Muddling Along: Everything’s Wrong: Hide and Hide. The Malfunctioning Massachusetts Justice System

P1010271This I beheld or dreamed it in a dream. I happened to be in the John Adams Courthouse the home of the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court (SJC). I spent some time at the Social Law Library (there is nothing social about it) which was once aptly described by an Appeals Court Judge who said “someone could die in that library and they would not be discovered for weeks.” It occupies the fourth and fifth floors of that courthouse and caters to a very few people. I find it a nice place to do some legal research or to escape the hubbub of the Hub.

When I finished my work there I got on the elevator and pushed the button to take me down to the exit leading out behind Central Plaza. Being occupied in my thoughts, when the elevator doors opened I got off. I discovered I was on the same floor as the SJC. As I was poking around figuring whether to wait for the elevator or walk down the remaining stairs I heard some singing coming from the courtroom where the judges hear the cases.

At first I could only hear the tune. It was that of a song we sang a long (~) swan laketime ago in St. William’s minstrel shows called “Side by Side.” Only the words were different. Curious, I pushed open the door just a bit. I saw there were five or six of the judges standing in front of the bench who dressed in their long black cassock-like garments were standing and moving side by side holding hands like the dancers in the danse  des petits cygnes. They were also  singing .

I realized I was an officious intermeddler intruding where I was not wanted. I let the door silently close and fled from the area down the stairs.

The only words that I was able to hear during that brief interlude were: “Oh we ain’t got a barrel of money; our courts are ragged and crumbling, but we’ll muddle along, ‘though everything’s wrong, hide and hide.”

They know, I thought. They are aware that the Massachusetts Court System is decrepit, barely functioning and out of date. They understand they have just been muddling along hiding the problems. Why were they singing about it in a lighthearted manner as if it were some sort of a joke; or had they  become so frustrated by it that the only way they could accept their failure to do anything about it was to get over it by singing that song?

You who have been with me a long time know I have talked about this before. You may recall my story of the two young professional women from Beacon Hill in their late twenties. In the late 1800s they went on an expedition to the North Pole. They never returned.  A couple of years ago they were found encased in ice. They were brought to  experimental research laboratory in Sweden where through modern technologies they were brought back to life. (Some say they never died.) They returned to Boston when well enough to travel.

One was a doctor. She was stunned by the advancement in medicine during her 120 year absence. She recognized to work at her profession she would have to start all over. The other woman was a lawyer. The first day she was able to pick up her brief case she was back in court. She was not even surprised nothing had changed.

That story as the one about the song may be apocryphal but they point to undeniable  truths. The Massachusetts Court System has not changed in hundreds of years; and the judges who should have done something about it are doing no more than singing. or, better put, they are whistling past the grave yard.

The problem with giving people life time jobs is whether they do something or not they have the job. There is no incentive to do anything; nor is there any competition to spur the people on. The ones who work hard get the same pay as those who are sluggards or scags. Trapped inside their robes and surrounded by obsequious helpers whose jobs depend on assuring them of their brilliance they have no need to see other than their own little worlds.

Were doctors appointed for life without incentives or competition and all paid the same we would be taking bourbon as an anesthetic and a major operation would be a blood-letting. The people deserve better than what the courts have been handing out over the years. I’ve written how they blew 75 million on a computer system that does not work. There were no consequences felt by anyone in the system. We are not being served well.  It is time to demand a change

Next time I get to the subject I’ll explain more. (I know I said that the last time but don’t forget I’m a product of this malfunctioning system.)


8 thoughts on “Muddling Along: Everything’s Wrong: Hide and Hide. The Malfunctioning Massachusetts Justice System

  1. “Considering The Monan Report

    By: admin April 7, 2003

    After months of study and analysis, the Supreme Judicial Court-appointed Visiting Committee on Management in the Courts, chaired by Rev. Donald Monan, issued its report last month. (See feature story, page B1.) The committee found that the administration and management of the Massachusetts court system is often dysfunctional, that morale is near the breaking point, and …”

    1. Douglas:

      It is amazing how unresponsive the courts are to the needs of the public. It is the problem when you have leaders who have life time jobs and no incentive to change anything.

  2. Matt
    As I have said before I am trying to create a curriculum
    where law is taught in grades 1-12.
    The goal is to prepare future primary consumers
    of the criminal justice system crime family
    to become smart consumers.
    You would be expected to pass the bar exam
    upon completion of high school.

    Secondly I want to see the creation of a law a school major
    in Judge…ship.

    I want you to read Cloak and Gavel by attorney Alec Charns.

    1. MS:

      You have mentioned that before and it is a noble idea but like many subjects taught at that age I’m not sure what good it will do; I’m not sure it is a good idea to have people so young becoming lawyers especially since they won’t be old enough to drink which is an essential quality for good lawyering. Why would you need a course in law school for judges. It would be better is judges who were to decide matters involving minor stuff not have law degrees but be drawn from the general public who have good character and are willing to serve for 5 years and step down.

  3. This very blog exists because of government secrecy that allowed the DOJ to sanction these extrajudicial murders by Bulger, Flemmi and others. The AG, Suffolk and Middlesex DAs did Zero about it for 40 years and apparently still take their orders from AUSA Fred Wyshak, a guy who everyone knows routinely suborns perjury, intimidates witnesses, their families and immunized all these murderers except for a few “chumps” to protect the USAO and DOJ.

    As Judge Wolf said after holding the Salemme hearings, “Everything secret degenerates.” The irony is that the Federal/State Courts have been reversing a recent trend in transparency and Massachusetts is currently holding hearings to restrict public access to court records further. That’s what got us here. There are many ways to protect the legitimate privacy rights of victims and defendants starting over without shrouding proceedings in secrecy.

    Governor Baker’s 2016 budget for the Massachusetts Courts will, according to Justice Gants, require the elimination of 500+ jobs severely impacting the quality of justice. It’s a veiled power grab by the Executive Branch.

    1. Bruce:

      Until Wyshak gave the deals to Martorano there were no murders to prosecute. Wyshak protected the murderers he was dealing with and their friends like Howie Winter and Pat Nee from being charged with their murders by tying the hands of the local DAs who went along with his dealings.

      You know Judge Wolf’s big mistake was that many of his findings were based upon the testimony of Steve Flemmi who was lying left and right on the stand. But he is right when he quotes Lord Byron who talked about secrecy and that is why the Massachusetts justice system is as bad as it is. Judges do not want anyone looking at their activities.

      I can agree that victims have some privacy rights but I think a person charged with a crime has lost those rights even though a presumption of innocence attaches. After the person is convicted then there should be no privacy rights for that person with respect to that case. The idea of privacy is what you do in your own home is no one else’s business (unless it involves a serious crime) but what you do in the daylight is open for all to see.

      I expect Justice Gants to squark but why listen to him when he does nothing to put his own house in order. He is sitting on a mess and has no suggestion what to do about it other than doing away with some of the minimum mandatory laws. Perhaps Governor Baker is on the right track. Many court jobs are ministerial and could be replaced by a decent computer system. If Baker were on the level he would not just talk about the elimination but would tell us why those jobs were not necessary and how we can operate without them. He should sit down with Gants and they should come up with a plan; the first step is to cut down on the need for so many people to show up at court.

  4. They may not want the computer system to work, Matt. That’s the ‘hide and hide’ part.

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