probably made with tongue planted deep within cheek, are not terribly helpful. As any reader of this daily blog can tell you, I would be amongst the first to tell you that we have problems when it comes to how we run our criminal justice system. This does not indicate, however, that the system as a whole is the problem. Things simply need to be adjusted.
I must confess that I am neither an economist nor a mathematician. My relationship with math begins and generally ends when numbers pop their ugly heads into a conversation. Then, I run for the hills and ask my associate, the great Haley McCole to handle it. However, after being a participant in the criminal justice trenches for over a quarter century, in various roles, I have some experinece which tells me a couple of things.
First of all, financial issues in the trenches are not new.
Usually, though, the focus is on the court appointed criminal defense attorneys. After all, they represent the folks everybody already figure are guilty of whatever allegations are pending, so paying them at all seems silly to many people. For example, not so long ago, it was the Commonwealth’s prosecutors who were whining that they, who have all kinds of other state agencies working for them, did not like the fact that court appointed defense lawyers were making too much money. Instead, their solution was to pay the prosecutors more.
Most people with common sense and even alittle knowledge about the system could see the lunacy of this position. However, those of us who just accept what we are told, particularly when it feels good, agreed and felt badly for the poor prosecutors. After all, they are the good guys, right?
As long as the general public looks at such problems with knee-jerk or feel-good responses and think no further, our system will decay more and more. It frankly will not matter who gets what money.
The Judges mentioned concern that fewer judges will mean a lack of swifter Justice. Perhaps, before we tackle the concern of Justice speed, we should pay some more attention to acheiveing the Justice in the first place.
Just a thought.
Further, if we actually paid some real attention to the problems, the system might actually cost less!
There are a number of prosecutions in cases in which all involved realize that no arrest should be made in the first place. Sometimes, police officers will actually apologize for having to make such arrests. This usually takes place at scenes of alleged domestic violence and other assault allegation.
Given paranoia of prosecutors’ “What if I release him and he goes out and KILLS someone” mindset, even if they are talking about someone who has never shown any tendency toward violence whatsover, these arrests are made and, once made, prosecuted with a blind eye toward reality.
I have written many times about the problems caused by the fact that the District Attorney is a political post too often filled with, what a surprise, politicians. Their directives have less to do with justice (which just happens to be their job description) and more on political aspirations. I direct you to one ex-DA who had to leave office after ruining the lives of a bunch of kids in South Hadley.
Simply put, because this is a blog not a book, we could do a great deal to streamline the criminal justice system so that it actually gives some Justice and is less expensive than it is now. The sad fact is that, whether it is a shortage of judges, courthouses, police or attorneys…what we have now is simply going to get worse until it breaks down into even more chaos than we have right now.
But, hey, I know. I am an experienced criminal defense attorney. Why listen to me?
To view the article upon which this blog is based, please go to http://www.boston.com/news/local/massachusetts/articles/2011/07/13/justices_ask_patrick_to_stop_appointing_judges/?page=full