And I requested the addition of “access to justice” as one of the areas of the Democratic Platform. Without access to the courts to enforce rights, or be protected against state action, no citizen has any rights at all.
I note that John Adams must have been aware of this, in drafting the ringing “Open Courts Clause” included as “Article XI of the Declaration of Rights of the Inhabitants of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts”.
The vision for the government of our state involved three co-equal branches of government, which as a system of checks and balances would prevent tyranny.
Thus, the Judicial Branch cannot be treated as a mere agency – nor castrated by the appropriation power or the appointing power without harming democracy at its very core.
Therefore, “Access to Justice” must be a core value, and a topic in its own right.
The topics within “Access to Justice” include an independent judiciary, funding for the Judicial Branch sufficient to guarantee access to justice which is, as article XI in the Declaration of Rights requires:
“Every subject of the commonwealth ought to find a certain remedy, by having recourse to the laws, for all injuries or wrongs which he may receive in his person, property, or character. He ought to obtain right and justice freely, and without being obliged to purchase it; completely, and without any denial; promptly, and without delay; comforably to the laws.”
NOTE: Without sufficient funding to hold an adequate number of trials and motions, the requirement of “without delay” cannot be met by the judicial branch. Without adequate support for the provision of legal services to those who cannot afford counsel, Article XI is a mockery. It should be the Land Court that ensures justice for the tenant and property owner. It should be the Juvenile Court that ensures that juveniles – and families – are treated fairly by schools and the Department of Children and Families. And access to justice requires both access to courts, and to legal counsel for those of modest means, not only the wealthy if the “ought to obtain right and justice freely, without being obliged to purchase it” is not a mockery, and an empty promise.