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Globe Editorial

Petty payback on Beacon Hill

May 12, 2010

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WHEN HOUSE SPEAKER Robert DeLeo approved a budget amendment that would exile the administrator of the state court system to a run-down office in Charlestown, it wasn’t out of a sudden interest in helping the state save money.

Robert A. Mulligan, chief justice for administration and management, has been at the forefront of the judiciary’s efforts to manage its own costs — which have long been subject to meddling by legislators bent on preserving public facilities and patronage opportunities in their districts. But Mulligan left himself vulnerable by maintaining his own office in space that rents for about $3 million a year.

State Representative Michael Rush seized on that, sponsoring an amendment directing Mulligan to terminate that Downtown Boston lease and move to a state-owned building in Charlestown. DeLeo tucked the measure into the House budget bill.

Never mind that the Charlestown space is far removed from the heart of the state’s judicial system and may require millions of dollars in renovations. And never mind that Rush, as the Globe reported last week, has a personal beef with Mulligan over the treatment of Rush’s father, a former probation officer in West Roxbury District Court.

This episode captures everything that’s wrong with the management of the court system in Massachusetts. Time and again, legislators have intervened in the courts for personal reasons — and in ways that have nothing to do with the efficient administration of justice. Mulligan could indeed set a good example by moving to a state-owned building. But if DeLeo and others are serious about cutting costs, they’ll give Mulligan the leeway to streamline the system without micromanagement from Beacon Hill.

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