Chief Justices Speak Out For Preserving Access To Justice

Friday, July 1, 2011 - 00:00

Chief justices from the six New England states and the chief of New York's state courts testified in May on the critical need for access to justice for individuals, families and businesses at the American Bar Association Task Force on Preservation of the Justice System's public hearing at the University of New Hampshire School of Law.

Hon. Robert A. Mulligan, chief justice for administration and management, Massachusetts, said "In Massachusetts, there are 379 trial court judges and 103 courthouses.Last year, there were 250,000 civil trial cases."

Hon. Linda Stewart Dalianis, chief justice, New Hampshire, stated, "We closed our courts 12 days in FY '11 and cut jury trials by one third. Nine judgeships remain vacant. The workforce has been cut by 20 percent."

Hon. Jonathan Lippman, chief judge, New York, noted, "In New York's state courts there are 4.7 million new cases filed each year. There has been a 33 percent increase in family violence cases. State courts are the emergency rooms of the ills of society."

Hon. Paul L. Reiber, chief justice, Vermont, offered, "The courts are working hard to change their business model, but change has not been easy."

Hon. Leigh I. Saufley, chief justice, Maine, responded, "In Maine, the issue of having too much paper around - boxes and boxes of case files - is a fire hazard in many courthouses. They have no electronic filing capability, and in most instances a clerk with a notebook and pencil is scheduling items on the docket."

Hon. Chase T. Rogers, chief justice, Connecticut, said, "The judiciary budget is $500 million, which represents about three percent of the state's total budget.The Connecticut judiciary has closed one juvenile court and imposed a hiring freeze and more than a dozen unpaid furlough days for judges and employees, and the state is operating with 17 judicial vacancies."