MBA's House of Delegates meets, elects ABA House of Delegates representatives

Issue June 2013 By Liz Kennedy

On May 15, the House of Delegates of the Massachusetts Bar Association met at the MBA's offices at 20 West St.

The meeting began with former MBA Vice President Jeffrey N. Catalano, of Todd & Weld LLP, speaking about his involvement with the Massachusetts Alliance for Communication and Resolution following Medical Injury or "MACRMI" as it's commonly known. This alliance is comprised of patient advocacy groups, teaching hospitals and their insurers, and statewide provider organizations. Its mission is to provide patients with transparent communication, sincere apologies and fair compensation in cases of avoidable medical harm. Fearing that patients would be compelled to accept settlements without proper consideration or consultation, Catalano lobbied to have the MBA become a part of this alliance. Last month, MACRMI elected to have the MBA join. Going forward, Catalano will participate in all MACRMI meetings and ensure patients are encouraged to seek legal representation when presented with a settlement.

"If you're not at the table, you're on the menu," said Catalano about his push to have MBA representation at MACRMI policy meetings. "Patients are extremely vulnerable in these situations, and ensuring that they receive a fair offer that takes into account all things is critical for their future well-being," he stated.

The House of Delegates then heard from president Robert L. Holloway Jr., as he summarized his tenure over the past nine months. He stated that his goal had been and continues to be the unification and promotion of the legal profession. He cited the recent successful annual dinner - where more than 1,000 legal professiona-s gathered to support and celebrate the association and its efforts - as proof of the strength of Massachusetts' legal community. He then introduced his successor, Douglas K. Sheff, and reminded him of how fleeting time is, and how important it is to maximize every moment.

President-elect Sheff took to the podium to lay out his goals for the following year.  He voiced his concerns on how the image of lawyers has eroded in the past 30 years, and how terms like "elitest," "deceitful" and "takers" are often used when the press refers to legal professionals. He stated that no other profession gives back as much as the legal profession, in terms of pro bono efforts and other community support.  Drawing from three words - family, consumer, justice - that resonate strongly with most people, Sheff outlined three platforms on which he will establish his presidency. First, he talked about the Working Family Initiative, which will support family-run businesses, workplace safety and tax relief. His second initiative is consumer advocacy, promoting consumer-friendly practices and rights for individuals. Lastly, he talked about "justice for all," which would include pro bono and charitable initiatives, Access to Justice efforts, Dial-A-Lawyer programs, the MBA's work with the One Fund Boston and the MBA's Lawyer Referral Service.

Vice President Christopher P. Sullivan gave brief remarks and strongly encouraged all members of the MBA to support the victims of the Marathon bombings. He highlighted the upcoming Dial-A-Lawyer program, scheduled for May 30, which was created specifically to answer calls from victims.  He also talked about the MBA's work with the One Fund Boston, spearheaded by Civil Litigation Section Chair Paul E. White and MBA Past President Leo V. Boyle, as well as the opportunity for lawyers to represent victims on a pro bono basis.

MBA Chief Legal Counsel Martin W. Healy provided delegates with a legislative update. Since the last HOD meeting, the House passed a budget that included a long-awaited judicial compensation increase. The Senate released its budget on May 16. For more details see page 8.

Healy also noted that the Hon. Paula M. Carey has been appointed Trial Court Chief Justice, and that the MBA looks forward to working closely with her in her enhanced role.

Lastly, Healy highlighted recent testimony by MBA Secretary Martha Rush O'Mara before the Joint Committee on the Judiciary. Rush O'Mara spoke in support of a bill that would raise the age of juvenile jurisdiction from 17 to 18 years of age. This bill has a long list of supporters, including Chief Justice Michael Edgerton, CPCS and Citizens for Juvenile Justice. It has passed the House and awaits action by the senate.

The ABA Nominating Committee, comprised of Boyle, Thomas Carey, Josephine McNeil, Denise Squillante, Richard Campbell, then presented its candidates for the ABA's House of Delegates. Three names were put forth by the committee - Marsha V. Kazarosian, Robert W. Harnais, Kay H. Hodge - and a fourth name, Martha Rush O'Mara, was nominated from the floor. After a brief debate, the House of Delegates voted to elect Kazarosian, Harnais and Hodge to the ABA House of Delegates.

The meeting concluded with the ceremonial passing of the gavel, and a book, "The End of Time," from Holloway to Sheff.