Mass. Justices: Budget Woes Could Close Courts

Layoffs and courthouse closures may be on the horizon for the Massachusetts court system.

The state’s top justices are warning that recent budget cuts approved by lawmakers and signed by Gov. Deval Patrick are forcing them to move ahead with plans to consolidate a dozen courts across Massachusetts.

Supreme Judicial Court Chief Justice Roderick Ireland and Chief Justice for Administration and Management Robert Mulligan said in a statement Tuesday that the state’s trial courts have seen their funding cut by almost 16 percent since the 2009 fiscal year.

The justices said the funding cuts are threatening to undermine the quality of justice in the courts.

The reduction in funding has translated into a loss of more than 1,100 employees with more than 60 percent of courts severely understaffed. As a way to save money, Ireland and other SJC justices asked Patrick to consider a temporary moratorium on appointing judicial and clerk magistrates.

The Patrick administration could not immediately be reached for comment. Patrick and legislative leaders have said the recent recession has forced round after round of deep cuts across state government.

With reporting from The Associated Press and the WBUR Newsroom

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