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Lawyers Journal

A look ahead toward ABA lobbying event in D.C.

Later this month, I look forward to returning to Washington, D.C., to participate in the American Bar Association's Lobby Day. This year, I am especially honored to represent the commonwealth as the MBA president in the many congressional meetings that take place over this three-day event.

As one can imagine, orchestrating such a trip and coordinating such high-level meetings require tremendous effort. The MBA is well poised throughout this influential trip, thanks to MBA Chief Operating Officer and Chief Legal Counsel Martin W. Healy and MBA Legislative Activities Manager Lee Constantine, who serves as the state captain for the Massachusetts ABA delegation.

This event enforces the theory of strength in numbers. To be joined by bar leaders throughout the country lobbying the nation's lawmakers on issues of keen importance to the citizens of the country all at one time is awe inspiring. In past years, we've made headway on critical pieces of legislation.

For example, most recently, through our work with the ABA, we were successful in lobbying to not have the Red Flags Rule apply to the legal profession. This year, the Massachusetts delegates and I will address Legal Services Corporation funding, federal judicial vacancies and state court funding throughout our meetings with congressional leaders.

While the ABA continues to fight for funding LSC at $420 million, this is a very difficult budget cycle. It remains to be seen whether Congress will vote for level LSC funding. During our visit, we will remind Senators Kerry and Brown of such devastating consequences should this level of funding not be granted. Our lobbying efforts will be consistent with written testimony submitted to the Committee on Appropriations' Subcommittee on Commerce, Justice, Science and Related Agencies by ABA President Stephen N. Zack in mid-March.

Meanwhile, the mounting vacancies on the judicial bench become increasingly worrisome. According to a Feb. 7, 2011, Washington Post article, "Since Obama took office, federal judicial vacancies have risen steadily as dozens of judges have left without being replaced by the president's nominees. Experts blame Republican delaying tactics, slow White House nominations and a dysfunctional Senate confirmation system."

As reported in the Feb. 7 Post, "There are now 101 vacancies among the nation's 857 district and circuit judgeships, with 46 classified as judicial emergencies in which courts are struggling to keep up with the workload. At least 15 more vacancies are expected this year, according to the administrative office of the U.S. Courts. When Obama took office in 2009, 54 judgeships were open."

And, as always, the MBA will have much to share with those on Capitol Hill regarding the dire impact the lack of adequate state court funding is having on citizens of the commonwealth. We will echo the sentiments that we have consistently shared with our legislators on Beacon Hill with our congressional leaders on Capitol Hill.

I look forward to not only offering the Massachusetts legal community's viewpoint on these important topics, but for the opportunity to thank our congressional leaders for their support and advocacy on these important topics and others over the past year and into the future.

©2014 Massachusetts Bar Association