Massachusetts court reformers eye inefficiencies

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Leaders of the Massachusetts House are seeking sweeping changes in the management structure of the state’s courts, with more flexibility for administrators to shuttle resources to overburdened courthouses and incentives for judges and clerks to run their operations more efficiently.

The Boston Globe reports that a House Ways and Means budget proposal to be released tomorrow and debated by the House next week does not adopt several of Governor Mitt Romney’s proposals for judicial reform. House budget writers don’t want to close any courts and favor maintaining a separate Boston Municipal Court; they also want to preserve the Legislature’s ability to set individual courthouse budgets. Critics say they use that power to find jobs for political allies.

But House leaders say they are offering a viable alternative that would make court management more cost-effective. “The governor had his own ideas for reform and we take a different approach — a better approach, we hope,” said committee chairman John Rogers. The proposal calls for $464 million for the state’s trial courts in fiscal 2004, up about $7 million, or 1.5 percent, from this year’s funding.

Rogers’s proposal also includes a comprehensive redistricting plan for the state’s courthouses. The eight courthouses that Romney called for shuttering would see more cases under that plan, and some of the busiest courthouses would get some much-needed relief, Rogers said.


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