The Massachusetts Bar Association House of Delegates convened
for the final time this association year on May 18 at the Sheraton
Boston as part of this year's Centennial Conference. Among the
topics covered were cameras in the courtroom and the social host
law. The ceremonial presentation of the gavel from outgoing MBA
President Denise Squillante to President-elect Richard P. Campbell
also took place.
Present to lead the discussion on cameras in the court were WBUR
Executive Editor of New Media John Davidow and Supreme Judicial
Court Associate Justice Robert J. Cordy, co-chair of the SJC
Judiciary-Media Committee. They shared with the group the nature of
and logistics related to the pilot project involving live streaming
video in Quincy District Court, made possible through WBUR-FM with
funding from the Knight Foundation. They also spoke to the broader
concept of cameras in the courtroom.
According to Cordy, it is "not whether this is going to happen,
but rather how we can manage it."
Delegates watched and listened to a portion of the court
proceedings through the live feed at www.opencourt.us, which is made
viewable or not, based on the judge's discretion given safety and
privacy issues with each case.
"It's not the project that controls the camera, it's the judge,"
Many delegates offered comments for and against expanding the
project beyond the Quincy court. Concerns were raised relative to
cameras in the courtroom contributing to misinformation; taking one
step of the judicial process out of context (i.e. an arraignment);
putting judges' safety in jeopardy; and weakening judicial
independence. Those who supported such access pointed to the
constitutional right of access and the educational and awareness
value to the public. For more information on this topic, see the
President's Message on page 1.
Following a PowerPoint presentation on the topic of strengthening
the state's social host law to ensure civil liability is well
defined alongside criminal law, delegates unanimously voted to
support Campbell's proposed legislation.
Other business included:
- Approval of the 2011-12 report of the Nominating Committee that
included the following officer slate for the MBA's next association
year: President-elect Robert L. Holloway Jr.; Treasurer Douglas K.
Sheff; Vice Presidents Jeffrey N. Catalano and Marsha Kazarosian;
and Secretary Robert W. Harnais. Current MBA President-elect
Campbell automatically ascends to president on Sept. 1, 2011.
- Chief Legal Counsel and Chief Operating Officer Martin W. Healy
provided an overview of a particularly busy legislative session.
Healy explained the MBA's support of the House version of court
reform, but stressed concern over the Senate version; announced
that the Senate's version of the state budget reveals a $25 million
shortfall of last year's appropriation to fund the courts and
called on delegates to reach out to legislators on the importance
of adequate court funding; and reminded the House of the MBA's
efforts on health care reform and the much-anticipated alimony
reform (see page 25 for related article).
- Alternative Dispute Resolution Committee Co-Chair Katherine
Hesse provided an informational report on the Uniform Collaborative
- Criminal Justice Chair Michael Fabbri and Vice Chair Radha
Natarajan presented the Report of the Standing Advisory Committee
on the Rules of Criminal Procedure pertaining to Rule 7. Two major
revisions - one eliminating the initial appearance as a step prior
to arraignment and another eliminating the procedure that allows
defendants who have retained counsel to avoid appearing at their
arraignment - were included in the report and received delegates'
Prior to the close of the May 18 meeting, Squillante passed the
ceremonial gavel to Campbell. Following the traditional exercise,
Campbell offered remarks that highlighted Squillante's many
contributions to the MBA, not only during the present association
year, but in her years of service leading up to the MBA's
"What a president she has been," said Campbell.