Section council merger approved at first 2018-19 MBA House of Delegates meeting

Thursday, Oct. 4, 2018 By Cameron Woodcock
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Photo Credit: Cameron Woodcock
MBA President Christopher A. Kenney speaks at the first 2018-19 House of Delegates meeting on Sept. 27.

The Massachusetts Bar Association’s House of Delegates welcomed new President Christopher A. Kenney and voted to merge two like-minded section councils as members gathered on Sept. 27 in Boston for the first meeting of the 2018-19 year.

Kenney prefaced his opening report with a moment of silence for MBA Past President Camille F. Sarrouf Sr., a highly accomplished trial lawyer who passed away on Sept. 4 at age 85. He went on to summarize his priorities as president, which are to promote civic responsibility and awareness, provide trial training and courtroom experience for young lawyers, and support the mental health and general well-being of legal professionals.

President-elect John J. Morrissey later announced his selection as chair of the MBA Trial Academy, noting that the program has received an enthusiastic response from all of the chief justices in the Massachusetts court system. In addition to preparing participants to become trial lawyers, the academy will offer limited assistance representation to deserving litigants and improve the overall administration of justice in the commonwealth.

In its first major vote of 2018-19, the HOD unanimously passed a motion to consolidate the Sole Practitioner & Small Firm Section and the Law Practice Management Section, thus forming the Solo/Small Firm Law Practice Section. Susan Letterman White, two-time chair of the Law Practice Management Section, said both committees have seen declining attendance in recent years, but found new direction following a successful attempt at a joint meeting.  

“We found that there was a lot of overlap in the mission and the wants and needs of these two section councils,” Kenney said. “This coming together will make a stronger, unified section.”

Law Practice Management Vice Chair Dmitry Lev will chair the combined section, with Sole Practitioner & Small Firm Section Chair Val C. Ribeiro serving as vice chair.

With “Hamilton” now showing at the Boston Opera House, the HOD agenda also included a reminder about the MBA’s ongoing legal aid fundraiser for the victims of Hurricane Maria, both in Puerto Rico and Massachusetts. The MBA continues to offer orchestra tickets for the musical’s Oct. 12 performance, and recently began a second raffle that will yield four additional winners, each of whom can bring a guest. 

Public Law Section Chair Kerry T. Ryan advised of two other ways to contribute, by participating in an online auction or making an outright donation (look for the green button).

Explaining the history of the fundraiser, Ryan said the Public Law Section had vowed to help address an identified need for legal services among Puerto Rican citizens, but initially struggled to determine how best to support the cause. After an appeal to “Hamilton’s” creator and original star, Lin-Manuel Miranda, the MBA arranged to purchase 100 face-value tickets in advance of the musical’s Boston run. Miranda also recorded a video welcome for MBA members who attend a private pre-show reception, which will feature a question-and-answer session with the actor’s father, Hispanic Federation founding partner Luis A. Miranda Jr. (sponsored by the Privitera Family Charitable Foundation -- dedicated in loving memory of Jennie Privitera 1936-2009).

“There is a desperate need [for legal services] right here in Massachusetts, and there’s an equally great need, if not greater, in Puerto Rico,” said MBA Immediate Past President Christopher P. Sullivan, in encouraging HOD members to donate.

In his report, MBA Chief Legal Counsel and Chief Operating Officer Martin W. Healy announced that the MBA will hold a Nov. 1 Open House to celebrate its remodeled lobby and conference space at 20 West St. Healy said the first- and second-floor renovations came as a result of strong leadership by Sullivan and the MBA’s current and former officers.

In addition, Healy noted that Wednesday, Sept. 26, marked the first meeting of the MBA-led Conviction Integrity Working Group, established by an HOD vote last membership year. First proposed by the MBA’s 2017-18 Civil Rights & Social Justice Section chair, Richard W. Cole, the group is co-chaired by Massachusetts Attorney General Maura T. Healey and Middlesex County District Attorney Marian T. Ryan. Healy said the committee will ultimately develop a series of model policies, suitable for all district attorney’s offices in the commonwealth, that will help prevent pre-trial instances of prosecutorial misconduct and remedy any wrongful convictions.

Healy concluded his remarks by inviting HOD members to the MBA-sponsored State of the Judiciary Address on Oct. 24, at the John Adams Courthouse in Boston.

The HOD then approved the election of four MBA delegates to the American Bar Association, including returning members William (Bill) Hogan, Josephine McNeil and Brigid Mitchell, and new member Kevin Curtin.