HOD votes to support Access to Justice, Criminal Justice legislation

Thursday, May 20, 2021
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The MBA's May 19 House of Delegates meeting was held via Zoom.

The Massachusetts Bar Association’s House of Delegates (HOD) voted to support legislation recommended by the Access to Justice and Criminal Justice section councils at a May 19 virtual meeting that also featured an appearance from the president of the American Bar Association (ABA).

MBA President Denise I. Murphy opened the final HOD meeting of the 2020-21 year by thanking HOD members, her fellow officers and the MBA staff for their support during her time in office. Murphy said these collective efforts in the face of an unprecedented health crisis enabled the MBA to both continue serving members and help drive social change. In particular, she said the MBA took concrete action to amplify the voices of underrepresented lawyers, facilitate open and honest dialogue about social justice issues, and encourage statewide adoption of conviction integrity units and police reforms. 

"The MBA doesn’t just have a voice at these tables. In many ways, we are the voice. I could not be prouder of our work on social justice issues," Murphy said.

During his report, MBA President-elect Thomas M. Bond noted that the MBA recently spoke to an international forum of bar leaders about how to run a successful bar association. Bond said MBA representatives highlighted the importance of collaboration between the courts, the legal profession and the Legislature, as well as the work of the section councils and the HOD. 

MBA Chief Legal Counsel and Chief Operating Officer Martin W. Healy began his report by announcing the MBA’s new slate of officers for the 2021-22 year: President Thomas M. Bond, President-elect Grace V.B. Garcia, Vice President Damian J. Turco, Treasurer Victoria Santoro Mair and Secretary Michael H. Hayden. Healy then informed the HOD that the Senate Ways & Means Committee voted to fully fund the Massachusetts Legal Assistance Corporation’s $35 million budget request for FY22, and that MBA-endorsed pay increases for bar advocates are also anticipated. Following the HOD’s March vote to approve resolutions submitted by the MBA Clemency Task Force, Healy noted that The Boston Globe Editorial Board recently applauded the proposed reforms. 

Turning to new business, the HOD voted to support, in principle, two bills brought forward by the Access to Justice Section Council: 

  • An act relative to language access and inclusion (S.2040/H.3199), which would standardize language-access policies at state agencies.
  • An act to create access to justice (S.996/H.1792), which would allow victims of civil rights abuses to file claims in Massachusetts state courts.

In addition, the HOD voted to support, in principle, five bills submitted for consideration by the Criminal Justice Section Council:

  • An act providing for certificates of rehabilitation, second chances, increased success and community prosperity (H.1908/S.932).
  • An act to remove collateral consequences and protect the presumption of innocence (H.1568/S.925).
  • An act supporting survivors of trafficking and abuse and encouraging increased access to opportunities through expungement and/or sealing of records (H.1825/S.947).
  •  An act to improve and modernize the information technology systems and capacities of the judiciary (H.1520).
  •  An act to limit debt-based incarceration and suspensions (H.3453/S.2304).

Earlier in the meeting, Patricia Lee Refo became the first ABA president to address the HOD since Michael S. Greco, who served as MBA president from 1985-86. Refo emphasized the vital role of the MBA, other state and local bars, and their delegates in setting the ABA’s policy and shaping its advocacy for the legal community and the rule of law. Since the pandemic began, Refo said the ABA has focused its advocacy on addressing the civil legal needs of citizens, most notably tenants facing eviction, while also promoting racial equity in individual workplaces and the profession at large.

The meeting also included the presentation of Outstanding Young Lawyer Awards to Anne M. Stevenson for 2020 and Avana A. Anderson for 2021 (see related story).