Immigrant resolution, conviction integrity group headline May 17 HOD meeting

Thursday, May 24, 2018
Article Picture
MBA President Christopher P. Sullivan (right) passes the gavel to President-elect Christopher A. Kenney at the final MBA House of Delegates meeting of the 2017-2018 membership year.

The MBA House of Delegates unanimously opposes threats to the citizenship status of immigrants who receive federal and state benefits, as voted at a May 17 meeting that also featured a presentation on the MBA’s new Conviction Integrity Working Group.

With the HOD’s endorsement, the MBA Immigration Working Group will now file comments against federal attempts to broaden the definition of “public charge,” which refers to any person likely to depend primarily on the government for subsistence. Under changes proposed by the Department of Homeland Security, immigrants and immigrant families receiving any form of public benefits could be denied the chance to enter the U.S., obtain a new visa or become a permanent resident. The modified regulations, which already fail to account for basic human needs, could also target recipients of free civil legal services, said Immigration Working Group chair Richard W. Cole.

“This is really pernicious, it’s totally unacceptable, and it’s really important that the legal community stand up in opposition to this,” said Cole, who then praised the HOD for its dependably “powerful response” to issues confronting the immigrant community.

Cole went on to outline the core objectives of the MBA’s working group on conviction integrity, formed as a joint initiative with Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey and Middlesex County District Attorney Marian Ryan. He noted that the group’s formal establishment came at an especially opportune time for the AG’s Office, which has committed to eliminating prosecutorial misconduct following the Amherst drug lab scandal that saw numerous cases tainted by evidence tampering. The group will focus both on preventing and addressing instances of misconduct, with its ultimate goal to facilitate the statewide adoption of conviction integrity programs. 

President and legislative reports

In his final report as MBA president, Christopher P. Sullivan announced that the MBA and the Massachusetts Association of Hispanic Attorneys will hold a special fundraiser to coincide with the Boston run of “Hamilton” this fall. The proceeds will assist Puerto Rican citizens still struggling to recover from last year’s massive hurricane, as well as those now living in Massachusetts and facing unmet legal needs. 

President-elect Christopher A. Kenney discussed the MBA’s recent attendance at American Bar Association Day in Washington, D.C., and noted the June 20 graduation date for the second MBA Leadership Academy class. He encouraged HOD members to submit 2018-2019 Leadership Academy nominations through the July 13 deadline. 

MBA Chief Legal Counsel and Chief Operating Officer Martin W. Healy then informed the assembly of the MBA’s foremost legislative priority, to secure $4 million in additional FY19 funding for Massachusetts Legal Assistance Corporation. Members are urged to ask their state senators to join with the MBA in supporting Amendment #992. 

Trial Court/CSB reports

Trial Court Administrator Jonathan S. Williams detailed his office’s “complete culture change and shift” toward e-filing, which should serve as a precursor to e-courts. He said the Trial Court still receives 87 percent of its civil filings by mail, but that the gradual embrace of technology should allow for faster processing come 2019.  

Williams also touched on the Trial Court’s recent efforts around diversity, equity and inclusion, both as it relates to staffing and the overall courtroom experience. In a survey conducted nine years ago, approximately 70 percent of African American respondents expressed satisfaction with their treatment as users of the court system, as compared to more than 90 percent for their white counterparts. Williams called these findings “extremely troubling,” but said, “We’re in a better place than we were nine years ago.”

Williams’ remarks preceded a report on the Clients’ Security Board, delivered by Assistant Board Counsel Karen D. O’Toole. She explained that the seven-member board investigates and adjudicates embezzlement claims lodged by clients against their attorneys, and works to “restore the integrity of the law profession in the public’s mind.”

Executive Management Board

The HOD unanimously approved the election of the following new Executive Management Board members:
  • Lori A. Cianciulli
  • Victoria Santoro Mair 
  • Michael E. Mone Jr.

Acknowledgments

Healy announced that MBA Section Administrator Jean Stevens, who has served as the administrator for the HOD for 25 years, will retire at the end of June. He presented her with a bouquet of flowers and acknowledged her many years of dedicated service to the MBA. 

The meeting closed with the ceremonial passing of the gavel from President Christopher P. Sullivan to President-elect Christopher A. Kenney.