BMC's Hogan discusses how budget cuts to the judicial branch impact access to justice
As Massachusetts legislators prepare their proposals for the
commonwealth's fiscal year 2016 budget, it is important that the
judicial branch be fully funded so that our courts can continue to
provide equal justice for all. The Massachusetts Bar Association
continues its advocacy on behalf of the courts.
In addition, the American Bar Association's Tort Trial and
Insurance Practice Section (TIPS) has created a Full and Fair Court
Funding Toolkit, which includes information to help people
understand the national crisis caused by underfunded courts, as
well as tools to "take action." One of the most powerful components
of the toolkit is a video featuring Boston Municipal Court
Clerk-Magistrate Daniel J. Hogan, president of the Massachusetts
Association of Magistrates and Assistant Clerks, who discusses how
budget cuts have impacted the courts in Massachusetts.
Hogan, who is involved with the ABA's Fair Court Funding
Initiative through his work with the association's Tort and
Insurance Practice Section, took part in a Q&A to discuss how
the Massachusetts courts, and the general public, are impacted by
lower funding of the judicial branch.
What is the ABA's Fair Court Funding
An important initiative undertaken by the TIPS section of the ABA
to bring awareness to the importance of full and fair funding of
our courts throughout the country.
How did you get involved with it?
The ABA Annual meeting was held last summer in Boston, and I
was asked to participate and advise on a local level regarding
approaches to secure adequate funding for our courts.
From working with others at the ABA, how does the
situation in Massachusetts compare to other states around the
Massachusetts, like so many other states, has endured several
years of significant reductions in funding that has clearly
impacted our ability to perform our core functions, namely, justice
with dignity and speed. However, over the last few years, the
Massachusetts judiciary, with significant assistance from the bar
associations - specifically the Massachusetts Bar Association - has
been more successful in articulating that adequate court funding
cannot simply be a policy decision but a core issue of good
government. The courts have done a very good job, in my opinion, at
changing the way we operate in many areas and streamlining our
procedures to adapt to the changes in our business practices and
the explosion of pro se litigants. We are working closely with our
partners and legislative and executive branches.
How many years have you worked as a clerk?
I was appointed and sworn in as the clerk-magistrate by His
Excellency, Argeo Paul Cellucci, in March of 2000.
In that time, what for you personally at the Boston
Municipal Court has been the most noticeable fallout from lower
We have experienced a reduction in staff from a high of 105
employees to approximately 46 employees now. This negatively
impacts our ability to perform from the most mundane to the most
complex situations efficiently and effectively. Crime and other
disputes don't suspend in difficult economic times. Actually, I
would suggest the reverse is true. What was also equally noticeable
was the dedication and commitment of the courts most important
resource, its workers, who sacrificed much and worked three times
as hard to maintain a level of competence and professionalism in
the most difficult of economic times.
Do you think this is the same at all courts across the
My experience has shown that all courts across all court
departments throughout this commonwealth experienced not only the
same significant reduction in resources as the BMC but also the
same commitment and dedication from court staff.
With lower funding, the courts have had to do more with
less. Can you give an example of an area where you feel your court
has particularly shined in this respect?
Court staffs have been asked on a daily basis to be magistrates,
managers, social workers, mental health experts, substance abuse
councilors, mediators, referees, and teachers when dealing with the
42,000 people who enter our courts on a daily basis, who often
enter the courts seeking assistance at the worst of times. Even
with limited resources, I am always impressed at how well the
courts do at resolving disputes with dignity and compassion.
When it comes to court funding, what's the number one
priority for your court?
Despite being just two percent of the entire state budget, the
Judicial Branch has experienced almost a 20 percent reduction in
funding. Over the last several years, the workforce has been
reduced from approximately 7,800 employees to our current level of
approximately 6,300 employees. Our courts must begin to replenish
their workforce first and then move to secure additional funding
for specialty courts, automation and infrastructure, mediation and
arbitration, and alternatives to incarceration initiatives.
What can lawyers do to help?
Lawyers must continue to publicly advocate for the full and fair
funding of the judiciary. They must continue to emphasize not only
to the executive and legislative branches, but also to their
clients and the citizens, just how important a fully funded court
system is to our commonwealth. Because without the courts, our
democracy is at stake where individual rights may be sacrificed,
business would suffer, victim's rights would go unprotected and all
of our constitutional protections would be at risk.