There is a concept that all trial lawyers who represent victims
in personal injury and medical malpractice cases like me deal with:
jury disassociation. Essentially it's when jurors hear about
something terrible that happened to our client and convince
themselves it would not have happened to them because they do
things differently. Many jurors think they would avoid tragedy
because they are more enlightened, and make better choices than our
client did. They would have avoided the car accident, challenged a
doctor's opinion or taken more precautions on the worksite. It's a
psychological protective mechanism we use to ensure that we don't
feel endangered by what happened to other people.
Similarly, we hear constantly about terrible race-related events
in Ferguson, Charlotte, Dallas, Baltimore, Chicago, Baton Rouge,
New York and too many other places. But many think to themselves,
"That would never happen here in Massachusetts." We are more
enlightened. We are not as racially insensitive, biased or racist.
It's a protective mechanism. Deep down, most of us know that's not
so. As much as it's hard to admit, incidents of bias and
discrimination happen even in our own justice system. They not only
happen to members of the public, but to fellow attorneys based on
race, gender and sexual orientation.
I personally have learned of recent discriminatory events that
happened to my colleagues here in Massachusetts that shocked my
conscience. I'd like to say that these kinds of incidents happen
very rarely, but I don't think I can say that with any
The hard truth is that we have our problems here and we need to
confront them now. Some are extreme, and some are implicit.
So, in this time when civil rights abuses are being brought to
the forefront and front pages seemingly every day, the MBA knows it
must do its part. We are taking a prominent role to ensure that the
civil rights of our fellow attorneys and the citizens of our state
are protected. We want to help impressive leaders facilitate
measures that benefit everyone in our state and make Massachusetts
a legal leader in this arena.
So, here is what we are doing.
We have two MBA "dream team" section councils that are prepared
to step into the fray and be a strong voice for those who need
First, I am pleased and proud to announce that we have created a
revitalized Civil Rights Section Council under the leadership of
Richard Cole, a nationally known civil rights attorney and former
civil rights division chief in the Massachusetts Office of the
Attorney General. And, for the first time ever, we have delegates
on the council from every minority bar association in the state:
MBLA, MAHA, SABA, AALA, LGBTQ and WBA, as well as GBLS, CPCS, the
ACLU, the AG's Civil Rights Division, and the Lawyers Committee for
Civil Rights. It's an unprecedented opportunity for the MBA to
gather thought leaders from every segment of civil rights arena in
one room on a regular basis to focus on and work toward solutions.
This supercharged council will have a summit meeting every month of
civil rights leaders from every sector. Some of the important
issues they will be dealing with include implicit bias, protections
to prevent voter intimidation, fair housing and broad issues around
criminal justice reform.
Second, we have a powerful Criminal Justice Section Council,
under the leadership of Georgia Critsley and Pauline Quirion - two
attorneys with a passion for criminal justice running through their
veins. Both Georgia and Pauline have received awards for their
dedication to justice and public service. (Oh, and immediate past
president and renowned criminal defense attorney Bob Harnais is on
that council too.) They are prepared to take on CORI training, law
enforcement procedures, and the special needs of poverty stricken
people who need indigent defense services.
Both of these councils will be collaborating to do what they can
to improve our system of justice for the attorneys and citizens of
Massachusetts so the system works as it should.
We also worked with the MBLA on sponsoring and promoting a
courtroom drama for high school students called "Defamation." This
play generates conversations about the difficult issues of race,
class and religion, gender, diversity, social justice and the law.
The twist is that students act as the jury.
In addition, MBA Vice President John Morrissey is organizing a
seminar on implicit bias to include prominent judges, and we will
be reaching out to other bar associations for their support.
No one will ever say that the MBA sat idly by during these
trying and difficult times. In this situation, as in many others,
we are there when we need to be. And we want in on any civil rights
issues being addressed across the state. Together we are thousands
strong and we will make a difference. As I said during a recent
speech, when we dream alone it is only a dream. When we dream
together, it is the beginning of a new reality. So, watch what we
do. If you want to do more than watch, then give me a call and join
us in leadership.