March 11 Gala Dinner to feature renowned civil rights litigator and MBA Legislator of the Year

Issue February 2010 By Tricia M. Oliver

The MBA's annual Gala Dinner will feature a keynote address from Morris Dees, founder and lead trial counsel for the Southern Poverty Law Center. In addition, the night will include the presentation of the MBA's Legislator of the Year Award to state Sen. Cynthia Stone Creem. The March 11 event will take place at the Westin Copley Place in Boston's Back Bay.

Dees co-founded the Southern Poverty Law Center with Julian Bond and Joseph Levin in 1971 as a small civil rights law firm. Today, the center is internationally recognized for its tolerance education programs, its tracking of extremist hate groups and its legal victories against those groups.

Dees has authored three books - A Lawyers Journal, his autobiography; Hate on Trial; and Gathering Storm, America's Militia Threat.

"We are honored to welcome Morris Dees to deliver our dinner's keynote address," said MBA President Valerie A. Yarashus. "We look forward to hearing his perspective about his landmark trials and other work inspired by his tireless commitment to promoting tolerance and combating hate groups through the legal system."

He remains actively involved in litigation and has received numerous awards for his work. The U.S. Jaycees honored him as one of the Ten Outstanding Young Men of America for his early business success. Trial Lawyers for Public Justice named Dees Trial Lawyer of the Year in 1987. In 2009, he was inducted into the Trial Lawyers' Hall of Fame by the American Trial Lawyers' Association. In addition, the University of Alabama, in conjunction with the New York law firm Skadden Arps, bestows the Morris Dees Justice Award annually.

In addition to Dees' keynote address, the Legislator of the Year Award will honor the work of Creem, who has served in the Massachusetts Senate since 1999, representing residents of Newton, Brookline and Wellesley. As the co-chair of the Joint Committee on the Judiciary, Creem weighs in on legislation related to criminal law, the courts and civil and equal rights. A sponsor of four bills on behalf of the MBA, Creem has a longstanding history of collaboration with the MBA.

"We are pleased to recognize the hard work of Sen. Creem on behalf of the Massachusetts legal community," said Yarashus, who noted that Creem was a fierce advocate for sentencing reform during last fall's Senate debate.

Creem is a former chair of the MBA's Family Law Section and still a member of the section. In addition, she is a partner at Stone, Stone & Creem, where she practices family law.

The six-term senator is also vice-chair of the Senate Committee on Bonding, Capital Expenditures & State Assets and serves on the Senate Committee on Ways and Means, as well as the joint committees on Telecommunications, Utilities & Energy and on Veterans and Federal Affairs.

The MBA's Legislator of the Year Award is presented annually to a state or federal legislator who has a distinguished track record in public service through outstanding contributions to the legal profession, courts and administration of justice.