House of Delegates supports adding access to justice to bar exam

Thursday, Jan. 23, 2014
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Photo Credit: Jason Scally
Superior Court Judge Dennis J. Curran gives a presentation on presumptive mediation at the January House of Delegates meeting

The Massachusetts Bar Association's House of Delegates (HOD) convened in January at the MBA's headquarters in Boston, where HOD members voted to support the addition of an access to justice component to the bar exam.

Supreme Judicial Court Justice Ralph D. Gants, co-chair of the Access to Justice Commission, presented the proposal outlined in the Access to Justice Commission Report. According to the findings of the commission, many law school graduates are not prepared for a career in small or solo practice due to a lack of practical training in these areas. Professor Russell Engler of New England Law | Boston, who also spoke about the proposal, noted that law school students often pick courses based on bar exam topics that exclude subject areas necessary for a community lawyer. Gants reported that nearly half of Massachusetts practitioners are solo and small firm lawyers.

Prior to the vote, President Douglas K. Sheff welcomed members back from the holidays and provided an update on recent charitable initiatives. Sheff thanked volunteers who helped feed approximately 2,000 people in the Boston area for Thanksgiving by contributing both time and money to the Christmas in the City Annual Turkey Drive. He also noted that the legal community has raised $800,000 for the Boston Lawyers House Project, an effort to fund permanent housing for the homeless at the Pine Street Inn. The fundraising goal is $1 million and Sheff noted that once that goal is reached other organizations will likely contribute matching funds.

Also at the meeting, the HOD also voted unanimously to support, in principle, Senate Bill 70, An Act Relative to Limited Liability Companies. Euripides Dalmanieras, chair of the Business Law Section Council, introduced attorney James Silva, who provided background on the bill, which aims to lower the annual report fee for an LLC with six or less employees. Silva noted that lower fees may encourage more businesses to form an LLC.

Guest speaker Superior Court Judge Dennis J. Curran gave a presentation on presumptive mediation. Based on the large, overwhelming workload of cases within civil sessions, Curran has conducted his own independent study on ADR and mediation options during the last four years. According to Curran, by offering the opportunity of mediation, his case workload decreased by more than 40 percent.

Rounding out the topics of discussion was Howard Neff, the executive director of the Judicial Conduct Commission, a group responsible for investigating complaints of judicial misconduct against state court judges and recommending discipline of judges when necessary to the Supreme Judicial Court. Neff reviewed the Code of Judicial Conduct, how to file complaints, what type of complaints the commission can investigate, how complaints are resolved and what type of action can result from these investigations under the statute.