Lawyers Journal

Our commitment to law and justice is a labor of love

Time passes so quickly.

When I began my year as president on Sept. 1, 2001 we embarked on a journey in which we made a commitment to focus on the value of professionalism, equal access to the legal system, the rule of law and diversity and inclusion. We acknowledged that racial and ethnic diversity is essential to our profession's ability to fulfill its role of protecting the rights and freedoms of all. We embraced a celebration of law and a celebration of justice.

How could any of us have imagined the events of Sept. 11 and the impact those acts of terrorism would have on the world?

Despite the events that were intended to devastate us, we - as Americans and as lawyers - came together and rose to a higher level of commitment to protecting the rule of law and preservation of justice. Lawyers came forward to volunteer their time and expertise in assisting families of victims of this tragedy. We have remained mindful of the importance of the protection provided by our Constitution and Bill of Rights.

We established the Task Force on the Preservation of Rights, Liberty and Access to Justice, which continues to be active in identifying and responding to attacks on our system of justice. Beginning in September, the "Conversation on Law and Liberty in Times of Crisis" program, developed by the task force, will hold volunteer-led discussions in Massachusetts high schools on topics relating to terrorism and civil liberties.

Our annual meeting in January was a test of our capacity to listen and to be heard. We listened to the opinions of our members regarding the selection of Rep. John H. Rogers as the MBA Legislator of the Year. We did not waiver in our opposition to a bill filed by Rep. Rogers, but focused on recognizing his positive contributions to our justice system. Working with members of the gay and lesbian community we developed an understanding relationship that enabled the annual meeting to truly be a celebration of law and justice. We must continue this relationship. I believe that this growth experience for the MBA was one of the most satisfying experiences of my presidential year.

This year, the committee on Minorities in the Profession was renamed Diversity in the Profession, to include issues affecting our brothers and sisters of color, various ethnic backgrounds and lifestyles. The committee is composed of representatives from the several affiliated bar associations and others. The goal is to continue the ongoing dialogue on issues of diversity and to foster greater inclusion of diversity within our membership. In addition, the MBA's bylaws were amended to add "diversity and unity in the legal profession" to the list of the organization's purposes, the terms sexual orientation and disability were added to its diversity statement, and changes were made in the process bar associations must follow to become affiliated associations.

In March, we took the case for legal aid funding to Beacon Hill. We urged legislators to support the Massachusetts Legal Assistance Corporation's request for level funding and for level funding of specific programs dealing with battered women, Medicare home health care and disability benefits. MBA members and other members of the legal community spoke to and wrote to representatives and senators urging them to recognize the need for legal funds as a solid investment that builds strong communities.

There is so much more work to do to insure that all of our citizens have access to our courts and to maintain the quality of our judicial system. While it is imperative that we, as lawyers, continue to serve our communities by providing pro bono services, it is vitally important that our legislators adequately fund our courts and the programs that provide for legal representation for our most needy, and provide funding to adequately compensate our public defenders.

Our work in the areas of independence for our judiciary and lawyers and to improvements to our judicial system is ongoing, and I believe that our commitment to the realization of access to justice for all needs to be strong and unwavering. Our commitment is endless. Let us continue this effort as our celebration of law and a celebration of justice. Let it be a labor of love of the law.

My thanks to the staff of the MBA for their support over the past year. I also express my thanks to my fellow officers and all the Past Presidents who eagerly responded to my requests for advice. While preparing to write this, my last President's Message, I thought about how fortunate the Massachusetts Bar Association is to have the members we have. My gratitude for the support and encouragement from our members cannot be adequately expressed. You, our members, are dedicated, competent and committed. I am proud to be able to call you my brothers or sisters in this great profession. Thank you for granting me the privilege to serve as the president of the Massachusetts Bar Association.

©2014 Massachusetts Bar Association