Secretary Bennett addresses prison searches at March HOD meeting

Issue April 2015

The Massachusetts Bar Association's House of Delegates (HOD) held its latest meeting in Marlborough on March 26, at the Courtyard Boston Marlborough hotel, where members welcomed Massachusetts Secretary of the Executive Office of Public Safety and Security Daniel Bennett as guest speaker.

Bennett, appointed in January by Gov. Charlie Baker, addressed the issue of attorney searches at state correctional facilities in Massachusetts, following a Boston Globe story that detailed invasive searches of female attorneys during client visits at MCI-Norfolk. While Bennett explained the need to balance the safety of the workers and inmates with the rights of those entering, he said clearly that the procedures at Norfolk were "unacceptable" and improper searches "never should happen."

Bennett, who met previously with MBA President-elect Robert W. Harnais and MBA Chief Legal Counsel and Chief Operating Officer Martin W. Healy after the Globe report first surfaced, responded to questions from HOD members, several of whom described inconsistent practices from prison to prison. Bennett said one of his goals was to make the Department of Corrections more consistent, and he pledged to meet with anyone who wanted to discuss this issue further.

Led by Harnais, the HOD also heard regular updates from MBA leaders, including Treasurer Jeffrey N. Catalano, who announced that the Scholarship Committee had chosen the first recipient of the MBA's Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr. Scholarship after receiving applications from every law school in the state. The MBA will present the scholarship to the winner on May 7 at the MBA's Annual Dinner.

In addition to the officers' reports, Healy spoke about the success of the recent MBA-District Court Bench-Bar Meetings in Salem and Brockton, and announced the next two would be held on April 17 in Barnstable and May 13 in Worcester. In his legislative update, Healy talked about the court's fiscal year 2016 budget, calling it a "fluid situation."He also gave an update on the Joint Bar Committee,  which the MBA administers, saying that it is "an exciting time for the bar in terms of appointments."

Among the new business items, the HOD voted to support, in principle, legislation that would increase compensation amounts related to scarring and disfigurement in workers' compensation cases. The HOD also approved the nominees for the 2015 Access to Justice Awards. HOD members also heard a proposal from Hampden County Bar Association President Christina M. Turgeon, who asked the MBA to support a return to a regionally based Judicial Nominating Commission. After discussion and several questions, the issue was referred to the MBA's Executive Management Board.

The next HOD meeting is scheduled for May 28 at the MBA's Boston office.