Workers' Compensation is the newest Massachusetts Bar
Association section after unanimous approval by the House of
Delegates during its Sept. 19 meeting, held at the MBA's Boston
headquarters. The proposal to add the new section was part of the
robust agenda for the meeting, which also featured guest remarks by
Supreme Judicial Court Justice Ralph D. Gants along with several
other new business items and officer reports.
Presiding over the first meeting of the 2013-14 association year,
new MBA President Douglas K. Sheff thanked Immediate Past President
Robert L. Holloway for his work on behalf of the bar. Sheff then
spoke about his own goals going forward, which included working
with judges to improve the dialogue between the bench and the
Sheff then introduced Gants as the first of many distinguished
guests who will be invited to speak at House of Delegates meetings
this year. Calling Sheff a "drum major for justice," Gants echoed
the MBA president's remarks about the importance of re-establishing
connections with the judiciary and said he was excited about the
MBA's plans for more bench-bar meetings. As part of improved
communications, Gants urged members of the bar to take an active
role when the SJC asks for comments on proposed rules. "It's
terribly important when you folks have an opportunity to comment
that you take advantage of it," the judge said.
Gants said it was an "exciting time in the court system," citing
new court leadership in Trial Court Chief Justice Paula M. Carey
and Court Administrator Harry Spence. He said court officials would
be taking a hard look at specialty courts, such as Drug Courts, and
looking at ways to improve access to justice as part of the
judiciary's philosophical shift towards being "problem
After emphasizing the importance of pro bono, Gants called upon
experienced attorneys to look for mentoring opportunities. "We need
to find a way not to lose a generation of attorneys," the judge
Following Gants remarks, President-elect Marsha V. Kazarosian gave
the first officer's report and announced she would be testifying
about an increase to the Workers' Compensation death benefit at a
hearing on Oct. 8. Vice Presidents Christopher P. Sullivan and
Martha Rush O'Mara then gave a report about the Membership
Committee, which they co-chair, and noted that it will include
representatives from all section councils. Robert W. Harnais and
Christopher A. Kenney also gave their first reports as MBA
treasurer and secretary, respectively.
MBA Chief Legal Counsel and Chief Operating Officer Martin W.
Healy thanked supporters of the MBA-backed juvenile jurisdiction
law, which Gov. Deval Patrick had signed. He also noted that Past
President Kathleen O'Donnell is chairing a committee to deal with
the SJC's request for comments on proposed changes to Rules of
Professional Conduct regarding advertising.
Among the new business items, the addition of a Workers'
Compensation section signaled one of the most remarkable changes at
the meeting. The affirmative vote came after Deborah Kohl's
presentation on behalf of the Workers' Compensation Practice Group,
where she emphasized the advantages the new group will bring to
both membership and the MBA's legislative advocacy efforts. Also
under new business, Anthony Benedetti, Lee Gartenberg and Denise
Murphy were elected to the Executive Management Board after being
nominated by Sheff. And delegates approved an update to the
Judicial Preference Guide and approved comments on amendments to
the rules of criminal procedure regarding probation.
After the meeting adjourned, many delegates attended the MBA's
"Welcome Back" Member Reception, which was being held next door at
the Back Deck.