MBA Centennial

Issue August 2011

Presidential Profiles

In the last decade, MBA presidents continued to work on a number of projects and causes that had long concerned the organization and the legal profession, including substantive court management reform, professional civility, championing judicial independence and the proper funding of the courts through difficult financial periods.

Longtime efforts like the passage of decades-in-the-making Uniform Probate Code were finally met with success, while newer efforts like David W. White's (2007-08) sentencing reform were undertaken. White also introduced the MBA's first green effort, a profession-wide challenge for lawyers to improve their environmental practices with the MBA Eco-Challenge, which concentrated on reducing practitioners' use of electricity and paper.

Presidents also oversaw the emergence and evolution of online efforts at the MBA. From posting print publications like Lawyers Journal and the Massachusetts Law Review online to the creation of the weekly electronic newsletter, e-Journal. And as the decade drew to a close, the MBA embraced the emergence of social networking sites such as Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter.

Also, after two decades of diversification of MBA leadership, the MBA still had room for two more firsts: the election of its first openly gay president with Mark D Mason (2006-07), who was later appointed a district court judge; and Valerie A. Yarashus (2009-10) passed the gavel to Denise Squillante (2010-11), the first time women had served consecutive terms. In addition to ushering in a new decade, Squillante also saw the close of the MBA's first century by presiding over its centennial celebration during her term.

Centennial Timeline, 2000s

2001: In response to the 9/11 tragedy, the MBA establishes a Victims' Relief Fund; hosts a Dial-A-Lawyer event for victims' families and friends; develops a pro bono initiative to assist victims' families with legal matters and works with U.S. Sen. Edward Kennedy's office to coordinate and participate in an event to help families with legal, financial, health and other needs.

2002: After the SJC accepted direct appellate review in Goodridge v. Dept. of Public Health, the MBA files an amicus brief arguing that excluding same-sex couples from marriage violates equal protection under the Massachusetts Constitution.

2003: The MBA works tirelessly to obtain adequate funding for Massachusetts courts, which were crippled with a near $60 million deficit in fiscal years 2002 and 2003. On March 18, it holds a lobby day for court and CPCS-assigned private counsel funding.

2004: The MBA reiterates its support for increased pay for bar advocates.

2004: The MBA's House of Delegates debates and rejects the proposition that the country cannot be both safe and free, passing the resolution contesting the U.S.A. Patriot Act and related federal executive orders, and endorsing the
protection of civil rights and liberties.

2005: Gov. Mitt Romney proposes legislation to reinstate the death penalty for the most "heinous" crimes. The MBA maintains its position against the death penalty and cites the catastrophic effect its implementation would have on the court system.

The Young Lawyers Section is elevated to the Young Lawyers Division.

2006: The MBA issues "Report of Attorney Financial Responsibility Disclosure Task Force" and "Debt Collection/Small Claims Task Force Report."

The MBA is honored with the American Bar Association's Harrison Tweed Award for long-standing commitment to funding and provision of quality legal services to the poor in Massachusetts, in both criminal and civil matters.

2007: The MBA forms a Drug Policy Task Force.

2007: The MBA launches its Lawyers Eco-Challenge with the goal of lawyers and law firms reducing their ecological impacts.

2007: The MBA holds its first Legal Technology Expo, highlighting the latest advancements to aid in law practice management.

2008: The Legislature enacts the MBA-sponsored Uniform Probate Code after more than 20 years of discussion and debate.

2009: The MBA issues the Drug Policy Task Force's "The Failure of the War on Drugs" report.

2010: The MBA issues the "Crisis in Court Funding Task Force" report, showcasing the devastating impact of the economic downturn on everyday uses of the courts.

2010: Following years of advocacy by the MBA and other groups, the Legislature passes a bill that reforms mandatory sentencing laws and Criminal Offender Record Information.

2010: The MBA Governance Committee, led by Past President Warren Fitzgerald, wins HOD approval to extensive bylaw changes that further clarify Executive Management Board and House of Delegate roles and create a chief operating officer position. Longtime General Counsel Martin W. Healy is named the MBA's first COO and chief legal counsel.

MBA Did You Know?

As early MBA responsibilities like grievance hearings were delegated to organizations such as the Board of Bar Overseers, the MBA turned its efforts toward improving the impact of the law on the public.

The new MBA Legal Fee Arbitration Board allowed lawyers and clients to resolve fee arguments without resorting to the courts or to BBO grievance procedures.