House of Delegates approves comments on proposed changes to law student practice rule

Thursday, May 23, 2024

The Massachusetts Bar Association’s House of Delegates (HOD) approved draft comments on proposed amendments to Supreme Judicial Court Rule 3:03, which governs law student practice, during the last HOD meeting of the 2023-24 association year on Thursday, May 16. 

MBA Access to Justice Section Chair Nicole Paquin introduced draft comments that her section council had put together in response to the SJC’s Notice Inviting Comment on Proposed Amendments to Supreme Judicial Court Rule 3:03. Although many of the SJC’s amendments would be beneficial and expand the types of cases that second-year law students could handle under Rule 3:03, Paquin said the section council’s comments address concerns related to a proposed ethics class requirement, the discretion given to judges to limit a student’s appearance, and potential disciplinary action against supervising attorneys for a vaguely defined failure to supervise students. After taking questions and comments from several HOD members, a majority of the HOD voted to approve the comments for submission.

Earlier in the meeting, MBA President Damian J. Turco gave his last HOD report as president, where he recounted the sold-out MBA Annual Dinner and other successful MBA programs and events. He also summarized recent meetings with court and legislative leaders, including a bench-bar leaders meeting in March where he and other bar association presidents received an update on the Trial Court’s IT improvements, and ABA Day in Washington, DC, where both MBA and Boston Bar Association leaders attended the annual lobbying day for legal aid funding and other legislative priorities. 

Looking ahead, Turco encouraged everyone to attend the MBA’s Access to Justice Awards (June 6) and the Juneteenth Reception: Celebrating Empowerment (June 18) in collaboration with the Massachusetts Black Lawyers Association and the Massachusetts Black Women Attorneys. He also said to save the date of Sept. 22, which is the planned return of the MBA’s Fall Festival in Boston along the Charles River. Turco ended his report by thanking everyone for an incredible year. He also called for a round of applause for Lee Gartenberg, who was attending his last HOD meeting as a delegate, for his continuous service on the MBA’s HOD since 1999.

During her report, MBA President-elect Victoria Santoro shared her positive experience this past year with the MBA’s Tiered Community Mentoring Program, noting how much the students enjoyed the program, particularly the courthouse visits. She then gave an update on the recently created Superior Court Lawyer for the Day Program, which is on track to help more than 500 people across the commonwealth this year. Santoro also announced that the MBA and Flaschner Judicial Institute were partnering on a podcast series for lawyers on trial practice.

MBA Chief Legal Counsel and Chief Operating Officer Martin W. Healy introduced the only other action item at the HOD meeting when he asked HOD members to vote to fill the upcoming vacancies on the MBA’s Executive Management Board. The names on the ballot included Martin Kane, Francis Morrissey, Marissa Soto-Ortiz and Denise Squillante. Due to the remote nature of the meeting, ballots were sent to HOD members, and an announcement about the slate will be made once finalized.

The May HOD meeting included two guest speakers, beginning with Boston Municipal Court Chief Justice Tracy-Lee Lyons, who gave HOD members an update on the BMC. Chief Justice Lyons summarized three pilot programs currently going on at the BMC, including an online ADR pilot in the BMC’s Brighton Division; a pilot involving e-filing in certain criminal matters; and a third pilot in West Roxbury involving a Section 35 after-care program. She also touted the work of the specialty courts and explained the ways the BMC is embracing updated technology, including by expanding e-filing for summary process and adding Wi-Fi to all eight BMC divisions. Chief Justice Lyons also mentioned that the BMC had received three innovative grants that will help roll out multilingual court information in East Boston, fund the creation of art galleries featuring art from community/student artists in courthouses, and fund the production of a short informational video about Section 35. 

Lewis Finfer, a longtime Boston community organizer, was also invited to speak to HOD members about the 50th anniversary of the Boston desegregation and busing orders. He previewed a panel discussion on June 20 at the Moakley Federal Courthouse (see related story in Court and Community News), which will feature an esteemed panel of attorneys, including former law clerks of Judge W. Arthur Garrity Jr., who wrote the busing opinion and order.

HOD members also approved the minutes from the March 2024 meeting. The next HOD meeting will take place in September 2024.