Open Dialogue forums push for more two-way communication between bench and the bar

Issue May 2008

As part of a concerted effort to continually improve communication between the trial courts and attorneys who present cases in them, the Massachusetts Trial Court, the Massachusetts Bar Association, the Court Management Advisory Board and local bar associations are sponsoring a series of “Open Dialogue on Court Practices” forums across the state. The series will kick off in Brockton at the George N. Covett Courthouse (Brockton Trial Court), located at 215 Main St., on Thursday, May 29 at 4:30 p.m.

Chief Justice for Administration and Management Robert A. Mulligan invites area attorneys and staff to provide constructive comments in these sessions. “The Trial Court has made great progress in reforming how we do business and we want to build on that momentum. The thoughts and suggestions of those who use the courts are key to our efforts to continue to improve court management practices,” he said.

Practitioners’ perspectives are sought to better determine how court practices affect attorneys’ lives and how the court and the bar can work together on operational improvements.

“These forums provide a unique opportunity for lawyers who practice in these courts to have a productive dialogue with judges who preside over these courts,” said Foley Hoag’s Michael B. Keating, who chairs CMAB. “Frank, candid discussions over practices and procedures can only help the participants understand the perspectives of litigants and judges whose mutual objective is speedy, economic and conscientious justice.”

Keating’s sentiments are echoed by MBA President David W. White Jr. “I encourage all MBA attorneys to take advantage of these important opportunities to provide our input on court operations. There is long-standing respect between the courts and the bar, and these forums make evident the court’s greater willingness to listen and learn from practicing lawyers who are in court every day,” he said.

In addition to area attorneys, judges and court staff are also invited to participate in the May 29 forum, which is being co-sponsored by the Plymouth, Barnstable and Bristol County Bar Associations.

The forums are helpful in establishing the next phase of court practice improvements following the 2003 publication of the “Monan Report.” From then until now, the Trial Court has focused its efforts on accountability, performance and collaboration to improve court management and the delivery of justice. This past February, the Massachusetts Trial Court celebrated the five year anniversary of the “Monan Report,” the main catalyst for the court’s many new systems and practices now underway — database management, time standards, measurements, goals and public reporting — to assess performance and inform decision making.

Judicial moderators for the Brockton “Open Dialogue on Court Practices” forum include the Hon. David G. Nagle and the Hon. Paul C. Dawley of the District Court; the Hon. Anne Kenney Chaplin of the Housing Court; the Hon. John P. Corbett of the Juvenile Court; the Hon. Leon J. Lombardi of the Land Court; the Hon. Catherine P. Sabaitis of Probate and Family Court; and the Hon. Jeffrey A. Locke of the Superior Court.