This week the Senate Ways and Means Committee released its
fiscal year 2016 budget proposal, which is a tremendous victory for
the Trial Court. The Senate Committee allocated $633 million to the
Trial Court -- an increase that surpasses the court's $628 million
maintenance request and would eliminate the need for Trial Court
layoffs and program reductions.
"The Senate's appropriation for the Trial Court is a welcome
recognition of the court's critical role in providing access to
justice and protecting the welfare of our commonwealth's citizens,"
said MBA Chief Legal Counsel and Chief Operating Officer Martin W.
Healy. "The Senate's $633 million allocation would eliminate the
need to lay off 550 court employees and allow the Trial Court to
continue its innovative work through specialty courts, such as drug
and veterans' courts, which are vital tools in addressing some of
today's most pressing societal issues."
Click here to view a letter the MBA sent to
Senate President Stanley C. Rosenberg (D-Amherst)
Assigned Private Counsel
When the Senate begins its budget debate next week, among the
amendments being considered is one filed by the Massachusetts Bar
Association and sponsored by Sen. Will Brownsberger (D-Belmont) to
increase compensation rates for juvenile and district court
assigned private counsel.
The amendment would increase District Court rates from $50 to
$55 an hour. Children in Need of Services and Children Requiring
Assistance rates would increase from $50 to $55 and Children and
Family Law cases would be increased from $50 to $60 an hour and
would be effective in April 2016.
Last month's House budget included MBA sponsored language
raising bar advocate pay in the District and Juvenile Courts
effective July 1, 2016. Under the House measure, those rates would
be raised from $50 to $53 for those privately appointed
practitioners. Those handling Children and Family Law Cases and
Care and Protection work would see an hourly rate increase from $50
Assigned private counsel rates have remained unchanged for
numerous years. Click here to view a Private Bar Counsel
Rates Fact Sheet. The MBA remains committed to increasing
compensation rates for the defense bar including both public
counsel and assigned private counsel.
Please call your senator immediately and voice your support for
the amendment. Click here for your senator's contact
Massachusetts Legal Assistance
The Massachusetts Legal Assistance Corporation (MLAC) was funded
at $15 million, which is level funding from FY15 and $2 million
below the appropriation that the House of Representatives passed
last month. Sen. Brownsberger is filing an amendment for an
additional $5 million for MLAC. We urge you to contact your Senator
today to voice your support for Sen. Brownsberger's amendment to
increase legal aid funding. To contact your senator, click here.
Since the release of budget proposals by both Gov. Charlie Baker
and the House Ways and Means Committee, the MBA has been proactive
in advocating for increased funding for the Trial Court,
compensation for assigned private counsel and funding for the
Massachusetts Legal Assistance Corporation. The MBA has encouraged
its members to voice support for appropriate funding with state
legislators, to ensure all Massachusetts citizens continue to have
access to justice.
The full Senate is scheduled to debate its Ways and Means
Committee's budget proposal beginning on May 19, 2015. The
commonwealth's new fiscal year begins on July 1, 2015.