Thank you, President Turco, for that kind introduction. I would like to thank you, and everyone at the Massachusetts Bar Association, for supporting and sponsoring our program today.
I also want to welcome our other guests from the MBA: President-Elect Victoria Santoro; Vice President Michael Hayden; Treasurer Sam Segal; Secretary Shayla Mombeleur; the MBA’s longtime Chief Legal Counsel and Chief Operating Officer Marty Healy; and Director of Policy and Operations Lee Constantine, whose assistance was crucial in helping us prepare for this event.
We truly appreciate our ongoing partnership and dialogue with the MBA and other bar associations, which play an important role in guiding our efforts to improve court operations.
And we are grateful for the many other ways in which the bar associations work to strengthen the legal system, whether it’s through mentoring and education for members, or supporting volunteer legal services for unrepresented litigants – including the MBA’s recently announced program in Superior Court.
I would also like to take this opportunity to thank Governor Healey and Lieutenant Governor Driscoll, and our legislative leaders, including Speaker Mariano and Senate President Spilka; the Ways and Means leadership, House Chair Michlewitz and Senate Chair Rodrigues; and the Judiciary Committee leadership, House Chair Day and Senate Chair Eldridge, for their strong support of the judiciary.
We have a healthy court system in large part because of the many important ways in which the other two branches back our work, whether it is through funding our operations, or choosing wise judges, or authorizing needed judicial positions as they did this year for the Probate and Family Court.
In addition, I would like to express my profound gratitude to my colleagues in the judiciary for their collaboration, diligence, and dedication to excellence. Many of them are here today, including my colleagues from the SJC; Appeals Court Chief Justice Mark Green; the Chief Justices of our Trial Court departments, and of course Trial Court Chief Justice Jeff Locke and his partner, Court Administrator Tom Ambrosino.
And finally, to everyone here in the audience and those viewing us online, welcome, and thank you for joining us.
In addressing you this afternoon, I am particularly mindful of the many significant transitions we will be facing in our court system over next several weeks and months.
Two of my colleagues on the SJC, Justices David Lowy and Ellie Cypher, have announced that they will be stepping down early next year. Between the two of them, they have served in the Massachusetts judiciary for nearly 50 years. They have each left a distinctive mark on our jurisprudence, and we will miss their wisdom and experience.
In the Trial Court, Chief Justice Locke will be retiring very soon after a remarkable career in public service, during which he has served as District Attorney for Norfolk County, as Commissioner of the Massachusetts Department of Social Services, and as a Superior Court judge, in addition to his current position.
Chief, among many other things, you played a critical role in helping the Trial Court get back to normal and reducing the trial backlog following the COVID-19 pandemic. We are so enormously grateful for your leadership over the last two years.
And in the Boston Municipal Court, Chief Justice Rob Ronquillo will soon be finishing his second and final five-year term in that role. During his tenure as Chief, he has helped the courts improve language access services for court users and skillfully steered the BMC through the many challenges posed by the pandemic.
In addition, we are also saying goodbye to our Reporter of Decisions, Brian Redmond, after 22 years of service. Since he was appointed as the eighteenth Reporter in 2012, every SJC and Appeals Court opinion has been shepherded to publication under his careful eye.
Brian will be succeeded early next year by Maddie Makara, who has worked as an Associate Deputy Reporter for more than a decade and brings a wealth of experience to this role.
Justices Lowy and Cypher, Chief Justices Locke and Ronquillo, Reporter Redmond – our time is too short today to adequately thank each of you for your many contributions to the court system – we will have future opportunities to do that properly. But, for the moment, I applaud you for all that you have accomplished for the courts and for the people of the Commonwealth during your careers.
We are also welcoming a number of new leaders to prominent positions in the court system.
Just last month, my SJC colleagues and I announced the appointment of Superior Court Chief Justice Heidi Brieger to succeed Chief Justice Locke as the next Chief Justice of the Trial Court. Chief Justice Brieger brings extensive legal and administrative experience to this role, including 20 years at the U.S. Attorney’s Office, and more than a decade on the bench at the Superior Court, which she has led as chief since 2021. We are extremely fortunate to have Chief Justice Brieger ready to step into the important role of Chief Justice of the Trial Court, where she will be partnering with Court Administrator Tom Ambrosino.
Although Tom has been with us for almost a year now, this is his first State of the Judiciary appearance, so I’d like to take this opportunity to say just a few words about him as well. Tom has a unique background that makes him particularly well-suited to be the Court Administrator. He comes to us with tremendous executive experience, having previously served as Mayor of Revere, as Executive Director of the SJC, and most recently, as City Manager in Chelsea.
He knows our court system well from his time at the SJC. And he is familiar with the challenges faced by so many of our court users from his work in Chelsea, where significant percentages of the residents are foreign born, use a first language other than English, and have incomes below the poverty level. If you have heard him speak, you know that he is a passionate advocate for improving access to justice for people in communities like Chelsea. And, he’s a really nice guy. We are so fortunate – and grateful – to have him as part of our team.
In addition, Dr. Natoschia Scruggs recently came onboard as the Trial Court’s Chief Access, Diversity, and Fairness Officer. You will hear more about her background and experience from CJ Locke, but I can tell you that we are very excited to have her join us.
And finally, I’d like to welcome Pamerson Ifill, who succeeds Ed Dolan as our new Commissioner of Probation. Commissioner Dolan, who retired in April, led the Probation Service for nearly ten years and played an important role in implementing changes related to criminal justice reform. He left big shoes to fill, but I have great confidence that Commissioner Ifill will have no problem doing just that.
Commissioner Ifill has 30 years of experience in a variety of roles within the Probation Service, including positions as Chief Probation Officer for Suffolk Superior Court, a Regional Supervisor of Probation Services, and most recently as Deputy Commissioner of Pretrial Services. As Deputy Commissioner, he designed a text messaging notification system for criminal defendants that improved court appearance rates and now is used in certain civil cases; he created a departmental training program on racial and cultural equity; and he established the annual Cultural Appreciation Week that is held in courthouses across the Commonwealth each October.
Our success in recruiting such talented and experienced leaders to fill these positions gives me great confidence that we will be able to find similarly strong candidates for the additional upcoming openings that remain to be filled. And so – my colleagues and I look forward to welcoming two new justices on the SJC early next year.
But to maintain progress toward improving our court system, we not only need to appoint talented and experienced leaders. We also need to create and sustain a vision of what we want to accomplish and execute plans for realizing that vision. And that is primarily what we will be discussing during the remainder of our program today.
Broadly speaking, much of the work we are undertaking to improve our court system falls under four categories.
First, we are continuing to upgrade our technology to make court operations more accessible for court users and more efficient for judges, clerks, court staff, and lawyers.
Second, we are working to make the court system easier to understand and navigate for lawyers and litigants, especially self-represented litigants.
Third, we are reexamining how the courts can respond more effectively to the difficult issues that underlie so many of the cases that come before us.
And finally, we are continuing our ongoing efforts to improve diversity, equity, and inclusion in our court system.
I am excited about the work that we are doing in each of these areas, and I look forward to discussing them further with President Turco, Chief Justice Locke, and Court Administrator Ambrosino. Thank you!