By Robert Nislick
According to a draft Massachusetts Courts capital master plan obtained by Massachusetts Lawyers’ Weekly, and reported in its June 15, 2015, issue, the Trial Court proposes to close 41 courthouses and consolidate them in other locations.
The Framingham District Court, located at 600 Concord Street, Framingham, would undergo a major expansion, or a new facility would be built, within a timeframe of six to ten years, according to the draft plan. It would grow in size from three courtrooms to seven courtrooms.
Framingham and its residents and businesses would undoubtedly benefit from a modernized and enlarged facility. In addition to serving Framingham, the courthouse serves Natick, Ashland, Holliston, Hopkinton, Sherborn, Sudbury, and Wayland. The court is busy and its staff works in cramped quarters. The parking lot fills up frequently and cars spill over onto nearby streets. A new building would help accommodate the court’s present docket, and most people would probably agree, is necessary now.
Under the draft master plan, the Marlborough District Court, located at 45 Williams Street, Marlborough, would consolidate into the Framingham District Court. Presently, the Marlborough District Court, which also serves the town of Hudson, holds satellite sessions of the Worcester Housing Court and the Middlesex Probate and Family Court. Parking is good.
A proposed closure of the Marlborough courthouse would likely have an adverse impact on its residents and local economy. People with court events in Marlborough would have to travel twenty to thirty extra minutes out of their way to get to Framingham. Such additional travel would pose a considerable inconvenience to many litigants and jurors, and to the police. It would also add to the congestion on Concord Street in Framingham. Granted, the caseload at Marlborough is smaller than it is in Framingham, but the Court still accommodates a significant amount of business.
Marlborough’s occasional sittings of the Middlesex Probate and Family Court are helpful to parties and attorneys who would otherwise have to travel over an hour to Cambridge on a weekday morning. Expanding the presence of the Middlesex Probate and Family Court, and the Housing Court, in Marlborough should certainly be considered over closing the courthouse.
The draft master capital plan also anticipates the construction of a new Southern Middlesex Regional Justice Center, into which the Middlesex Superior Court would move. No specific location appears to have been proposed yet. Presently, Middlesex Superior Court sits in Woburn in a modern but distant facility, which is privately leased, and not Commonwealth owned, and also in Lowell, in an antiquated building.
Locating a new courthouse in Marlborough on state owned real estate might present several benefits. It would keep a court in Marlborough to serve its residents. It would also draw people to a part of the town that is easy to get to and park at. The goals of providing and preserving access to justice would be served. All of these potential benefits should certainly be considered and weighed against the cost of closing the Marlborough court.
Hopefully, the decision makers in Boston will recognize the need for investing in new courthouses in Framingham and Marlborough, and the benefits they will provide to our towns, and our residents and businesses.
Robert Nislick is a Massachusetts lawyer based in Framingham. For more information, call him at (508) 405-1238, or visit his web site at www.nislick.com.