State/Local Funding

  • The Massachusetts Judiciary is primarily a state funded system. 
  • The state pays for the salaries of judges, support staff and clerical staff and for trial court technology and operating expenses, local courthouses and equipment.

State Revenue and Appropriations

  • Total state general fund appropriations for the Massachusetts judicial system increased from $580.3 million in FY12 to $597.5 million in FY13.  The increase in funding is mainly attributable to collective bargaining contracts for union employees.
  • The percent of state general funds allocated to the judiciary fell from 1.9% to 1.8%. 
  • The budget situation in the next three years is likely to stay the same.

Funding Principles for Judicial Administration

  • The Judicial Branch does not present its budget directly to the Legislature without prior approval by the Executive Branch.
  • The Judicial Branch has authority to move limited amounts between budget line items.

Steps Taken to Address Tough Economic Times

Staffing Levels and Operating Expenses: 

  • Over the past four years, the number of judges has remained the same, while the number of trial court staff has been reduced by 14%, the number of central office staff has been reduced by 9% and the funding for trial court operating expenses has been reduced by 10%
  •  In the coming year, the number of judges and the number of trial court staff and central office staff will remain the same.  Spending on trial court operating expenses will increase by 3%. 

Service Reductions:  Over the past four years, the Massachusetts courts have reduced hours of operation and delayed filling vacancies in the clerk’s offices and in judicial support positions.  These reductions have resulted in reduced service to the public and delays and backlogs in the disposition of cases.

Compensation:  Over the past four years, the courts have furloughed judicial officers and court staff.   

Efficiency Measures:  The Massachusetts courts have implemented an enhanced case management system and plan to implement e-filing this coming year.  As of July 1, 2012, the Legislature has abolished life tenure for management level employees of the court.

Restructuring:  Over the past four years, the Massachusetts courts have consolidated court hours.  In the coming year, they plan on reallocating staff.

Business Processes:  The courts have transitioned to digital recording of court proceedings, videoconferencing of arraignments and detention hearings for detained adults and juveniles and have implemented remote videoconferencing of interpreters for persons with limited English proficiency.

Service reductions have resulted in the Massachusetts courts being in a worse position than four years ago to provide access and timely justice. 

Reports and Articles

Gavel to Gavel

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