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Cox Recommends Reform In State Court System

By Amy B. Mcintosh

Archibald Cox '34, Williston Professor of Law, yesterday recommended extensive reform of the Massachusetts judicial system in a report to Gov. Michael S. Dukakis.

The report is the result of a year's work by the governor's Select Committee on Judicial Needs, headed by Cox.

The Massachusetts judicial system is "on the brink of disaster" due to long delays in cases reaching the courts and waste of tax money, the report declared.

Massachusetts has six of the twelve county courts in the country with the longest delay before a case comes to trial, the report said. The backlog of criminal cases in the Superior Court has reached 35,000 cases.

The 56 recommendations in the report include proposals to vastly increase the powers of the chief justice of the Superior Court, shift a larger proportion of the caseload from the Superior Court to the district courts, and consolidate the 95 separate trial courts in the state.

Bruce W. Edmonds, executive director of the Cox committee, said yesterday the increase in the chief justice's powers is necessary because the judicial system would be more manageable if one person were "in charge to delegate authority."

The Committee recommended the consolidation of courts to correct "the gross imbalance in the distribution of workload" among the courts, Edmonds said.

The reorganization of the courts would also allow them to share judges and facilities according to need, the report says.

The report also recommended that the state assume the total cost of the judicial system over a four-year period and that the system be financed by a single annual budget instead of the 417 budgets currently used.

Edmonds said the legislators on the 20 member committee have drafted legislation to enact the Committee's proposals.

Although the committee expects debate on its recommendations, Edmonds said they are "optimistic" about the chances for passage of the reforms and added that action could be taken by April.

A number of administrative changes recommended by the Committee can be made without legislation. Atty. Gen. Francis X. Bellotti said yesterday he will "call upon the courts to move independently" on these recommendations.

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