Delegates approve a section name change, a measure to pump more funds into IOLTA and improved workers compensation death benefits

Thursday, Mar. 28, 2013
Chief Justice Carey provides an update on the Probate and Family Court
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Top: MBA President Robert L. Holloway Jr. addresses the delegates. Second from top: Chief Justice Paula M. Carey provides an informational report on the Probate and Family Court. Middle: Worcester County Regional Delegate J. Gavin Reardon; MBA President-elect Douglas K. Sheff; and MBA Treasurer Marsha V. Kazarosian. Second from bottom: MBA Vice President Christopher P. Sullivan; Mass. LGBTQ Bar Assoc. Delegate Timothy G. Lynch; and Access to Justice Section Chair Isabel S. Raskin. Bottom: Worcester County Bar Delegate Margaret J. Hurley; Law Practice Management Section Chair Thomas J. Barbar; and Suffolk County Regional Delegate Catherine E. Reuben. Photos by Tricia Oliver.

Following three Boston-based House of Delegates meetings, MBA President Robert L. Holloway Jr. convened the House at the Sheraton Framingham last Thursday for its March meeting.

Delegates voted on business brought forth by the Access to Justice and Property Law sections and the Workplace Safety Task Force. Special guest and Chief Justice of the Probate and Family Court Paula M. Carey provided an update on her department and MBA leaders delivered their informational reports.

HOD members voted favorably on the three Access to Justice measures. First, members voted to support in principle Senate Bill No. 417 with the recommendation that the bill would be amended by striking the first paragraph. The bill is an act to ensure full compliance with the good funds statute, which protects citizens who borrow money against their homes. It strengthens the requirements that funds are available for dispersment immediately at the closing. Second, HOD voted to support the recommendation for Massachusetts Rules of Civil Procedure to provide for at least 50 percent of class action residuals be disbursed to the IOLTA Committee. Lastly, delegates approved the nominees recommended by the section to receive the 2013 Access to Justice Awards. Those honorees include Legal Services Attorney awardees Ruth A. Bourquin of Massachusetts Law Reform Institute and James Breslauer of Neighborhood Legal Services; Pro Bono Law Firm awardee Brown Rudnick; Pro Bono Publico Attorney awardee Timothy G. Lynch of Swartz & Lynch LLP; Defender awardee Gloria Tan of the Harvard Law School's Criminal Justice Institute; and Prosecutor awardee Adam J. Foss with the Suffolk County District Attorney's Office. Look for articles on all of the honorees in the May issue of Lawyers Journal.

The delegation also approved the name change of the MBA's Property Law Section to the Real Estate Section. And, the group voted to support in principle House Bill No. 1698 and Senate Bill No. 866, both pending before the Committee on Labor and Workforce Development. If passed, the legislation will increase the workers compensation burial allowance from $4,000 to $8,000.

Chief Justice Carey's remarks came following what she described as a "seminal year." Carey's first term as Chief Justice of the Probate and Family Court came to a close and she was reappointed for another five-year term. Carey painted a broad picture of her department's strategic planning process, which really made headway at a "Vision for the Future" conference last November. Included as part of the strategic planning for her department is an innovative collaboration with Boston College MBA candidates to develop recommendations for improved business practices and other efficiencies. Carey also mentioned the Probate and Family Court's push for more educational videos for litigants to be featured on the department's website; a pilot program for staggered scheduling in Norfolk County; and improvement measures related to domestic violence screening and giving children a voice in court. Carey also thanked the bar for all its help with the roll out of the Massachusetts Uniform Probate Code, noting that efforts of volunteer attorneys on related committees and necessary training were key in that transition.

Highlights of the MBA Officer Reports were updates from MBA Treasurer Marsha Kazarosian on the MBA Education Committee, from MBA Vice President Christopher Sullivan on the Membership Committee, from MBA President-elect Douglas K. Sheff on the Media Committee, from MBA Robert W. Harnais on the Diversity Committee and from MBA Secretary Martha Rush O'Mara on the Annual Dinner Committee. MBA President Robert L. Holloway Jr. detailed the MBA's recent court funding advocacy events, as well as the Mock Trial Championship. He also announced that the MBA would be honoring the Hon. Sandra Lynch, chief judge of the United States Court of Appeals for the First Circuit and WBUR-FM's News Department at the May 2 Excellence in the Law event co-presented with Massachusetts Lawyers Weekly.

The last report of the meeting came from MBA Chief Legal Counsel and Chief Operating Officer Martin W. Healy. Healy mentioned that Gov. Deval L. Patrick will deliver the keynote address and Rep. Brian Dempsey (D-Haverhill) will be honored with the Legislator of the Year Award at the MBA's Annual Dinner on May 9. Healy also noted that U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren announced that MBA Past President Michael E. Mone will serve as the MBA representative on the Advisory Committee on Massachusetts Judicial Nominations. Mone brings a "world of experience" to this committee, according to Healy.

Healy also provided updates on an "outrageous" workers compensation tax that is part of Patrick's FY 14 budget proposal, letting the delegates know that the MBA has stressed its opposition to this tax to legislative leaders. Healy also spoke about two juvenile justice measures to which the MBA has stressed its support. One would involve raising the age of those tried as adults from 17 to 18 and the other would change life without parole for juvenile inmates to the opportunity for parole following 15-25 years served.

The HOD meeting was adjourned following Healy's remarks. The May HOD meeting will take place on Wednesday, May 15.