Wednesday, May. 23, 2007
Mark D Mason (right) initiates the ceremonial "passing of the gavel" to David W. White Jr.
House of Delegates unanimously supports principle of civil Gideon
After an impassioned debate, the House of Delegates voted unanimously yesterday to support a civil Gideon resolution, urging the state to provide legal counsel to low income people in civil matters involving basic human needs.
The debate was the highlight of the May 23 meeting, held in Springfield, in which MBA President Mark D Mason symbolically passed the gavel to President-elect David W. White Jr., whose term officially begins Sept. 1.
HOD also addressed family law reforms and judicial compensation, and supported a Real Estate Bar Association bill regulating notaries public.
Michael S. Greco, past president of both the American Bar Association and the Massachusetts Bar Association, called on the MBA to endorse ABA Resolution 112A. It calls on the government to provide free legal counsel to the indigent in a limited number of civil cases involving basic human needs such as shelter, sustenance, safety, health and child custody.
“It is shameful, shameful, that in the most bountiful country in the world, that 80 percent of the legal needs of the poorest Americans go unmet year after year,” Greco told the group, arguing that the right to counsel should not be limited to criminal cases.
“Imprisonment is not just being behind bars,” he said. “It can be living in poverty day after day. This issue is the defining issue for the legal profession, for the organized bar, for society.”
The resolution does not address how the initiative should be funded or implemented. Mason said it’s an important first step in providing equal justice in civil cases.
“This was truly history in the making,” he said. “We have much to be proud of.”
See the June issue of Lawyers Journal for the complete story on the HOD decisions.