MBA takes up affirmative action, remote depositions at November HOD meeting

Thursday, Nov. 30, 2023

The Massachusetts Bar Association’s House of Delegates (HOD) adopted a position statement supporting Affirmative Action and voted to approve a proposed rule change involving remote depositions at its second meeting of the association year, which was held over Zoom on Nov. 16. 

At the start of the meeting, MBA President Damian J. Turco commended his fellow officers for their “relentless commitment” and thanked MBA staff members and volunteers for their impressive efforts at the start of the year. Recounting several highlights from the first few months, Turco noted the Welcome Back Reception attracted dozens of lawyers, law students and judges, and the inaugural Fall Festival & Run for Justice raised over $15,000 for the Massachusetts Bar Foundation for legal aid funding and the New England Innocence Project and attracted an enthusiastic crowd despite poor weather conditions. Turco also announced that the MBA has begun offering Decisis as its newest member benefit, replacing the Fastcase benefit, which will end as of Dec. 1. 

Up next, MBA President-elect Victoria M. Santoro said that the Superior Court Lawyer for the Day Program will launch on Dec. 7, and she encouraged additional volunteers to sign up by contacting her. Superior Court Judge Valerie A. Yarashus noted that the program arose out of a successful pilot program in Middlesex Superior Court, and she said the Superior Court is grateful to the MBA for spearheading the expansion of the program statewide. Looking ahead to other MBA programs, Santoro noted that the MBA Leadership Academy’s first meeting on “The Future of the Law” will take place in person on Dec. 5, and the first meeting of the Tiered Community Mentoring Program will be held the next day on Dec. 6, also in person.

Before turning to new business, HOD members received an update on the Court Technology Bond Bill from Trial Court Administrator Thomas G. Ambrosino and Judiciary Chief information Officer Steve Duncan, who leads the Judiciary Information Services Department. They summarized the court’s IT strategic plan through 2028, which is expected to result in upgrades to infrastructure, operations and the end-user experience. Duncan noted, for example, that they expect to have Wi-Fi in all court locations in the commonwealth by December of next year.

New Business

MBA Secretary Shayla Mombeleur and John Lozada from the Committee for Public Counsel Services (CPCS) introduced the proposed Affirmative Action Position Statement in light of the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Students for Fair Admissions Inc. v. President & Fellows of Harvard College, which determined that affirmative action in higher education was unconstitutional. The MBA statement says, in part, “As leaders of our legal community, the MBA stands in support of affirmative action’s principles and in opposition to its further dismantling.” Read the full position statement here. On Jan. 11, the MBA is presenting a related program at City Winery in Boston called, “Strategies for Fostering DEI in the Wake of the Affirmative Action Case.” 

In other new business, MBA Civil Litigation Section Chair Michael Molloy introduced a measure to support proposed changes to Rule 30 of the Mass. Rules of Civil Procedure with one amendment. The proposed changes to Rule 30 would update the rule regarding depositions since the pandemic with the Supreme Judicial Court’s Standing Advisory Committee recommending “the adoption of a noticer’s choice procedure that enables the party seeking the deposition to decide in the first instance whether the deposition will be taken in person or remotely.” Molloy said the only part that his section council would seek to amend is a requirement that all attorneys and parties have their microphone unmuted during the entire remote deposition. HOD members voted to support the Civil Litigation Section Council’s proposal with the suggested amendment.

The next HOD meeting will take place on Jan. 25, 2024.