Three governor's councilors started a statewide tour of district courts on Friday, to see firsthand the impact of a budget freeze.
That freeze recently ended, but it put a strain on the court system.
As the councilors entered a courtroom Friday afternoon inside the District Court of Eastern Hampden County, there was a sense of relief. The court, which has been short-staffed for some time due to the budget freeze, is in the process of filling those positions.
"The first step is to lift the freeze," said Jennie Caissie, the councilor for the Seventh District, which includes Palmer. "That has happened. Now we really have to identify those areas that need the support staff."
Caissie, who is a practicing attorney, said bringing in court staff is crucial.
"When somebody walks into a courthouse, a lot of times, it is the first time in a courthouse for them," said Caissie. "They do not know what to do or where they are supposed to go. You need people on the frontline, at the counter, responding and that is where the need is."
The Palmer District Court plans to fill three vacancies in the very near future. District Court Chief Justice Paul LoConto said that will go a long way to keeping offices fully staffed.
"It is my intention and hope that once we fill these vacancies that existed for a long while, we will be able to keep clerk offices open all day," said LoConto.
And, a fully-functioning courthouse will send a message to residents.
"My hope is that the people in this community realize that we are not ignoring the western part of the state," said LoConto.
For the council, they believe this tour will help keep a better line of communication open between the courts and the governor's office.
"When you have that frank conversation with the governor about funding, you have seen it and you can explain it in a way that you can hopefully get some result," said Caissie.
One of the next stops on the Governor's Council tour will be Springfield District Court.
They expect to make that stop in two weeks, on Friday, April 5.
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