Spence addresses MBA HOD, delegates revisit spousal elective share debate

Thursday, Feb. 7, 2013
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From top to bottom: Trial Court Administrator Harry Spence. MBA Vice President Christopher P. Sullivan debriefs the group on the progress of the Membership Committee. MBA Treasurer Marsha V. Kazarosian provided her officer’s report and shared details on the progress of the Education Committee, to which she serves as co-chair. MBA Chief Legal Counsel Martin W. Healy shares highlights of the legislative session. Photos by Tricia Oliver.

Trial Court Administrator Harry Spence was the featured guest speaker at the Jan. 31 House of Delegates meeting. Spence detailed the areas of focus in his nine month tenure in this newly created position in the Trial Court Department.

Spence told the MBA delegates of his strongest impression since beginning his post -- he has encountered a highly competent and professional work staff  with "surprisingly more of an appetite for change" than he was anticipating.

Spence continues to make weekly visits to various courthouses throughout the state. These visits and a staff survey have provided his office with key anecdotal information, as well as data to help quantify and qualify staff perceptions. Spence reported the survey revealed that 30 percent of court staff was interested in aggressive change, 90 percent wanted change and 10 percent was comfortable with the status quo.

Spence indicated that the Trial Court will soon be reaching out to the MBA for advice and assistance in the preparation of its strategic plan, which the court expects to submit to the Supreme Judicial Court for approval in June.

Aside from Spence's remarks, the delegation also heard from the MBA Taxation Section. The section requested that the delegates rescind their vote taken in November to support in principle, the filing of legislation amending the Massachusetts Uniform Probate Code to add provisions relative to spousal elective share. After vigorous debate with input from representatives from the tax, probate and other MBA sections, as well as members of the ad hoc committee who brought the issue to the floor at the November meeting, the delegates voted against rescinding their original vote in November on the legislation.

The group also voted to support in principle the resolution and report relative to the powers of federal bankruptcy judges and to advocate for passage by the American Bar Association. The delegation voted unanimously in favor of this.

The next meeting of the MBA House of Delegates will take place in March at the MBA. Full coverage of the Jan. 31 HOD meeting will be included in the March issue of Lawyers Journal.