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Pivotal delegates meeting features transition from Fitzgerald to Mason

A full agenda preceded the official passing of the gavel from MBA President Warren Fitzgerald to President-elect Mark D. Mason at the May 18 House of Delegates meeting. Mason begins his term on Sept. 1.

Full reports from leadership
Fitzgerald began the productive pace of the meeting, held at the Andover Country Club, with his report. He announced the 2006-2007 slate of officers, including Mason and 2006-07 President-elect David W. White-Lief; Vice Presidents Valerie A. Yarashus and Denise Squillante; Treasurer Robert F. Lucas (new to the officers slate); and Secretary Edward McIntyre.

Fitzgerald began a discussion that later evolved into a debate on a Payee Notification Rule initially proposed by the Clients' Security Board at the March meeting of the House of Delegates. Fitzgerald appointed former president of the MBA Wayne A. Budd to review the proposed means to deter theft of client funds. MBA General Counsel Martin W. Healy informed the group that he had been in touch with Karen O'Toole, assistant board counsel to the CSB, from the Board of Bar Overseers (the governing body of the Client Security Board) and that the CSB did not intend to go forward until the MBA confirms its position on the proposal. Fitzgerald then noted that Budd and the appointed task force would provide a report for the delegates to review by September. Following a heated debate, Mason made a motion to table the discussion until the September HOD meeting.

Mason then followed Fitzgerald to foreshadow concepts for his upcoming term, announcing his theme, "United in the Law." He also revealed the 2006-07 appointed Section Council leadership. Chairs include:

Access to Justice: Julio Hernando, Gaughen Gaughen Lane & Hernando

Business Law: Peter D. McDermott, Banner & Witcoff Ltd.

Civil Litigation: Jeff Catalano, Todd & Weld LLP

Criminal Justice: Lee J. Gartenberg, Middlesex County Sheriffs Department

Family Law: Fern L. Frolin, Grindle, Robinson, Goodhue & Frolin

Health Law: Susan G. Anderson, Executive Office of Elder Affairs

Individual Rights and Responsibilities: Kevin G. Powers, Rodgers, Powers & Schwartz Esq.

Judicial Administration: Kathy Jo Cook, Keches & Mallen, PC

Labor & Employment: Rosemary Pye, National Labor Relations Board

Law Practice Management: Denise M. Guerin, Law Office of Denise M. Guerin PC

Probate Law: Edward Notis-McConarty, Hemenway & Barnes

Property Law: Sabrina K. Lanz, Fee Rosse & Lanz, PC

Public Law: Robert Lawrence Quinan Jr., Office of the Attorney General-Boston/Michele E. Randazzo, Kopelman & Paige PC

Taxation Law: Patricia Ann Metzer, Vacovec, Mayotte & Singer

Young Lawyers: Sanjay K. Sankaran, Palma Law Office

As chairs, they sit on the 2006-07 House of Delegates. In an earlier portion of the meeting, nominations for seven at-large delegates of the HOD, named by the MBA Nominating Committee, were approved. They include Peter T. Elikann, Francis Morrissey, Denise I. Murphy, Douglas K. Sheff, Jeffrey B. Loeb, John J. Morrissey and Pauline Quirion.

Following Mason, MBA Treasurer White-Lief announced that the MBA was in "fine fiscal health," explained that membership dues are currently over budget and the MBA has seen an increase in membership numbers of about 960 in this fiscal year.

White-Lief's report gave way to Healy's General Counsel update, providing insight to legislative activities on Beacon Hill. He spoke to the happenings with the state budget, highlighting an increase in the bar advocates budget and alerting the delegates to the legislature-endorsed bill that calls for a long overdue increase in judicial salaries, of which Gov. Mitt Romney is not supportive.

MBA Executive Director Marilyn J. Wellington then brought the group up-to-date on MBA operations. She called upon the group to help identify new volunteers for the Dial-a-Lawyer program and reported that 145 programs and facilities have participated in this year's MBA Elder Law program. Wellington announced a unique partnership with Old Sturbridge Village in which the MBA is helping to fund a law office exhibit at the village to open in the fall.

Back to business

Business Law Section Council Chair Francis T. Talty, alongside James C. Donnelly Jr., presented a recommendation that the MBA adopt the ABA Model Rules of Professional Conduct and provide educational programming to assist members in dealing with the rule changes. Although the ABA and MBA rules do not differ substantially, Talty explained that the Business Law Section recommended adopting the ABA Rules to provide added consistency. The delegates agreed.

Hon. Herbert P. Wilkins and Kathy Jo Cook, chair and vice-chair of the Jury Communication Task Force, presented a recommendation that the MBA initiate a coordinated effort to examine the Massachusetts Rules of Professional Conduct to propose to the Supreme Judicial Court a rule change to permit appropriate lawyer-juror contact following a trial.

Then, as part of continuation from the January HOD meeting, MBA Committee on Professional Ethics Chair Andrew L. Kaufman sought approval to publish MBA Opinion No. 2006-3, which states that a lawyer who represents a client in a matter that is adverse to a party who has offered to retain the lawyer with respect to a separate, future matter faces a potential ethical dilemma. The opinion relates to real estate law specifically, and was approved to be published by the HOD.

A push for more civility, diversity

Family Law Section Council Chair Pauline Quirion then presented the council's recommendation to adopt civility guidelines for practice in the Probate and Family Courts. Quirion's strong argument to endorse the guidelines included correspondence from Chief Justice Sean Dunphy in which he applauded the section council's efforts on this.

"Look at these guidelines as a springboard…a tool we can use," said Squillante in support of the guidelines. "There are many, many young lawyers who have not had the benefit of witnessing professional, courteous practice" in the courts, added Squillante, who explained that the guidelines would help provide that example.

After a seesaw debate of the difficulty in legislating civic conduct versus the need for a sound model for other areas of law to follow, the guidelines were endorsed by the group. The Massachusetts Bar Association Civility Guidelines for Family Law Attorneys are now available online at www.MassBar.org.

Former president of the MBA Richard C. Van Nostrand shared the podium with MBA Vice President Yarashus to successfully convince delegates to approve the MBA as a co-sponsor of a resolution encouraging diversity in the profession to be presented at the American Bar Association Annual Meeting. The resolution encourages building interest in the legal profession with students, including minorities, who are in the midst of envisioning their professional futures, but who may or may not have been exposed to legal professionals in their young lives.

Follow the leader

The highlight of the meeting came when Fitzgerald addressed the delegates for the final time before the ceremonial passing of the gavel to his successor, Mark Mason.

"With only three months remaining in my term, my run as president has been nothing but a pleasure," said Fitzgerald. He attributed much of his 2005-06 success to the other officers, describing them as the "single most dedicated and talented group of professionals with which I've had the honor to work."

After touching upon his proudest accomplishments (see related story, page one), Fitzgerald said, "I am fortunate to have my term framed by Kathleen O'Donnell and Mark Mason."

Fitzgerald added, "Mark will lead this association in a manner befitting to the work that you contribute."

Mason then graciously accepted the gavel and complimented his predecessor. "His intellect has benefited us all," said Mason. He spoke of Fitzgerald as a true friend and someone who makes decisions in a compassionate and attentive manner. To conclude the HOD meeting, Mason addressed Fitzgerald by saying, "I am forever grateful to the exemplary effort, leadership and all you have done for the profession of law."

The MBA will recognize the start of Mason's year as president with a reception on Thursday, Sept. 7 at the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston.

The next House of Delegates meeting will take place on Sept. 20 at the Southern New England School of Law.

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