I was in the Suffolk County Superior Court Clerk’s office yesterday. The Clerk, Michael Donovan, was extremely helpful, as was his staff. It is a pleasure to see an office operate so efficiently and friendly in the midst of a hectic city environment especially being so understaffed. I understand it is down 70 positions since Donovan took over. I can see it is pretty much the step child of the court system.
I assumed that the decrease in support personnel was due to the introduction of modern computer technology but I was quickly disabused of that idea. The system is the same as it has been for forty years if not worse. The lack of leadership by the judges is inexplicable. A little innovative thought, a small bit of money, and a desire to make everyone’s lives a little easier is desperately needed. I think judges, like generals, get too isolated and fail to consider much beyond their immediate desires because no one wants to correct them.
I’ve been lamenting about the failure of the courts to keep up with modern technology for years. It would have happened with the DAs had not I lobbied for a change. I told them their complicated and expensive mainframe system run by a company out of Washington, DC was outdated. Opposition to my suggestion that we change to a PC system boiled down to “we’ve committed time and money into this so we’re not going to change.” It was the old story of starting down the wrong road and stubbornly continuing on rather than admitting it was a mistake. Eventually I convinced the DAs to change course. They saved much time, effort and money by switching and coming up with a more manageable computer system.
The federal court system PACER is old and inefficient. The Massachusetts courts really have no computer system. It’s a shame. Attorneys, litigants, judges and court workers could save huge amounts of time and money if they could do most of the business on line. The system could easily pay for itself. I often wonder how long it took the judges to allow electricity into the courtrooms.
All the above is aside from the point of the blog but is well worth bringing out. The courts are pretty much doing business in the same or worse manner than happened forty or so years ago, before the internet. Maybe the next chief judge will change this. Here’s hoping we get out of the WWII era thinking.
I mention this because I was in Boston reading the case file of Thomas Finnerty v. Harold Brown. It involved the infamous 75 State Street matter that brought such opprobrium on Whitey’s brother, Billy Bulger, who had served in public office since 1960 in a distinguished manner. Aside from the innuendos that his existence as Senate president in the Massachusetts legislature helped his brother Whitey’s career, for which there is not one scintilla of evidence, it is the only thing that people cling to in order to support their position that he is corrupt.
I thought it appropriate to go back to the case and read the filings to get a better understanding of the matter. I did this so that I could make my own judgment and conclusion about Billy and let you know how I came to it.
I’ll do that by going back to that period of time to examining the happenings. For instance, in September 1988 the Boston Globe did a four part Spotlight piece on the Bulger Mystique which was followed up by a December 1988 Spotlight article that opened up the 75 State Street affair. It followed that article with dozens of other articles repeating the allegation in the December article each one tearing at Billy’s reputation from a different angle.
Back then we knew little about the genesis of these articles. From the book Black Mass, written by Globe reporters Gerry O’Neill and Dick Lehr, the book Betrayal,‘t written by ex-FBI agent Fitzpatrick, and the testimony of retired and disgraced FBI agent John Morris, from the book Don’t Embarrass The Family, we’ve learned that during the summer of 1988 the Boston Globe was being fed information about FBI matters, including such sensitive matters as the identity of Whitey as an informant, by Morris and Fitzpatrick. We’ve also learned that the FBI had an investigation ongoing into Finnerty’s activity around that time.
We’ve learned that Morris was in charge of an investigation relating to 75 State Street. We’ve learned that Morris and Fitzpatrick had a close relationship, the uniting factor being a hatred of Whitey and Billy Bulger. I’ll mention this again as I go along. At the time of the September and December 1988 articles, we were not advised that the Globe was being fed secret FBI information from two agents who despised the Bulgers, one of whom is actively investigating the 75 State Street matter.
We don’t know what the relationship between the lawyers representing Brown and the Boston Globe is. We don’t know how much of the information from the FBI to the Globe went to the lawyers. Some of these things I hope to discover.
What we do know is that the foundation upon which the 75 Street affair is built came from people with an animosity toward Billy which was not disclosed. The Spotlight article was put out there and accepted by the public as impartial reporting which now appears may not have been the case. It makes a big difference if reporters come to a story with a hidden agenda.
When we sit a juror we want to know if the person has any bias toward the parties. If the juror has, he or she will not be seated. People with biases put out the facts favorable to their point of view and omit or slant facts that point the other way. We’ve all argued with people of opposing view points and recognize how difficult it is to get a fair point across.
I have some work ahead of me putting this into historical perspective trying to show the intentions and prejudices of people involved at the time. Bear with me. I’ll lay out the facts as I have found them and let you make up your minds on the facts surrounding 75 State Street.