The Massachusetts Bar Association's House of Delegates tackled
criminal and family law issues at its first meeting of the 2009-10
association year, which was led by President Valerie A. Yarashus on
Sept. 17 at the Andover Country Club.
The MBA's governing body voted in favor of opposing both the
state's plan to close the Bridgewater substance abuse center in
November and portions of Gov. Deval Patrick's bill, An Act to
Reduce Firearm Violence. HOD also shot down a proposal to submit an
amicus brief in the case of Pierce v. Pierce, which is pending
before the Supreme Judicial Court.
Criminal Justice Section Co-Chair Gloria Y. Tan and former
chair Lee J. Gartenberg presented the section's proposal to object
in principle to sections of Patrick's bill that would establish a
presumption that a defendant charged with possession of a firearm
is dangerous for the purpose of setting bail. The Juvenile &
Child Welfare Section voted to support the proposal prior to the
"That flies in the face of our Constitution, both state and
federal," Tan said of changes within the bill, which would shift
the burden of proof to the defendant. "It's a violation of due
Peter T. Elikann, chair of the General Practice, Solo &
Small Firm Section, said he represented a soldier who would have
been affected by this change. The soldier, who had a registered gun
in his car, was from another state and visiting friends in
Massachusetts when he was charged with illegal possession of a
"I'm very concerned whenever there's a presumption of loss of
liberty," Elikann said. "We shouldn't have all these
'one-size-fits-all' solutions … Let the judges do what we pay them
Debate over Pierce v. Pierce amicus brief
A topic of heated debate was the Family Law Section's proposal
to submit an amicus brief in the Pierce v. Pierce case (which the
Supreme Judicial Court had taken under advisement as of press
Family Law Co-Chairs Veronica Fenton and Thomas Barbar presented
the draft brief, which stated the MBA's support of adding the term
"and duration" into state alimony laws as well as the MBA's
endorsement of a joint MBA/Boston Bar Association report
recommending that alimony terminate upon retirement. The American
Academy of Matrimony Lawyers supported the draft brief.
"Alimony is the hardest issue facing family law practitioners
today. I urge support of this motion," said MBA President-elect
Denise Squillante, who sat on the task force that wrote the
Women's Bar Association Past President Kathy Jo Cook said the
group filed a brief supporting the other side. "We strongly oppose
filing a brief in this case," she said. "It unfairly shifts the
burden from the individual who has the resources to the individual
who does not have the resources."
Barbar said both parties in the Pierce case have equal
resources, making this case different. The proposal to submit an
amicus brief was turned down by a vote of 27 to 22.
New committees, mission statement
Yarashus gave an overview of the coming year, including a focus
on internal improvements, as well as lobbying for changes in
criminal sentencing and drug policy as well as halting further
court budget cuts. "We have very significant work to do this year,
and it will make a difference," she said. "Let's all do this
Among the changes are three new MBA committees to focus on:
education, which is co-chaired by Marsha V. Kazarosian and Alan J.
Klevan; technology, chaired by Peter McDermott; and membership,
chaired by MBA Vice President Douglas K. Sheff.
MBA General Counsel and Acting Executive Director Martin W.
Healy shared the association's plans for lobbying and outreach on
behalf of the court system in light of the state's budget
constraints. The MBA and courts planned to meet last month to begin
Sheff also presented two successful proposals: to adopt an
expanded mission statement and require each HOD member to
participate in one phone bank and one phone tree each year to help
cultivate membership. The first phone bank was held Oct. 9.
The new mission statement reads:
The MBA serves the legal profession and the public by promoting the
administration of justice, legal education, professional success,
ethical responsibility, diversity and unity in the legal profession
and respect for the law.
Finally, MBA Treasurer Robert L. Holloway Jr. invited all
members to share with him ideas for improving the association and
its revenue stream. He also discussed the MBA's improved
investments, healthy membership renewals and an increase in new
members. "We're right on target in terms of our dollars," he