HOD votes on Access to Justice honorees, supports act to keep kids in school

Issue April 2009 By Tricia M. Oliver

The second MBA House of Delegates meeting of 2009 was held at the Campus Center at UMass Boston. MBA President Edward W. McIntyre began the March 11 meeting by quoting the MBA original 1911 articles of incorporation and reminding the group that “our organization does a great job of fulfilling that mission.”

One of the first reports of the meeting was given by General Counsel and Acting Executive Director Martin W. Healy, who provided updates relative to the happenings on Beacon Hill. He announced that the MBA would be joining the leadership of the Boston Bar Association and other county and specialty bar associations to host a Court Advocacy Day on March 31 at the grand staircase in the Statehouse.

The event will further underscore the need for adequate funding to sustain the critical needs of the Massachusetts court system. Healy mentioned that the MBA presented a similar grassroots advocacy event in the early 2000’s and he was hopeful that this event, like the former, would “add some help to courts and access to justice.”

Also on the legislative front, Healy mentioned an upcoming hearing on the Transportation Bond Bill, a segment of which would collapse the independent state agencies of the Massachusetts Bay Transit Authority, Turnpike Authority and Massachusetts Port Authority into part of the Department of Transportation. Such a move would cap damages at $100,000 for anyone injured when using public transportation. According to Healy, the MBA has been working with the Massachusetts Academy of Trial Attorneys to correct this harmful provision.

Among other legislative appointments, Healy mentioned the announcement of Sen. Cynthia Creem as the new co-chair the Joint Committee on the Judiciary, replacing the seat vacated by former Sen. Robert Creedon. Creem will co-chair the committee with Rep. Eugene O’Flaherty (see related story on cover).

Healy also provided updates on MBA programs, including the Legal Technology Expo held on March 20, the Trial Court Orientation held on March 25 and the upcoming Access to Justice Luncheon on May 7 at the John F. Kennedy Library and Museum.

At the May 7 luncheon, the MBA will honor champions of pro bono and other volunteer legal services. The MBA HOD approved the slate of awardees as presented by Access to Justice Section Chair James Van Buren of Worcester. Honorees include:

  • Legal Services Award: Barbara Kaban, Children’s Law Center, Lynn, and James M. McCreight, Greater Boston Legal Services, Boston;
  • Pro Bono Award for Law Firms: Tennant Lubell LLC, Newton, and McDermott, Will & Emery, Boston;
  • Pro Bono Publico Award: Wendy J. Rickles, Worcester;
  • Defender Award: Lawrence J. McGuire, Swampscott;
  • Prosecutor Award: Aloke Chakravarty, U.S. Attorney, Boston.
For more on these nominees, see article on page 7.

The Access to Justice Section also brought before the HOD An Act to Help Students Stay in School. Council member Annie Singh asked the House to support the act in principle. The act, filed in the 2009-10 session by Representatives Alice K. Wolf and Tom Sannicandro along with Sen. Patricia D. Jehlen, is intended to protect students against being excluded for misconduct that does not seriously threaten student and staff safety. According to Singh and act supporters, current laws have created a tendency for increased use of long-term suspension and expulsion of students. The proposed act would provide more stringent rules against suspension and expulsion, except for misconduct involving firearms or drugs.

A lengthy and varied debate ensued on this topic. Requesting clarification on if the act was targeting principals for their discretion, attendees also questioned the act’s impact on alternative schools and on various stakeholders not identified in the act as drafted. Delegate Mary T. Feeney, speaking on behalf of the Public Law Section, said that her section believed it was “premature at this time.” Wendy Wolf, representing the Juvenile & Child Welfare Section, reported that her section was split on this issue, but felt the proposed act “provided better principles than existing legislation on student suspension and expulsion.” According to Wolf, the majority of the section rejected the act as written, but accepted it in principle. Among other delegates who expressed opinions on the act, at-large delegate Denise I. Murphy encouraged her peers to accept the act in principle for its merit in providing better due process for children.

The debate on An Act to Help Students Stay in School concluded with a passing vote of 32 to 16 with three delegates abstaining.

Following an executive session of HOD, McIntyre announced a new Nominating Committee. The committee is charged with producing a nomination report for the MBA 2009-10 officers by the end of the second full week in April.
The committee includes:
  • David W. White Jr., chair, immediate past president, Breakstone, White & Gluck PC
  • William E. Bernstein, past president, Bernstein, Burwick, Tucker & Stern LLC
  • Warren Fitzgerald, past president, Fitzgerald Dispute Resolution LLC
  • Michael E. Mone, past president, Esdaile, Barrett & Esdaile
  • Paul H. Rothschild, Bacon Wilson PC
  • Camille F. Sarrouf, past president, Sarrouf Corso LLP
  • Ingrid Schroffner, Massachusetts Executive Office of Health & Human Services.
White, as chair of the Nominating Committee, suggested a motion to modify the MBA Election Policies and Procedures to make way for a more efficient and effective election process if one is called for following the Nominating Committee’s report. After a debate involving proposed amendments to the motion, the House eventually approved White’s original motion.

Toward the conclusion of the meeting, MBA Treasurer Denise Squillante presented a robust Treasurer’s Report, mentioning the “rich legacy” of the MBA. She spoke to the “very important and significant work” of the association that serves as the “lifeline of the profession.” She discussed the action of the association as it furthers its mission to meet the needs of its members. Specifically, Squillante emphasized that a growing number of well-attended CLE offerings have taken place outside of the greater Boston area.

Squillante also announced the progress of the MBA’s budget expense reduction efforts and reported that the MBA had seen 1,300 new members this year. She characterized the state of the MBA as “viable and strong” and encouraged her fellow delegates to “roll up your sleeves and come aboard for the challenges of the future.”  She likened the challenges of the MBA and its members to those which other bar associations across the state and country are facing in the down economy.
The next MBA HOD meeting will take place on Thursday, May 21, at the MassMutual Center in Springfield.