Tag Archives: Committee for Public Counsel Services

Justice System FY15 Budget

We’ve done our best to keep you up to date on the budget process this year, and it’s almost done.  To recap, way back in January, the Governor filed his budget recommendations bill.  In early April, the House Committee on Ways & Means made its budget recommendations.  The House completed its budget in early May, the Senate Ways &Means Committee finalized its budget a couple of weeks later, and the Senate completed its budget at the end of May.  Since then, the budget has been before a six member Conference Committee consisting of Representatives Dempsey, Kulik and deMacedo and Senators Brewer, Flanagan, and Ross.  On Sunday, June 29th, the Conference Committee finalized its budget recommendation, and on Monday, the House and Senate approved this joint budget.  At this point, the budget is under review by the Governor, who has ten days to approve or veto the entire budget, veto or reduce specific line items, veto outside sections, and/or submit changes as an amendment to the budget for further consideration by the legislature.

Our chief areas of interest in the justice system – judiciary funding in the form of: the Trial Court, legal services, and state attorneys – fared well, but still face a number of challenges.

Trial Court Funding

The Trial Court requested maintenance funding of $615 million for FY15.  This is the amount of money it would take for the court to continue running at current capacity.  In addition, it proposed 10 “modules,” essentially packages of ideas and their costs that it could implement if funded, to update and innovate the courts.  These included plans for court service centers, specialty courts, electronic signage and information kiosks, and telecommunication enhancements.  The price for each module ranged from around $400,000 to $6.5 million.

  • Conference Committee – $612 million – this amount is in between the House and Senate appropriations, but is $3 million below the Court’s maintenance request.  It includes $3 million for the specialty court module.
  • Senate Budget – $617 million
  • Senate Ways & Means – $617 million
  • House Budget – $609 million
  • House Ways & Means Budget – $609 million
  • Governor’s Budget – $617.5 million

Massachusetts Legal Assistance Corporation (MLAC) Funding

MLAC requested $17 million for FY15.  This amount would cover current costs and allow for the hiring of 40 more attorneys in addition to offering some future stability.  This funding level would expand the amount of services its programs could provide to vulnerable residents across the state and also help boost the state economy.  As funding for civil legal aid has declined, mostly through a large drop in IOLTA revenue, the economic benefits resulting from civil legal aid have also dropped.  At the same time, the need for civil legal aid has grown — close to 1 million people in Massachusetts qualify for this aid, and programs currently turn away 50 to 70 percent of eligible residents.  Last year, MLAC received $13 million in funding.

  • Conference Committee – $15 million – Representative Ruth Balser and Senator William Brownsberger sent a letter co-signed by 50 other legislators to conference committee members voicing their support for $15 million in MLAC funding. 

We reached out to our members along the way, asking you to contact your legislators to voice your support for civil legal aid funding.  Thank you for all of your help – we are confident this level of appropriation wouldn’t have happened without you.  At this point we encourage you to continue building your relationships at the Statehouse by personally thanking your legislators for their work and reach out to the Governor for the final budget step, urging him to sign on to the $15 million MLAC appropriation. 

  • Senate Budget – $14 million
  • Senate Ways & Means Budget – $13 million – Senator William Brownsberger and Senator Cynthia Creem filed an amendment requesting increasing this line item to $17 million.  It was amended to a $1 million increase and adopted.
  • House Budget – $15 million
  • House Ways & Means Budget – $13 million – Representative Ruth Balser filed an amendment (#157), co-signed by 71 Representatives, proposing to increase the MLAC budget line item to the requested $17 million.  It was included in a consolidated amendment as a $2 million increase for the final House budget.
  • Governor’s Budget – $14 million 

Committee for Public Counsel Services (CPCS) Funding

CPCS requested a total budget of $219,399,885 for FY15.  Its maintenance request was $206,629,539.  The $12.7 million difference was to increase staff compensation and private bar hourly rates.  It is important to note when understanding CPCS’s line item that while the Governor’s budget attempts to account for the entire budget, the House Ways and Means recommendation underfunds the private counsel account because CPCS is considered a case-driven account for budgeting purposes.  This means that since CPCS cannot predict with exact certainty how many cases it will have to serve, it is provided with an initial appropriation with the understanding that, similar to other case-driven accounts, CPCS will submit supplemental increase requests as the fiscal year progresses.  The Legislature and Governor have consistently honored and funded these requests.  Neither the Governor nor the House Ways and Means budget propose any changes to the current CPCS service delivery system.

  • Conference Committee – $168 million
  • Senate Ways & Means – $180 million
  • House Budget – $168 million
  • House Ways & Means Budget – $168 million
  • Governor’s Budget – $191 million

The budget is a long and complicated process, but it is almost finished and we hope that regular updates like this have helped you stay engaged with some key judiciary appropriations.  Thank you to everyone for your involvement, especially with legal services funding.  Stay tuned for a final update likely only a few days away.

– Jonathan Schreiber
Legislative and Public Policy Manager
Boston Bar Association
Comments are disabled for this blog. To submit your comments please e-mail  issuespot@bostonbar.org

1 Comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Senate Budget Update

The Senate Ways & Means Committee released its budget this week.  Read our budget breakdown here.  Here’s what we are watching in the Senate budget:

  • MLAC was level funded at $13 million; this is $4 million below their request of $17 million.  Senator William Brownsberger and Senator Cynthia Creem are filing an amendment requesting an increase of this budget line to $17 million.
  • The Trial Court received approximately $617 million, which is about $9 million more than the House budget.  This difference will have to be worked out in a budget conference committee.
  • CPCS received approximately $180 million.  While this funding amount is substantially higher than the funding it received in 2013, the final FY 2014 General Appropriations Act, and this year’s FY2015 House budget recommendation, it falls short of CPCS’s budget request.  This amount does not provide any additional funding for increased attorney compensation.  Several legislators are considering filing amendments to increase this line item.

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Justice System Salaries Revisited

After our recent post on Massachusetts public defender and assistant district attorney salaries, we were interested to hear more from Chief Counsel Anthony Benedetti, and Deputy Chief Counsel Public Defender Division Randy Gioia, for the Committee for Public Counsel Services (CPCS) at our March Council meeting.

We learned more about the structure and operation of CPCS:

CPCS attorneys represent adult criminals, juvenile delinquents, and about a third of CPCS’ budget goes to representing civil clients primarily in family law and mental health cases.

In the last two to three years, CPCS has seen big changes in the delivery system of indigent defense.  In 2011, Governor Patrick proposed eliminating the private bar altogether from this practice area.  In Fiscal Year 2012, the legislature mandated that CPCS staff attorneys handle 25% of all indigent defense cases, with the private bar picking up the rest.  Today, CPCS is well on its way to meeting the legislature’s 25% target, having handled just under 23% of cases last year.  CPCS is still hiring to meet the legislature’s mandate but if the case load demand increases, they will have to hire more staff and attorneys to meet the growing need.

One of the biggest challenges the organization faces is attrition.  As its size has grown to meet the increased case load requirements, so have the number of departing employees.  Last year the number of staff leaving increased by 13%; a large percentage of those were attorneys, most before their third year with CPCS or, as experienced attorneys know, just as they are beginning to return value as attorneys who can handle the intricacies of legal practice with minimal supervision.

The reason for this exodus seems to be clear – the salaries.  An internal CPCS survey revealed that its attorneys average $140,000 in debt.  Furthermore, 37% have a second job and 73% have borrowed money from family or friends to make ends meet.  This year, CPCS is proposing a plan to gradually increase starting attorney salaries from $40,000 to $50,000 per year.

As Randy Gioia pointed out to our Council, with more than a third of their attorneys needing a second job just to make ends meet, the clients may suffer most.  Practicing law is a more than full-time job on its own; it’s all-consuming at times.  Speaking from his own experience, Randy reminded us that public defenders and assistant district attorneys should be wholly focused on pursuing justice for their clients.

– Jonathan Schreiber
Legislative and Public Policy Manager
Boston Bar Association
Comments are disabled for this blog. To submit your comments please e-mail  issuespot@bostonbar.org

1 Comment

Filed under Uncategorized