HOD approves Access to Justice awardees, Family Law and Criminal Justice proposals

Thursday, Jan. 31, 2019 By Jason Scally
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Photo Credit: Jason Scally
Massachusetts Bar Association President Christopher A. Kenney addresses members of the MBA House of Delegates at a meeting on Jan. 24.

The Massachusetts Bar Association’s House of Delegates (HOD) approved the nominees for the 2019 Access to Justice Awards and passed several section-sponsored proposals at its meeting on Thursday, Jan. 24, at the MBA’s Boston office. 

MBA President Christopher A. Kenney began the meeting by recapping several successful MBA programs, including the Leadership Academy, which has held two meetings already; the State of the Judiciary Address; and the recent “Case Study” CLE about the MGM Springfield project, presented by the MBA’s Development and Construction Law Practice Group. Touting the MBA’s civics initiative, he previewed the Civics Bee on Feb. 13, which will raise money for iCivics, and he announced that the MBA is working on a training program for lawyers seeking to help immigrants prepare for their citizenship interviews when they’re unable to take the citizenship exam.

During other officer reports, MBA President-elect John J. Morrissey said that the MBA has formed a Trial Academy Task Force, which will meet at the end of January and focus on recruiting candidates. He added that the Trial Academy training sessions have been scheduled for April 3-4. MBA Vice President Denise I. Murphy gave an update on the Supreme Judicial Court’s Steering Committee on Lawyer Well-Being, where she represents the MBA.

MBA Chief Legal Counsel and Chief Operating Officer Martin W. Healy provided an update on budget priorities for legal aid funding and court funding, and he said the MBA is hoping to again use its advocacy to raise the level of bar advocate pay. Healy also commended members of the MBA’s Taxation Law Section Council for their role in the signing of the innocent-spouse tax bill, which passed at the end of the last legislative session.

Massachusetts Bar Foundation President Harvey Weiner noted that the MBF last year awarded $2.3 million to 90 programs across 60 legal aid agencies. He encouraged more MBA members to get involved and become MBF Fellows.

Taking place just a few hours after the 20th Annual Walk to the Hill for Civil Legal Aid, the HOD meeting also featured guest presentations from the Equal Justice Coalition’s Louis Tompros and Massachusetts Legal Assistance Corporation Executive Director Lynne Parker, who thanked the MBA for its support and reiterated the need to increase funding for civil legal aid. 

Following a report from the Family Law Section Council, the HOD agreed to support and file legislation related to alimony reform in Massachusetts in the wake of recent tax law changes. After the Criminal Justice Section Council’s report, the HOD also voted to support principles regarding the use of juvenile offenses as a trigger for mandatory minimum sentences.

The HOD approved the following nominees to receive a 2019 MBA Access to Justice Award, to be awarded at the 2019 MBA Annual Dinner on May 9: 

  • Rising Star: Gina Plata-Nino (Worcester)
  • Legal Services Attorney: Luz Arevalo (Boston)
  • Pro Bono Law Firm: Sherin and Lodgen (Boston)
  • Pro Bono Publico Attorney: Stephen A. Smith (Norfolk)
  • Defender: Tinia Snow (Roxbury)
  • Prosecutor: Adrian Bispham (Boston)
  • Lifetime Achievement Award: Judith Liben (Boston)