Continue to lead with us

Issue May/June 2017 By Jeffrey N. Catalano

The following is an excerpt from President Jeffrey N. Catalano's speech at the MBA's Annual Dinner on May 4.

It has been a true honor to serve as the MBA president this year. My presidency has been the sum of the amazing people who have supported me. I deeply appreciate the advice and support of my fellow officers Chris Sullivan, Chris Kenney, John Morrissey and Denise Murphy, along with Marty Healy and the staff at the MBA. I am also thankful for my firm Todd & Weld for their backing. And I am especially grateful to my wonderful wife Elizabeth and terrific kids Zach and Tessa for their encouragement.

Before I started this year as president, former MBA President and good friend Leo Boyle cautioned me to expect the unexpected. That turned out to be quite prophetic. These turbulent political times presented me and the MBA with more opportunities and obligations for civic engagement than I truly could have expected. But where many see our society as deeply divided, I see exciting opportunities for all of us to become more invested in our justice system as a voice for fairness and equality. Whatever our political persuasion, everyone is fighting to protect these two core principles. And the MBA is giving new life to these words by reigniting passionate and well-informed participation.

I started my year by asking all of you to "join us in leadership," and so many of you have answered the call. Some of you have launched and participated in our successful new Leadership Academy. This program nurtures future impressive leaders who will listen, collaborate, and inspire. Very many have helped mentor high school students through our Judicial Youth Corps, Tiered Community Mentoring and Mock Trial programs, which create future advocates for justice.

Our members have organized and attended packed seminars on criminal and juvenile justice issues, and our seminar on implicit bias in our legal system. Hundreds of you listened to our new podcasts on the Homeless Court and about a play we co-sponsored with the MBLA for high school students engaging them on complex issues of race, gender, and religion. Some of you volunteered with me and military veterans on a community service project in Lowell on Veterans Day.

And an overwhelming number of you voiced your support for our historic Immigration Resolution, proclaiming our support for due process rights and legal representation for immigrants in deportation and detention proceedings.

There are many fingerprints all over the great work we do. So many of you have put the interest of others before yourself. And I deeply appreciate that.

But we are not done yet. We are now working hard to expand free and affordable legal representation to low-income people across the state. The doors of justice are still shut to so many fellow citizens who lack the ability to afford a lawyer.

Indifference is no longer an option. Our commonwealth needs lawyers to enlist and do more. The MBA has stepped up and grabbed hands with our friends in our affinity, minority and county bar associations.

But it's going to take a larger volunteer force to continue the fight for fairness and equality. A modern Massachusetts "battalion" that ensures that our legal system stays true to itself no matter how overwhelmed we may feel at times. I say that with optimism. Since its formation, this state has gone against the odds in the past and succeeded. In our recent past, we were the first state to pass statewide health care, and make it work. We were the first state to stand up for the right to gay marriage, which emboldened other states to follow us. So Massachusetts lawyers, legislators, and judges are undaunted and always ready to lead the charge.

I also remain optimistic because throughout my presidential year, I have come into contact with so many of you who are doing so much good. Our association is more active than ever.

So to repeat what I said at the beginning of my presidency: please join us in leadership. Because the MBA is the sum of the amazing people who support us.

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