Issue June 2009

Women in the Law

A century ago, Portia Law School opened its doors in Boston as a women-only law school to help fulfill an unmet need — women were simply not accepted into law school.

Eventually, women would be seated next to male students, and are now enrolled in nearly equal numbers. After that initial struggle for acceptance, women are now being hired by large law firms at rates roughly equal to that of men.

Portia — now New England Law Boston — started celebrating its 100th anniversary in 2008 in grand fashion, including appearances by the only two women to sit on the U.S. Supreme Court, Justices Sandra Day O’Connor and Ruth Bader Ginsburg. The celebration was a proud acknowledgment of the school’s longevity and its continuing success. It was also, in many ways, a memorial to the passing of a distant era.

UPC ushers in first stage of reforms

Guardians, conservators and the court system itself face new responsibilities under the sweeping probate code changes that take effect in July.

The changes, signed into law by Gov. Deval Patrick this January after nearly 20 years in the works, align Massachusetts with the Uniform Probate Code. The first set of changes, which affect guardianships and conservatorships, go into effect July 1. At the heart of the reform is an effort to extend better protections to incapacitated persons and minors. The rest of the UPC changes are scheduled to go into effect July 1, 2011.

“It’s a sea change in Massachusetts,” said Judge Paula M. Carey, chief justice of the Probate and Family Court.

Gov. Patrick introduces wide-ranging crime bills

A flurry of long-awaited public safety and anti-crime bills proposed by Gov. Deval Patrick were released in early May. The bills cover a variety of long-debated areas of criminal justice policy, including prisoner reentry, Criminal Offender Record Information (CORI) reform and mandatory minimum sentencing and gun crimes. For many of these topics, such as mandatory sentencing and CORI, they represent the first attempt at reform by a governor in almost two decades. Though obviously subject to revision as they wend their way through the Legislature, the following is a summary of the proposed bills.