Judicial task force, BBO speaker highlight January HOD meeting

Thursday, Feb. 1, 2018
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Top: Joseph Berman address the House of Delegates. Bottom: MBA President Chris Sullivan welcomes HOD members.

The establishment of a Judicial Diversity Task Force and a presentation from the Board of Bar Overseers were among the highlights of the Massachusetts Bar Association’s House of Delegates meeting in Boston on Jan. 25.

MBA President Christopher P. Sullivan opened the meeting with a recap of the 19th Annual Walk to the Hill, which he spoke at earlier in the day at the State House. He stressed the importance of increasing funding for civil legal aid programs, especially in light of changes to immigration law and enforcement. Sullivan then announced some upcoming MBA events, including the MBA’s involvement with the Massachusetts Law Reform Institute in a statewide forum on Feb. 12 at the Worcester Law Library called, “Creating and Sustaining Lawyer for the Day Programs in Housing Court.” The MBA president also discussed his plan to reinvigorate the MBA’s Civility Committee with the help of Judge Beverly J. Cannone and MBA Past President Jeffrey Catalano.

In the next report, MBA President-elect Christopher A. Kenney recounted the successful Student Loan Bankruptcy Assistance Program Reception, held one night earlier, which launched the MBA’s new public service program for student borrowers experiencing undue hardship with their debt. He noted that the event attracted an “all-star cast,” including Attorney General Maura Healey and U.S. Bankruptcy Court Judge Frank J. Bailey, among others. Kenney also previewed the next training session on public speaking and media relations for the MBA’s Leadership Academy, of which he is co-chair.

MBA Chief Legal Counsel and Chief Operating Officer Martin W. Healy gave his legislative report, which emphasized MBA efforts to increase funding for legal aid through Walk to the Hill and Talk to the Hill. Before wrapping up, Healy thanked Francis C. Morrissey for spearheading the MBA’s Student Loan Bankruptcy Discharge Program and the related reception, and announced that CNN Senior Political Analyst David Gergen will be the keynote speaker for the MBA’s Annual Dinner on April 24.

Continuing a tradition of guest speakers, the HOD meeting featured a Board of Bar Overseers report from BBO General Counsel Joseph Berman, who talked about the BBO resources available to lawyers, from its ethics hotline to Lawyers Concerned for Lawyers to the Law Office Management Assistance Program (LOMAP). Berman also noted that the Supreme Judicial Court was reviewing a new rule that would clarify the term “client files” and address questions on their storage and transferability. 

The HOD then took action on proposals from section and committee members, ultimately voting to:

  • Support, in principle, the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers proposed Uniform Family Law Arbitration Act;
  • Support the establishment of Judicial Diversity Task Force to examine the status of diversity in our courts and explore ways to increase diversity;
  • Approve the nominees for the 2018 Access to Justice Awards; and
  • Reaffirm the MBA’s previous support for portions of criminal justice reform legislation that are relevant to the interests of children and young adults. (Prior to the vote, portions of the Juvenile & Child Welfare Section’s proposal that had not been addressed previously by the MBA were excluded from the vote and tabled for further input from the MBA’s Criminal Justice Section.)
The meeting concluded with a presentation by Boston #StandsWithImmigrants, an organization that is seeking to raise awareness and funding for its public art project, which projects faces of immigrants onto buildings and other public spaces around Boston.