It’s that time of year again – time to talk about the budget! Governor Patrick will release his budget next Wednesday, January 23rd followed by the House budget in April and the Senate budget in May. The differences in the various budgets must be reconciled by the start of the new fiscal year on July 1, 2013. Each year the BBA plays a major role in the budget process, advocating for adequate funding for civil legal services, our state courts, district attorneys and CPCS. Here are a few of the ways we have recently been involved in adequate funding for FY 2013 for the Trial Court and civil legal services–
Trial Court Advocacy
Meeting with the people who make the important decisions is always a big part of any advocacy effort. This year we took it right to the top. BBA President-Elect Paul Dacier (EMC Corporation) sat down with Governor Patrick on January 9th to discuss court funding and specifically the Trial Court’s Fiscal Year 2014 maintenance request of $589 million and the $22 million needed for a judicial pay raise. The Governor was sympathetic and appreciated the BBA’s commitment to court advocacy. He also understands the need for fully functioning courts and agreed that our judges are woefully underpaid.
In addition to meeting with the decision makers, we took our advocacy on the road to meet with those directly affected by the Trial Court’s budget. BBA President J.D. Smeallie hosted his own state representative and state senator at Salem District Court. This informal meeting also included the Essex County Legislative Caucus, Trial Court Administrator Harry Spence, clerks, judges and other court staff. This meeting offered an open forum to discuss the current state of the understaffed departments within the courthouse and what effect it has had on the administration of justice. Legislators that attended the meeting included Representatives John D. Keenan, Lori A. Ehrlich, Theodore C. Speliotis, Jerald A. Parisella and Senators Kathleen O’Connor Ives and Joan Lovely. Due to the success of this meeting and the impact of having court personnel speak on issues they face on a day to day basis, the BBA will continue to take court advocacy on the road by visiting other courthouses across the Commonwealth.
Civil Legal Services Advocacy
We are co-sponsoring the 14th annual Walk to the Hill for Civil Legal Aid again this year. This event, one of the largest advocacy events of its kind will take place on January 30th at 11 am at the State House. Massachusetts Legal Assistance Corporation (MLAC), the largest funding source for civil legal aid programs in the Commonwealth, will be requesting $15.5 million for legal services, a $3.5 million increase over last year’s budget. This money is needed to avoid further layoffs and service cuts that would force programs to turn away even more residents who need legal help.
We also raise money for legal services through our charitable arm, the Boston Bar Foundation (BBF). In 2012, the BBF made grants totaling $1 million to 24 Massachusetts community organizations providing a wide variety of core legal services – from domestic violence and immigration to housing and homelessness. Each year the BBF hosts the John and Abigail Adams benefit to raise money to support is mission of promoting justice. The Adam’s Benefit will take place this year on Saturday, January 26 this year. Tickets are still available!
The Boston Bar Association works year round on a variety of fronts to increase legal aid and secure funding for our Courts. We take serious our commitment to ensuring that all citizens of the Commonwealth have access to justice.