Labor & Employment Conference features Hon. Sandra L. Lynch

Issue July/August 2006 By Bill Archambeault

About 175 people attended the 27th Annual Labor & Employment Law Spring Conference June 15 at the Colonnade Hotel in Boston.

Panels covered topics that included pension plans, wage and hour law, a survey of employment law developments and a mock argument on the use and abuse of medical records in employment cases.

The Hon. Sandra L. Lynch of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the First Circuit in Boston, explained one of the biggest challenges facing her court during her keynote speech.

"We have an ever-increasing workload," Lynch said, noting that filings are up 32 percent, but, "We're not getting a 32 percent increase in budget or staff. There are fewer people available to handle a greater caseload."

During a question-and-answer session, Lynch talked about the importance of oral arguments. She also spoke about the Supreme Court's preferences for the arbitration process and her reluctance to use video conferencing.

"We have not gone to video conferencing except in emergencies," she said. "It's much better if you can read the judges and they can read you."

Lynch also urged attorneys to be prepared, citing failures to include information in motions or ask for nominal damages resulting in too many waiver requests.

"I know it's very hard to be a trial lawyer and keep everything straight," she said. "Please pay attention to what rules should be included in an addenda or brief… Please make sure to think about what information an intelligent reader would need from your brief."

Finally, she urged the audience to be cautious about including personal details in filings, which can usually be easily accessed online and put a client in a potentially dangerous position. She recalled a bankruptcy case in which a severely beaten woman filed for bankruptcy and her abusive husband found her new address online.

"Failure to protect you client's privacy can lead to violence and can also lead to a lawsuit. Are you sure you want your client's medical records displayed on Google?"

The afternoon panel, "Use and Abuse of Medical Records in Employment Cases: Mock Argument," presented a simulated hearing on a recent case, with the Hon. Carol S. Ball and the Hon. Bonnie MacLeod-Mancuso, both of Superior Court in Boston, "presiding" and making comments on the arguments presented. Laura R. Studen, of Burns & Levinson LLP in Boston, presented the "plaintiff's" case, and Kimberly E. Winter, of White, Freeman & Winter in Boston, presented the "defendant's" case.

"This has been such a high-energy, entertaining, educational and enlightening conference," said Labor & Employment Section Council Chair Denise I. Murphy. "I've not seen it like this in a number of years."

Rosemary Pye, a member of the section council, said the conference is a good combination of the scholarly and the practical.

"It's a good program for a practical and comprehensive look at labor and employment," Pye said. "It would be good for a general practitioner, too."

Elizabeth Neumeier, a section council member and co-chair of the employment practice group, said the presentations she heard were substantive.

"The panel that did the case review did a fabulous job," she said. "It was very valuable."