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National Honor for Mass. Judge

The National Center for State Courts has named Robert A. Mulligan, chief justice for administration and management of the Massachusetts Trial Court, as the recipient of its Distinguished Service Award, its highest honor. The annual award is presented to a person who has made longstanding contributions to improving the justice system. Chief Justice Mulligan was recognized, according to NCSC's announcement, for his "impressive abilities not only as a jurist, but as an innovative court manager."

Mulligan took over as head of the Massachusetts trial court in 2003, just three months after a blue-ribbon panel chaired by Boston College Chancellor J. Donald Monan released a damning report finding the state's court system "mired in confusion" and suffering from a "dysfunctional management structure." Last week, a much-different court marked the five-year anniversary of that report with a symposium on best practices in judicial administration that featured a keynote address by California Supreme Court Chief Justice Ronald M. George.

The NCSC award gives national recognition to the judge who orchestrated a massive turnaround of the courts. As The Boston Globe recounted this week, Mulligan and his management team studied the workflow in every courthouse, set performance goals for courts and created an evaluation process for judges.

The result has been more uniform staffing levels throughout the system. Holyoke District Court had 61 percent of the needed staff early in 2005; today it has 81 percent. Worcester Superior Court had 56 percent in 2005, now that figure has risen to 76 percent. And Framingham District Court had an overly generous 118 percent in 2005: That has been lowered to 88 percent.

Improvements in staffing, information technology, and other areas have reduced the number of cases that remain unresolved past the time limits set by the new standards. That figure stood at 73,580 on Jan. 1, far from perfect, but a great improvement over the 177,129 delayed cases on Jan. 1, 2006.

Mulligan, whose is up for reappointment in October, issued a statement saying that he was deeply honored by the award, which he called a tribute to court employees throughout the state.

Posted by Robert J. Ambrogi on March 6, 2008 at 12:58 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)

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