Since that time, judicial promotions and assignments are greatly impacted by how good a collection agent a judge is – and the statistics are posted online each year.
Despite the Wisconsin case holding use of indigent fees to fund court functions as unconstitutional, no one has had the temerity to take the legislature on about this – despite what a radical idea this is in reality.[Retained revenue from assessments such as indigent counsel fees, as a means to fund mandated government functions].
Indigent counsel fees should be used to fund the 6th Amendment right to counsel, not vanish into the “general fund”. The right to counsel should be fully funded, not funded in the budget at 80% of the expenditure for indigent counsel appointments the prior year – followed by a lengthy wait to be paid by those who accept indigent representation appointments through waiting for the legislature to pass slow moving supplemental budgets.
Such supplemental budgets are rarely “clean” and limited to paying the state’s unpaid, overdue bills. They typically become vehicles for earmarks and new programs. This year, for example, one of my bills to the proper agency in April of 2007 was finally paid last week – in November. Many seasoned advocates have stopped, or greatly reduced the number of cases they take to represent indigets, which is a real loss.
Further, Chapter 54 of the Acts of 2005 – see http://www.mass.gov/… mandated that two Commissions be established. One Commission was to review decriminalization of minor offenses [thereby reducting the judicial work load and the number of cases to be appointed] and the other to review other aspects of indigent representation. Neither Commission has been appointed to date.
In many ways, the judicial branch in Massachusetts is not co-equal, and the state of the body politik has suffered.
It is my opinion that the SJC will no longer tangle with the legislature about anything that involves use of the general fund revenue, or appropriations. SEE http://www.mma.org/i…
It is my opinion that actual judicial independence has been severely undercut by by the “retained revenue” requirement, and general underfunding of the Judicial branch.