MBA President David W. White Jr., whose term begins Sept. 1, has
focused on reforming criminal sentencing and the legal profession's
environmental practices as his two main priorities for the 2007-08
term, whose theme is "Speaking with One Voice."
White, a principal at Breakstone, White & Gluck PC in
Boston, is a personal injury lawyer with more than 20 years of
experience. Despite his focus on civil law, White is making
criminal sentencing reform his primary goal this year.
A Criminal Sentencing Symposium has been scheduled for
Oct. 23 at the Statehouse.
"My biggest priority for the year is working on criminal
sentencing reform in Massachusetts. There's no question that
criminal sentencing in Massachusetts is not working. People who are
incarcerated are not getting rehabilitated at all."
Many of those in jail are there for drug and alcohol charges,
but aren't given access to badly needed treatment, White said.
"We're talking about changes that would increase treatment,
education and training, increase opportunities for parole," he
said, while also increasing supervision after release.
With limited resources for or emphasis on reform and supervised
release, there's no incentive to parole prisoners, White said.
"It's not just providing supervision, it's also providing
support," he said, and that leads to unacceptably high recidivism
"We've pretty much guaranteed that a person will commit another
crime when they get out," he said.
In addition to reforming a badly broken system, White says there
are financial considerations, as well. He estimates that it will
cost $1 in reform expenses to save $7 currently spent on
"You're saving a lot of money. At the same time, you're rebuilding
families, rebuilding communities. It's a win-win-win situation,"
White said, adding, "We spend more on criminal justice than public
While the public generally favors criminal justice reform, White
said, the Legislature is wary of facing vehement objections in the
public and the press, even if those voices are in the
White is also concerned about reforming the Criminal Offender
Record Information system because requests for the CORI status of
prospective teachers, coaches and employees is growing unabated,
but those requesting the records often find the information
confusing. For example, White said, an employer may not realize the
distinction between a prospective employee who's been found guilty
and one who's been arrested but cleared of all charges.
"Employers look at CORIs and they're very difficult to read,"
White said, suggesting also that CORI reports should be limited
after a period of years with no criminal activity. "I believe in
the basic good of people, that most people can be rehabilitated.
Obviously, some people will never be rehabilitated, but I'm not
talking about serial killers and rapists. It's a critical time to
face these questions. I believe society is ready to move forward on
Making it easier to be green
The second priority has nothing to do with rewriting laws or
enforcing statutes, but White feels strongly that the environment
is a pressing issue on which the legal profession needs to not only
reform, but also lead the way.
This year, the MBA will issue an "Eco-Challenge" to the legal
community in Massachusetts.
"The earth is at a crossroads. Human pollution is causing
significant climate challenges," he said. "The generation right
behind us is going to be significantly impacted unless we do
something. We have to change that culture. The business of law can
be an example of how businesses can be run efficiently and
"I believe that law firms in Massachusetts can be leaders in the
nation in the implementation of recycling," White said. "There are
so many ways that lawyers can change simple habits and affect the
amount of energy they're using."
Whether it's turning lamps off at the end of the day, installing
energy-efficient equipment and light bulbs, and recycling/reducing
paper, White sees room for tremendous energy savings.
"If a firm is buying new computers or a new refrigerator, they
need to make an energy-conscious choice," he said. Likewise, he
said, if a firm is building new offices, they should achieve
certification in Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design.
(LEED is the Green Building Rating System certified for energy
"Everybody should be doing it, and there's no reason lawyers
shouldn't be taking the lead. It's also good for the image of
The details of the Eco-Challenge are still being decided, but
White has high hopes for making an impact, starting with the MBA's
staff and offices at 20 West St. in Boston and 73 State St. in
"We look forward to challenging law firms across the state to be
the most energy conscious," he said.
"Massachusetts has a real chance to be the national leader in
this effort," he said. "Conservation is critical to slowing demand
for electricity. Sensible conservation will also allow the time to
develop alternative resources."
So far, the only other state bar association making an
environmental effort is Oregon's, White said.
Other areas of focus
In addition to criminal sentencing reform and the Eco-Challenge,
White said he will continue to maintain the MBA's strong
relationship with the judiciary. That will include a collaborative
effort with the courts on establishing plain English jury
instructions, which MBA Treasurer Valerie A. Yarashus will co-chair
on the MBA's behalf.
"Effective communication with jurors is critical to having an
effective system of justice," White said.
White says plans are underway to enhance member services, including
creating a Web-based, interactive forum that "will be a way for our
members to get instant access to the wisdom of the rest of the
He is hopeful that the forum will serve as an additional measure
to increase interaction between the MBA's leaders and its
White wants members to let him and the other leaders know what
they want from the MBA.
"We're looking for ideas, so I hope members come forward with
their ideas on how to make the MBA an even stronger organization,"