"We are certainly the collective voice of the profession in Massachusetts. And this year we will be dealing with those things that relate to our core mission and values - issues of administration of justice and access to justice."
With those words, MBA President MBA Richard C. Van Nostrand opened the first House of Delegates meeting of the year on Sept. 25.
Van Nostrand told the membership the chief issues on the horizon for the year are the death penalty debate, court administration and reform, the public image of lawyers and the judiciary, and lawyers' dissatisfaction with the bar advocate program.
"The most important thing we have going for us," he said, " is what has been referred to as 'the power of association.' Speaking collectively, we can champion issues and we can move mountains."
The question, Van Nostrand said, is "how we will use our power.
"My goal as president is not to see how many times I can be quoted in the Globe or Herald. Where we can move mountains is behind the scene - using our power to educate, inform and persuade the legislators and citizens across the state on issues of concern, to build the bridges we need to build."
With that in mind, the House heard updates from Executive Director Abigail Shaine, General Counsel Martin Healy, task force chairs Warren Fitzgerald and Kathleen O'Donnell and a group discussion on defining the practice of law (see separate article).
According to Fitzgerald, chair of the Court Study Task Force, "There is no shortage of groups studying this issue." He noted that many of the groups, such as the SJC's Visiting Committee, closely echo the work of the MBA's Harbridge House study in 1992. "And after 25 years, many of the recommendations remain unfilled," he said.
Fitzgerald promised to have a report of the task force ready to present at the November HOD meeting.
O'Donnell, chair of the Judicial Evaluations task force, also promised a November report from that panel, following a series of meetings last spring with members of the judiciary, legislature and governor's office.