The 2009-10 Massachusetts Bar Association House of Delegates met
for the second meeting of the association year on Thursday, Nov. 19
at the Mass Mutual Center in Springfield. The full agenda indicated
a busy start to the association year, as officers and section
leadership brought forth a collection of timely and relevant
proposals for the House to consider.
Committee, task force progress report
After calling the meeting to order, MBA President Valerie A.
Yarashus provided her report. She informed the group that she
received word from Gov. Deval Patrick's office that the closing of
the Bridgewater Treatment Center was put off indefinitely. The MBA
first corresponded with the governor's office on this issue in
October with a letter in support of keeping the facility open.
She also announced the formation of an MBA Centennial Commission
chaired by the Hon. John M. Greaney (ret.), explaining that the
recognition of this landmark anniversary will take place during the
2010-11 association year (Sept. 1, 2010-Aug. 31, 2011), when Denise
Squillante will be serving as president. She also noted a
re-energized MBA Diversity Task Force, thanks to its leaders - the
Hon. Angela H. Ordoñez and April English.
Yarashus announced a new Courts in Crisis Task Force and that
Martin F. Kane II would serve as chair (see related article on page
1). The group is charged with collecting anecdotes from attorneys
and their clients to better illustrate the impact of the courts'
budget shortfalls. Yarashus expects the group to produce a report
to be presented to the House of Delegates at its March meeting.
In addition, Yarashus commended MBA Past President Warren
Fitzgerald for his leadership on the MBA Governance Committee.
In preparation for Law Day 2010, Yarashus reported that she has
tapped Marc C. Laredo and Michael P. Sams to lead a task force that
will organize a video essay contest for students in grades nine
through 12. The theme will be "Diversity in the Law."
Prior to her report coming to a close, Yarashus made a motion to
appoint Joann D'Alcomo as the MBA representative on the Joint Bar
Committee on Judicial Appointments. The vote was unanimous in
support of the appointment.
Following brief reports from President-elect Denise Squillante;
Treasurer Robert L. Holloway Jr. and Secretary Jeffrey N. Catalano,
MBA General Counsel and Acting Executive Director Martin W. Healy
addressed the House.
A robust legislative update
Healy shared with the delegates that the Senate, in the last few
hours of the legislative session, enacted legislation that would
eliminate mandatory minimum sentences for certain nonviolent drug
offenses. In what Healy described as a "terrific victory for the
bar," the legislation also includes reforms to the universally
criticized Criminal Offender Record Information (CORI) system.
"A lot of credit goes to the grass root effort of many of you in
this room," said Healy, who specifically thanked MBA Past
Presidents David W. White Jr. and Edward W. McIntyre, as well as
Yarashus, for their work on this long-term legislative push on
behalf of the bar.
After explaining the developments of the state budget since the
delegates last met, Healy reminded them that the next budget cycle
would begin shortly and to expect a call from the MBA to reach out
to their respective legislators on budgetary priorities. He also
mentioned that the MBA is co-sponsoring the Jan. 27 Walk to the
Hill for Civil Legal Aid and explained that this year's event is
critical, as legal services have realized a compounded blow from
both reductions in funding and drastic declines in IOLTA funds.
On a more positive note, Healy was pleased to report that the
District Court for the District of Columbia ruled that the Federal
Trade Commission's "Red Flags Rule" cannot be applied to attorneys.
The FTC had indicated plans to apply the rule - requiring certain
creditors to develop and implement programs to identify, detect and
respond to warning signs of identity theft - to lawyers, despite
the fact that they are not creditors.
Healy's report led into a lengthy report from the Criminal
Justice Section Council.
Delegates work through full agenda
Bonnie Allen of the section asked for the group's support on an
amendment that provided for advocates to apply for health
insurance. After a brief question and answer session, the motion
Allen also brought before the house the request to endorse the
section's proposed change and opposition to the governor's proposed
act relative to use of certificates for analysis in criminal
trials. Patrick's proposal followed the U.S. Supreme Court's
decision in Melendez-Diaz v. Massachusetts. Patrick's proposal was
drafted to honor the constitutional requirements imposed by
Melendez-Diaz, while also addressing the inevitable resource demand
by the decision's requirement that analysts be available to testify
in cases involving these certi-ficates.
Allen relayed the Criminal Justice Section's support of the
purpose of the statute, but explained that the section opposes the
included time frames associated with each party's obligations.
After a fruitful debate, the delegates approved the amendment that
included deadlines better tied with the provision of all discovery
matters relevant to the testing of an alleged substance or
The House then promptly endorsed the following:
- Senate Bill No. 940, "An Act to Improve Juvenile Justice Date
- Legislation making technical corrections to the Uniform Probate
Code signed into law in January 2009; and
- The Amicus Brief Committee's recommendations to issue-related
amicus briefs in the Real Estate Bar Association for Massachusetts
Inc. v. National Real Estate Information Services and National Real
Estate Information Services Inc. case currently before the First
Circuit Court of Appeals.
The last agenda item before the House of Delegates was presented
by David W. White Jr. and Matt Allen of the MBA's Drug Policy Task
Force. White and Allen asked the group to support, in principle,
House Bill No. 2160, "An Act to Regulate the Medical use of
Marijuana by Patients Approved by Physicians and Certified by the
Department of Public Health," now pending before the Joint
Committee on Public Health. According to White and Allen, so far,
13 other states have passed meaningful medical marijuana laws.
After thoughtful discussion, the delegates voted to support the
bill, in principle.
The next meeting of the MBA House of Delegates will take place
on Jan. 21 at Bentley College in Waltham.