First 2016-17 House of Delegates meeting highlights section goals, accomplishments

Thursday, Sep. 29, 2016
Article Picture
Top: Civil Rights & Social Justice Section Chair Richard W. Cole addresses the HOD. Second row (left): MBA President Jeffrey N. Catalano asking HOD members to say, “I want in.” Second row (middle): Hon. Mitchell Kaplan, guest speaker from the Business Litigation Session. Second row (right): Criminal Justice Section Chair Georgia Critsley gives a report on her section Third row: MBA Secretary Denise I. Murphy gives her first report to the HOD. Bottom: HOD members gathered for the first meeting of the year. Photos by Jason Scally.

MBA President Jeffrey N. Catalano opened the first House of Delegates (HOD) meeting of the 2016-17 year by urging HOD members to be "as productive as you can" at the MBA -- and on issues outside the MBA that affect the profession, the rule of law and access to justice.

"We want to be involved everywhere it matters: legislation, amicus briefs, community service projects … and task forces," he said. "We need to get the word out about the amazing stuff the Mass. Bar Association does. We want people saying 'I want in.' … If we all have that mindset this year, we're going to accomplish a lot of great stuff."

Catalano lauded the energy he has already seen from section council chairs and vice chairs, and he made it clear that the MBA can expect big things from its sections this year. "We know the Mass. Bar can't solve the world's problems, but we need to step up to the plate and we need to do our job," he said.

The Civil Rights & Social Justice Section Council, chaired by civil rights attorney Richard W. Cole, will play a key part in accomplishing this goal. Catalano noted that it includes representatives from every organization in the civil rights arena and from every minority bar association.

"The fact of the matter is everyone agreed instantly to join this Civil Rights Section because it's an opportunity for people to come together on a regular basis as a summit, if you will, and talk about what's going on in the world today," he said.

In his report to the HOD, Cole said his section council will be looking at a range of topical issues this year, including rule of law concerns that have surfaced during the election campaign season, criminal justice reform, police misconduct, medical care for individuals in correctional facilities, fair housing and access to housing.

New Criminal Justice Section Council Chair Georgia K. Critsley's report at the HOD meeting also signaled an ambitious agenda and a focus on "outreach." She announced that her section will hold an open meeting in November in Springfield, which will feature a panel of judges giving practice tips for the criminal bar. And she also mentioned the section's October 27 CLE, which will double as CORI-training and a pro bono opportunity for lawyers.

Critsley said the Criminal Justice Section Council will look at issues involving police body cameras, the opioid epidemic and indigent defense in the coming months. And it is poised to play an important role for the MBA once the National Center on State Governments releases its report on Massachusetts' criminal justice system.

"We will have to be a vocal constituency to try to make the case after we study the proposal and send it through our wonderful Criminal Justice Section," said MBA Chief Legal Counsel and Chief Operating Officer Martin W. Healy, earlier in the meeting.

During his own report to the HOD, Healy noted that while the courts continued to operate with a tight budget, the slight increase in civil legal aid funding this year was a "testament to every organization in the room" that participates on Walk to the Hill and other funding outreach efforts. Healy also commended the Family Law Section Council for helping to defeat an unpopular proposed child custody bill last year. "We will continue to fight that bill this session to make changes or defeat it again," he said.

Former MBA President Alice Richmond, who is the American Bar Association state delegate for Massachusetts, spoke to the HOD members about the MBA resolution adopted by the ABA over the summer condemning the arrests of lawyers and judges in Turkey. "We have great reason to be proud of the Mass. Bar Association," Richmond said.

Continuing the tradition of guest speakers at HOD meetings, Superior Court Judge Mitchell Kaplan helped kick off the meeting with a report on the Business Litigation Session, where he is one of the presiding judges. Noting that the BLS could also be named the complex litigation session because of the range of cases it hears, he encouraged those who routinely handle business cases slated for the federal courts or the Delaware Court of Chancery to consider using the equally qualified and more local BLS, when appropriate.

The next HOD meeting is scheduled for Thursday, Nov. 17, in Springfield.