Lawyers Journal

House Judiciary chair brings personal experience to new role

State Representative Eugene O’ divides his time between his firm, Person, Donovan and O'Flaherty and the State House, where he was appointed the new House Chairman of the Joint Committee on the Judiciary this summer.
"I am an attorney first. I hope what I do for the profession here is meaningful and positive," he said inside the Committee’ chambers.
"The MBA is extremely pleased with the recent appointment of Representative O’ to this important chairmanship," said General Counsel Martin W. Healy. "Rep. O’ has been a diligent, hardworking legislator who understands the complex issues facing practitioners."
Since 1996, O’, a democrat, has served the second Suffolk District, which includes Chelsea and parts of Boston. He most recently served as vice-chairman of the Joint Committee on Banks and Banking and as a member of the Joint Committee on Education, Arts and Humanities.
The Judiciary Committee sees 900 of the 6,000 bills filed annually, including many MBA sponsored bills, such as the Uniform Probate Code, legislation relative to probation violations and legislation that would apportion attorney’ fees and costs in personal injury actions among all medical provider lien holders.
"We anticipate his continued leadership on the many issues affecting the bench and bar," said Healy.
"I’ looking forward to the role. It's a very visible committee," O’ said, after two weeks in his new office, adding that abortion, end of life, the Defense of Marriage Act and court reform will continue to be issues.
At the time of this interview, the committee was studying the effects of the state Senate's proposed 2003 budget.
"Massachusetts is in a serious fiscal crisis. It's not only the judiciary that’ affected," said O’, recalling that in his six years on Beacon Hill the economy was always thriving.
The committee had sent a letter to all House and Senate members of the Joint Conference Committee, the committee charged with producing the compromise budget, urging them to hold fast to the House’ more favorable numbers.
"If the cuts go through, there will be a serious lack of service to those folks that avail themselves to the courts," O’ said. This spring, he voted to raise taxes for services aware that next year’ budget may be worse.
As a former public defender under a private bar advocate program, O’ has practiced before the Boston Municipal Court and the East Boston District Court in the mid 1990s. He knows from firsthand experience that prosecutors and district attorneys will struggle as a result of the cuts.
"There will be an increased backlog of cases and many cases will be dismissed because service officers aren't available to be witnesses," he said.
The committee is seeking innovative ways to address the available figures and revenues such as raising fees and costs for filing complaints, which they will suggest to the House Ways and Means Committee.
"There will still be a reduction because belts have been tightened," O’ said. "We’ realistic about the fiscal crisis. Practitioners best know what can be practically implemented."

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