MBA hosts discussion to preserve private bar advocates

Issue March 2011 By Tricia M.Oliver

Following Gov. Deval Patrick's proposal to eliminate the use of assigned private counsel as part of his fiscal 2012 budget and bring Committee for Public Counsel Services within the purview of the executive branch, MBA President Denise Squillante convened a meeting of bar advocate representatives throughout the commonwealth to discuss the topic at MBA headquarters on Feb. 7.

With representation from most Massachusetts counties, audience members discussed the various flaws with the governor's proposal, namely the unaccounted overhead costs associated with such a plan, the negative impact on current caseloads and the lack of specifics on the proposed, dramatic cost savings that the governor claims would result from his plan.

Joining Squillante to provide remarks were MBA Past President Edward P. Ryan Jr., who will be chairing the MBA's Standing Committee on Bar Advocates; CPCS' Chief Counsel Anthony Benedetti; MBA COO and Chief Legal Counsel Martin W. Healy; and Massachusetts Association of Court Appointed Attorneys Legislative Counsel Benjamin Fierro.

"This is really a call to action," said Ryan, who along with the other meeting leaders encouraged all bar advocate programs to be in touch with their legislators stressing the importance of assigned private counsel.

The MBA has long been a supporter of private bar advocates in Massachusetts, a system that is recognized nationally as a model for the delivery of defense counsel.