Lawyers Journal

House of Delegates address workplace safety, cameras in the courtroom, DOMA, other issues

The Massachusetts Bar Association's fourth House of Delegates meeting for the 2010-11 association year began in a celebratory fashion as three attorneys were presented MBA Centennial Awards. HOD, which gathered March 10 at the Dedham Hilton, then addressed a full agenda on a wide range of topics, including workplace safety, cameras in the courtroom and the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA).

The late Paul Kazarosian, Walter Costello and Denise Murphy were honored with centennial awards. MBA President Denise Squillante presented the posthumous honor to the Kazarosian family, including MBA Secretary Marsha V. Kazarosian.

Following the award presentations, Squillante gave her president's report, which included an announcement regarding MBA delegation participation in the mid-April American Bar Association's Lobby Day. Squillante revealed that MBA President-Elect Richard P. Campbell and Vice President Robert L. Holloway Jr. have begun Strategic Planning Committee meetings, and also issued a call to action - urging HOD to learn more about the MBA's upcoming Centennial Conference on May 18 and 19 at www.massbar.org/centennial.

Following Squillante's report, MBA Vice President Douglas K. Sheff presented the so-called "Right to Know" bill, related to temporary employment and staffing agencies. Sheff and his MBA Workplace Safety Committee co-presenters successfully encouraged HOD to support the bill, which is currently pending before the Joint Committee on Labor and Workforce Development. The "Right to Know" bill would update the Employment Agency Law to better level the playing field for all temporary employment and staffing agencies, while ensuring rights are guaranteed to members of the temporary workforce.

Commission on Judicial Conduct Executive Director Gillian Pearson also attended the HOD meeting and provided an informational report on the CJC. Pearson summarized the instances which would warrant a complaint, the ways in which attorneys can submit complaints and explained that complaints to the CJC can be anonymous. Delegates were encouraged to visit www.mass.gov/cjc for more information.

MBA Property Law Section Vice Chair Elizabeth J. Barton and attorney Ward Graham asked the governing body to support legislation relative to power of attorney and joint tenancy. The group opted to do so unanimously.

Following that vote, Lee J. Gartenberg, Fern Frolin, Peter Elikann and Michael Flores presented the recommendations of the ad-hoc committee established by Squillante to study the proposed amendments to the Supreme Judicial Court Rule 1:19, concerning cameras in the courtroom.

The committee presented its recommendations, which included having the MBA continue to oppose the proposed Rule 1:19. Among the group's rationale, Gartenberg and Frolin said bloggers and other less conventional online media should be given equal status to the those who qualify as "news media"; permission be required from the presiding judge in Probate and Family Court proceedings involving private and potentially damaging information concerning children and other vulnerable individuals; and judges should entertain requests to close specific portions of civil proceedings when appropriate, given privacy or public safety concerns.

The delegates also voted to hear an unscheduled presentation from Michael Traft, co-chair of the MBA's Amicus Committee. Traft was joined by Maura Healey from Attorney General Martha Coakley's Office to ask for HOD's support of an amicus brief challenging the application of DOMA to residents of Massachusetts. The brief is an outgrowth of pending federal litigation, in which Coakley has argued that DOMA impermissibly interferes with the state's ability to regulate marriage and directly harms same-sex partners and the state by denying certain government benefits. Delegates voted to support the related amicus brief, if the need arises.

Delegates also heard from Immigration Law Section Vice Chair Gerald Rovner, who asked the delegation to oppose a proposed rule that expands when practitioners must file a Notice of Entry of Appearance as Attorney or Accredited Representative (G-28). The delegates did oppose the proposed amendment to the Department of Homeland Security's Rules of Professional Conduct for Practitioners and a letter will be sent from Squillante to DHS detailing the MBA's opposition.

One of the last orders of business was approving the Access to Justice awardees to be honored at a luncheon as part of the Centennial Conference on May 18. The delegates approved the proposed slate of honorees (See page 1 for more information on the Access to Justice Awards).

The next meeting of the MBA House of Delegates will be May 18.

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