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State chief justice says courts are performing well

Roderick L. Ireland, the chief justice of the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court, told the legal community Wednesday that the state court system is performing well in a climate of fiscal austerity.

“This year, although our budget is tight, we are beginning to reverse the drain on personnel that resulted from a multiyear hiring freeze,” Ireland said during an annual address at the John Adams Courthouse in Boston. “We are hopeful that the worst is behind us, and that we can start the process of addressing critical staffing needs for our courts.”

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Ireland addressed about 100 lawyers, judges, and elected officials who gathered for the Massachusetts Bar Association’s annual Bench Bar Symposium.

The Trial Court system received a state allocation of $561 million for the current fiscal year, a 1.4 percent increase from the prior year, according to court officials. The Trial Court has 6,264 employees, a decline of 1,300 positions since the fiscal crisis of 2008, officials have said.

Among the other topics Ireland discussed were planned technological initiatives, including pilot projects for electronic filing, as well as the Judicial Youth Corps program, which offers courthouse internships to high school students.

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He did not address the scandal at a now closed state drug lab in Jamaica Plain, which is expected to clog the courts with extra hearings as defendants convicted of drug crimes seek their release due to tainted evidence.

The chief justice praised court employees for their work, and he gave a nod to his colleagues on the SJC bench as his remarks drew to a close.

“Justices, I mean it when I say it: I couldn’t do this without you, and I thank you,” he said.

Travis Andersen of the Globe Staff can be reached at tandersen@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter@TAGlobe
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