Sen. Creem brings MBA experience into role as new judiciary chair

Issue April 2009 By Jennifer Rosinski

State Sen. Cynthia Stone Creem believes her term as chair of the Massachusetts Bar Association's Family Law Section in the late 1990s was the perfect training ground for a future legislative career. In February, the former family law practitioner and current six-term senator was appointed to succeed Robert S. Creedon as Senate chair of the Joint Committee on the Judiciary.

"I learned how to do policy work at the MBA. This is really full circle for me," said Creem, a partner at Stone, Stone & Creem, where she practices family law. "I'm excited about being the chair. These are areas I've been interested in for so long."

As co-chair of the Joint Committee on the Judiciary, Creem will weigh in on legislation related to criminal law, the courts and civil and equal rights. The MBA has recently argued before the committee on a number of matters, including sentencing and Criminal Offender Record Information (CORI) reform.

Creem, a Massachusetts Bar Foundation Fellow, is still a member of the MBA's Family Law Section and is the sponsor of four bills on behalf of the MBA. She is just one of several new legislative leaders who have a longstanding history of collaboration with the MBA. (See profiles of other new leaders.)

"The good news from the bar's perspective is a number of attorneys have been appointed to leadership positions in the House and Senate," said MBA General Counsel and Acting Executive Director Martin W. Healy, who serves as the association's chief legislative liaison on Beacon Hill. "This bodes well for the practicing bar."

Other notable leaders appointed in February are Speaker of the House Robert A. DeLeo of Revere, a former MBA Legislator of the Year; Majority Leader James E. Vallee of Franklin and Ways & Means Chair and State Rep. Charles A. Murphy of Burlington, a strong supporter of civil legal aid.

Although it was only last fall when the new child support guidelines became law, they were a hot topic even when Creem served as MBA Family Law Section chair a decade ago. It was during her time as an MBA leader communicating for these guidelines and other important policy changes that Creem said she first learned the art of advocating to opposing viewpoints. "It was a good forerunner to the Legislature," she said.

"I went before the House of Delegates and the Family Law Section would have something they wanted to pass and I would need to sell it," Creem said. "When you are going to the House of Delegates, you're hearing from people coming from all areas of the state representing varying interests. It's very much like the Legislature."

Family law is still important to Creem, who has filed a bill on behalf of the MBA this session that would grant judges the discretion to determine the duration of alimony payments. The three other bills she has filed on behalf of the MBA this session would: allow the court to continue probation with or without extending the conditions after a violation; allow the court to hold probation violators on bail; and require certificates of name changes related to a marriage be given automatically after a marriage certificate is filed. All four of the bills are currently pending before the Joint Committee on the Judiciary.

As the former chair of the Legislature's Criminal Justice Committee, Creem successfully opposed the reinstatement of the death penalty, helped create safety buffer zones around health clinics, reformed the sex offender registry and drunken driving laws and drafted a new law to prevent terrorist threats.

Creem, who also serves as vice chair of the Senate Committee on Bonding, Capital Expenditures and State Assets, also places a high priority on the issues of health care, the environment, women's issues, civil rights and education. A native of Brookline, Creem graduated from Brookline High School, Boston University's School of Management and Boston University Law School. She lives in Newton, where she served on the Board of Aldermen.