Issue November 2007

Second Annual Bench-Bar Symposium tackles voir dire, jury instruction;

Tackling issues like conducting individual voir dire, jury instructions and reforming rules limiting lawyers’ post-trial contact with jurors, the Massachusetts Bar Association’s Second Annual Bench-Bar Symposium attracted 150 people to the John Adams Courthouse on Oct. 11.
Divided into panels on pre-trial and post-trial jury issues, MBA President David W. White Jr. moderated the panelists, which included four judges and four attorneys, including one law school professor.

Sentencing Symposium panelists optimistic about chance for reform

Massachusetts could see meaningful sentencing reform for the first time in years, a number of distinguished panelists suggested at a Massachusetts Bar Association-sponsored forum at the Statehouse on Oct. 23.

The MBA’s Sentencing Symposium, which was held in the Great Hall of the Statehouse, featured two panels that discussed the political, financial and ethical issues surrounding the state’s sentencing structure and Criminal Offender Record Information system.

With interest from Gov. Deval Patrick and the Legislature — in addition to many in the criminal justice system — this could be the year that sentencing reform finally happens, said Sen. Robert S. Creedon Jr., Senate chairman of the Joint Committee on the Judiciary.

“It’s key that this governor is adding a rational voice to the discussion and not adding kerosene to the fire,” Creedon said. “I’m more optimistic than ever that we can have a useful discussion.”

MBA President David W. White Jr., who has made sentencing reform a priority of his 2007-08 term, participated in the symposium, which attracted more than 100 people.

“The MBA is committed to this effort,” White said, noting that he will continue to discuss the issue with district attorneys and raise awareness for the need to reform the system. Legislative reforms made in the 1990s didn’t fully address the shortcomings, he said, and the changes needed are long overdue.