HOD begins new year with enthusiasm, optimism

Issue October 2005 By Andrea R. Barter, Esq.

Photo by Bill Archambeault
The MBA had home field advantage when its House of Delegates meeting was held at Gillette Stadium Sept. 21. MBA President Warren Fitzgerald, seated bottom right, with his fellow officers to his right, followed up the meeting by touring the facility, home to the World Champion New England Patriots and the New England Revolution.
On Sept. 20, twenty-one days into a new administration for the Massachusetts Bar Association, the House of Delegates convened to discuss the organization's goals for the upcoming year.

From the moment he began speaking, it was clear to those in attendance that President Warren Fitzgerald and the MBA have an ambitious and exciting agenda planned for this year.

Fitzgerald was enthusiastic about new MBA committees that are forming. Those committees include: a judicial independence committee to assist the judiciary and explain to the public the actions of the judiciary; a lawyers in transition committee to provide a "lifeline" to attorneys temporarily outside of the practice, including a mentoring program for attorneys with "life conflicts," such as single mother attorneys; and a young lawyers advisory committee to provide advice to the Young Lawyers Practice Section.

He commented on the positive, ongoing work of the judicial evaluation task force and the same-sex marriage task force, and indicated that the MBA hopes to have a new executive director in place by the next HOD meeting.

Fitzgerald also reasserted his commitment to adding 1,000 new members and improving the organization in areas where membership is underrepresented. One means to increase membership is to boost the association's visibility. Fitzgerald outlined plans to raise the MBA's profile with the public through media outreach, including an insert in Massachusetts Lawyers Weekly, with information about what each section is doing, to keep members and nonmembers informed as to the MBA's activities.

David White-Lief, MBA treasurer, reported that the association had a small surplus when the books closed for the year and that membership renewals were coming in at a good rate.

"As for our ‘1,000 new member march,' I'm pleased to report that we have only 996 members to go!"

White-Lief reaffirmed the MBA's pledge to increased diversity in gender, race, locale and practice areas when recruiting new members. He also backed-up Fitzgerald's commitment to raising the bar's visibility through "branding" and increased visibility in media outlets.

Francis A. Ford, Massachusetts Bar Foundation president, mirrored the enthusiasm of the new MBA administration while updating the delegates on grant awards for projects that will provide either civil legal services to low-income clients or work to improve the administration of justice.

Martin W. Healy, MBA general counsel and acting executive director, highlighted issues pending in the legislature or the administration that will affect MBA members, the courts and the practice of law.

At the top of his list was the Middlesex County Courthouse asbestos abatement. "The impression is that the abatement process has stalled. But when Warren Fitzgerald, Mark Mason and I meet with members of the court, we will stress the need for that project to advance…we haven't forgotten about those employees and those using the courthouse." [See related story on page 1.]

Healy is also focusing his efforts on increased judicial pay, same gender marriage issues and "Melanie's Bill," a drunk driving bill that Healy says is "riddled with constitutional deficiencies."

He is encouraged at the movement on legislation allowing a Massachusetts Uniform Probate Code, as well as momentum in creating a workable scheme for Child Support Guidelines.

"This organization is vibrant and working on a host of issues, both legislatively and internally. It's going to be an exciting year," said Healy.