The first meeting of the Massachusetts Bar Association's
governing body unanimously endorsed a renewed Civics in Education
program, supported the Probate Law and Tax Law sections' opposition
to pending legislation and presented a call to action regarding a
Real Estate Bar Association lawsuit.
The House of Delegates, which met Sept. 16 at the Omni Parker
House Hotel in Boston, also heard a presentation from Chief Justice
for Administration and Management Robert A. Mulligan on the status
of court funding and courthouse relocation/construction (see story
on page 1).
It was also announced that longtime MBA General Counsel Martin W.
Healy, who has been serving as acting executive director, had been
selected as the MBA's first chief operating officer. He will also
serve as chief legal counsel (see story on page 9).
In her first HOD meeting as president, Denise Squillante told the
group that in addition to celebrating the association's 100th
anniversary, her priorities will be educating the public about the
ongoing crisis facing the state's court system and addressing
students' understanding of the important role the legal system
plays in society.
"We're in the centennial year of the MBA, and we're at a
crossroads of under-funding our courts. Through the doors of these
courthouses in Massachusetts are real people with real problems
looking for real solutions."
Civics in Education
The MBA's Civics in Education program, she said, would help
provide a basic understanding of the role the
"The lack of civics education leads to a misunderstanding of
judges, the courts and the legal system," she said. "We have an
obligation, as bar leaders, to step up to the plate. This is an
issue of critical importance."
Delegates unanimously supported in principle resolution 110 of
the American Bar Association, which "encourages all lawyers to
consider it part of their fundamental responsibility to ensure that
all students experience high-quality civic learning, including the
study of law, government and history."
MBA Past President Kay H. Hodge, the MBA's delegate to the ABA,
explained that data about what students know about our democracy is
"just shocking and something we need to care about as lawyers." She
cited studies showing that students can more easily name an
"American Idol" show judge or one of the seven dwarves from "Snow
White" than a Supreme Court justice. Hodge also noted that the
number of lawyer-legislators is shrinking at an alarming
Delegates also voted unanimously to support in principle
recommendations to urge policymakers to:
Establish a coordinating office of Civic Education in the U.S.
Department of Education to enhance students' civic learning;
Require the National Assessment of Education Progress for civics
and U.S. history be conducted every four years and report the
results at the state and national levels.
Call to action in support of REBA lawsuit
Issuing a "call to action" for all lawyers, Squillante urged all
members to support the Real Estate Bar Association in its lawsuit
against N.R.E.I.S. that has been characterized as a fight over what
constitutes the practice of law.
"It is the most crucial issue facing what is the practice of law,"
REBA President Thomas O. Moriarty said the lawsuit, which is
pending in the U.S. First Circuit Court of Appeals, specifically
focuses on whether real estate conveyancing constitutes the
practice of law, but more broadly concerns what does constitute the
practice of law.
"The Massachusetts Bar Association has been shoulder-to-shoulder
with the Real Estate Bar Association on this. People have to
understand that the war is still being waged. From our perspective,
no lawyer should be on the sidelines of this issue."
A Nov. 2 hearing is scheduled before the Supreme Judicial Court,
and Moriarty urged the filing of amicus briefs on the issue.
Marisa A. DeFranco, chair of the Immigration Law Section, noted
that the American Immigration Lawyers
Association had filed a brief in support of REBA.
Miscellaneous, Officer reports
Other matters addressed at the Sept. 16 meeting included the
Delegates unanimously approved a request from the Probate Law and
Taxation Law Sections to support legislation being proposed by the
Boston Bar Association that would continue tax basis rules for
property acquired from decedents. The BBA legislation would offset
"double" taxation as a result of a change in federal basis rules
Squillante mentioned upcoming MBA participation on the Joint Bar
Committee and Law Day (May 1).
In his president-elect report, Richard P. Campbell noted that the
forming of the MBA a century ago welcomed women and minority
lawyers at a time when few bar associations did, and also took up
the challenge of representing every lawyer in the state. Campbell
promised that in his year as president, he "will work to make this
association the biggest of big tents."
He also noted his work on the MBA's Peremptory Challenges Task
Force, his goal of hosting a civil trial bar roundtable for
Massachusetts and developing a three-year business plan for the
Vice President Jeffrey N. Catalano won unanimous approval for
recognizing October as pro bono month, and noted, as the Health Law
Section liaison, efforts to reduce dating violence and to encourage
lawyers to volunteer in health clinics.
Vice President Douglas K. Sheff talked about the creation of a
Workplace Safety Task Force that would include experts from a
number of industries. "The MBA is a natural to be a catalyst," he
Treasurer Robert L. Holloway Jr. said he was pleased to announce
that MBA was operating under a balanced budget and reported that
membership has seen a slight increase compared to last year. "I
think we're moving in the right direction," he said.
Secretary Marsha V. Kazarosian, who chairs the Education
Committee, said the centennial year is "filled with opportunities
to promote the organization."