Q&A with Court Management Advisory Board member Leo V. Boyle

Issue January 2008

The Court Management Advisory Board was created in 2003 by an act of the Massachusetts Legislature. The Visiting Committee on Management in the Courts, popularly known as the "Monan Committee,” had conducted a six-month study of the Massachusetts courts.

In its 2003 March report to Supreme Judicial Court Chief Justice Margaret H. Marshall, the committee recommended the creation of a permanent advisory board, which would include members from within the legal system and members from the private sector and government who could bring their experiences to bear on the managerial challenges facing the judiciary.

As a result of this recommendation, the Legislature created the CMAB, mandating that it advise and assist the justices of the Supreme Judicial Court and the chief justice for administration and management on matters pertaining to judicial administration and management and all matters of judicial reform.

In the summer of 2004, the justices of the Supreme Judicial Court appointed the members of the CMAB. As mandated by statute, the CMAB comprises 12 members who are appointed according to the categories of experience set forth in the enabling statute. In addition to the 12 members, the CJAM serves as executive secretary of the CMAB.

CMAB member Leo V. Boyle is a partner at Meehan, Boyle, Black & Bogdanow in Boston and was a former president of the American Trial Lawyers Association and the Massachusetts Bar Association. He spoke with Lawyers Journal Contributing Editor Andrea R. Barter, Esq., about the board’s makeup and effectiveness.

Do you think the Court Management Advisory Board is properly comprised of legal and non-legal individuals to assist and advise the courts, or do you think there should there be a different mix of members?

It’s dictated by statute. I think it’s a pretty thoughtful statute because it directs the selection of people with certain expertise. The implementation of the statute has been true to the statutory intent. We’ve ended up with some phenomenally talented businesspeople on the board. I don’t mean to diminish the lawyers, but with talented businesspeople, there is a huge benefit in having an outsider looking at what we’re doing, particularly an outsider from the management side. We also have the chief justice for administration and management, which is a huge asset: A person who combines lawyer, judge and manager. We also have a retired Supreme Judicial Court justice. There’s talent, I think, from all the right places.

What has been the board’s priority issue?

The priority issue has been trying to help implement the principles and the goals of the Monan Report. The Monan Report is the most current document that analyzes the management of the court system. Our prime mission has been to lend the expertise of various members of the board to make that report fully come alive, to be implemented.

The Massachusetts Trial Courts have been described as being “steeped in a culture of precedent and tradition.” Have you run into any roadblocks in implementing your recommendations?

To the contrary: There has been an extraordinarily good response to the Monan Report, and to management principles in general, quite apart from what the board is doing. The principles of the Monan Report are being articulated and are part of the leadership of the courts. The board is one additional forum for discussion and analysis. I think these principles have been welcomed. The word roadblock is inapplicable to the discussion.

What has been the biggest success for the board?

Just the fact that you have a Legislature passing a statute that brings people from all areas of expertise together to assist in the mission of the third branch of government is unusual, is enlightened, and is in and of itself a great accomplishment. You don’t have an advisory board for the executive branch of government or the legislative branch. I think it’s a really open and exciting concept to bring people together from all sorts of expertise with a view toward picking their brains and trying to make the court system even better. It serves a reverse function as well. Those people from very important positions in the business world get to see up close what an amazing job the court does at its core mission, delivering justice. The Massachusetts judicial branch, the ultimate product that is delivered, which is justice, is unequaled in any court system anywhere. If you look case-by-case at outcomes and the application of the law and the complete integrity of all the people who work in the system, nothing’s perfect, but boy it’s close. Having people who are not from the legal world see it up close and see the results the courts are achieving on an individualized basis, how it’s handled, the complexity, the extremely high quality of what the court does, that’s really good. I think the ultimate challenge is hanging onto that extraordinary quality of justice, and at the same time, streamlining it as best we can.

What would the board still like to see done?

The short answer is more of the same. The courts have been completely receptive to the fact that the board is trying to help, trying to add value to the process. The chief justices of all the divisions have been completely engaged in the process. They have incredibly valuable input at the meetings because they’re on the front lines. They’re calling the list at 9 a.m., calling off 20, 50, 100 new matters across the state. Their input has been incredibly important and enlightening. Not only to the businesspeople, but I’ve gotten an education in the daily challenges of courts where I don’t practice. The exchange of ideas and information and wisdom — I find it real exciting to be in the room.

What has struck you most about the courts and court personnel in this process?

The thing I keep coming back to is the innate quality of judges in Massachusetts. There are states with elected judges at every level, there are systems that are fraught with problems that fortunately we don’t have, and the way our judicial branch is configured, right from state constitution to the statutory framework, results in extraordinarily good justice. I’ve been trying cases for 36 years and have had probably more than my share of losses and I’ve never seen a miscarriage of justice. It doesn’t mean I wouldn’t have liked to win, but my client had a fair shot, the rules were applied, and whether I won or lost, I’ve always been left with the abiding feeling that justice was done and you can’t say that everywhere. That’s the thing that sticks with me. In addressing court management issues, if we can help with some of the transactional delays, that will only add to the purity of the product.

Are the performance goals for clearance rate, time to disposition, age of pending caseload and trial date certainty too ambitious, well determined, or can the courts do more?

We had to start someplace. You have to take the first step and I think probably having a goal is more important than whether the goal is a particular number. Whatever number you choose becomes a catalyst for discussions, for planning, for engaging in a new venture, for capturing data and tracking it. We could talk about ‘Should the percentages have been less aggressive?’ but I think the most important thing was goals were set and that was the catalyst.

What is your opinion of the courts’ management and performance today?

I think that it’s an exciting time and I think that the vision of the Monan Report is really taking off and becoming a reality. I think it is a confluence of a number of very specific inputs. (Chairman) Mike Keating’s leadership of the board has been inspired. Chief Justice (for Administration and Management Robert A.) Mulligan’s commitment to this is deep-seated and is inspiring. The inclusion of people from other areas on the board has created a tremendous resource for all of us in the judicial branch. The chiefs of the Trial Court divisions have shown great leadership every step of the way. And Chief Justice Marshall has made it clear that this is a priority for her as well, so you have occurring something akin to the ideal environment for dramatic change. That’s what we’re about.

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