Fellowship, Criminal Justice Proposal Highlight Springfield HOD Meeting

Thursday, Nov. 14, 2019
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Photo Credit: Jason Scally

The November 2019 MBA House of Delegates Meeting in Springfield.

Discussions about the positive impact of “fellowship” on lawyer well-being and a criminal justice resolution aimed at reducing recidivism were among the highlights from the Massachusetts Bar Association’s House of Delegates (HOD) meeting, which was held in Springfield on Wednesday, Nov. 13.

Following a moment of silence in honor of Lieutenant Jason Menard, the Worcester firefighter who died earlier that day while responding to a four-alarm fire, MBA President John J. Morrissey opened the second HOD meeting of the association’s 2019-20 year with an update on his lawyer well-being initiative. He announced that MBA Secretary Damian Turco and Executive Management Board member Frank Morrissey will lead a new project that will seek to host wellness programs at law schools to address law student well-being.

Turning to several other initiatives, Morrissey praised the strong start of the MBA’s diversity and inclusion efforts, which included a well-attended October meeting with members of various affinity bar associations. He announced that a similar meeting is set to take place in January, which will feature MBA Past President James S. Dilday. Morrissey also noted that his Data-Driven Decision-Making Committee, known colloquially as the “3D Committee,” met recently to discuss ideas for a membership survey.

Up next, MBA President-elect Denise I. Murphy, who was named co-chair of the Supreme Judicial Court’s permanent committee on wellness with retired SJC Justice Margot Botsford, reiterated that her goal is better physical and mental health for members of the profession, as well as the eradication of the stigma of asking for help. She said the “fellowship” on display at the MBA and at recent gatherings with other bar associations were good examples of how getting better acquainted with other lawyers, including adversaries, can have a positive impact on one’s well-being.

Chief Legal Counsel and Chief Operating Officer Martin W. Healy, who had received the Equal Justice Coalition’s Beacon of Justice Award the night before, opened his report by thanking MBA officers for their support and kind words. He then announced several upcoming MBA events, including the sold-out Family Law Conference on Nov. 15 and 16, both holiday parties in December (Dec. 4 in Boston and Dec. 11 in Springfield), the Jan. 30 Walk to the Hill, and the MBA’s Annual Dinner on May 6. Healy also introduced new Massachusetts Bar Foundation Executive Director Susannah Thomas, who was in attendance.

Turning to new business, HOD members voted to allow discussion on a newly submitted proposal from the Criminal Justice Section Counsel to support, in principle, legislation that would improve prisoners’ visitation rights and phone rates. Criminal Justice Section Council member Peter Elikann explained that the Department of Corrections’ current restrictive visitation policy limits the number of approved visitors and has caused some hardships for prisoners and their families. Phone rates for prisoners that are arbitrarily above market rates also need to be reined in, he added. Elikann said better visitation policies and phone rates were supported by numerous studies that show lower recidivism rates for those with more connections to the outside world. Following his presentation, the HOD voted unanimously in favor of the proposal.

The last report of the meeting came from Hampden County Bar Association President Kathleen Cavanaugh, who echoed the theme of fellowship shared by the MBA officers during their presentations. She also discussed her association’s upcoming programs aimed at improving lawyer well-being.

During the report from MBA Secretary Turco, HOD members voted to approve the minutes of the September HOD meeting, with an amendment to add the names of two missing attendees.