Civics initiative, lawyer well-being highlight March House of Delegates meeting

Thursday, March 21, 2019
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MBA President Christopher A. Kenney, iCivics Chief Development Officer Molly Morrison and MBA Chief Legal Counsel and Chief Operating Officer Martin W. Healy.

The Massachusetts Bar Association’s House of Delegates (HOD) meeting on Thursday, March 14, featured updates on civics- and wellness-related programs at the MBA, as well as the endorsement of proposals from the MBA’s Probate Law, Complex Commercial Litigation and Criminal Justice sections.

During his opening report, MBA President Christopher A. Kenney recapped his civics initiative, including the successful Civic Bee, the unique trivia-night fundraiser for iCivics, which was held on Feb. 13. He thanked sponsors and participants for helping the event exceed its initial fundraising goal, and presented a check for more than $15,000 to iCivics Chief Development Officer Molly Morrison. According to iCivics, the money raised by the MBA’s event will help fund the completion of iCivics materials to support the new Eighth Grade civics course being implemented across Massachusetts in September.

Kenney also previewed upcoming programs run by his fellow officers, including the Trial Academy, which is holding training sessions on April 3–4. MBA President-elect John J. Morrissey, who is leading the Trial Academy, explained during his report how the two-day training will work, and he touted the exceptional trial lawyers who had joined the faculty. Trial Academy participants, he added, will receive individualized feedback on their training and have an opportunity to put their newly learned skills into practice at actual trials on a pro bono limited-assistance basis.

During her officer’s report, MBA Secretary Grace V.B. Garcia provided more detail on the upcoming Naturalization Disability Waiver Training program she will be leading on April 8. The free MBA training, offered in conjunction with Project Citizenship, will instruct volunteers on how to attend one-hour naturalization interviews with disabled clients seeking disability waivers exempting them from the English and civics testing requirements. In exchange for the free waiver training, participants will be asked to use their new skills to assist on one naturalization interview with a disabled client seeking the disability waiver.

MBA Chief Legal Counsel and Chief Operating Officer Martin W. Healy then gave an update on the Trial Court’s fiscal year 2020 budget request, as well as the legal aid funding request by the Massachusetts Legal Assistance Corporation (MLAC), reiterating the MBA’s support for both. He also congratulated long-time MBA House of Delegates member Patricia Ann Metzer for her nomination to the state’s Appellate Tax Board.

MBA Vice President Denise I. Murphy, who represents the MBA on the SJC’s Standing Committee on Lawyer Well-Being, spoke briefly about the work of her committee before introducing guest speaker Anna Levine, the executive director of Lawyers Concerned for Lawyers (LCL). Levine explained the ways in which LCL helps lawyers who are dealing with mental health, stress or substance use issues, and she also touted the practice-management resources offered through the affiliated Massachusetts Law Office Management Assistance Program. 

The HOD also acted on several substantive proposals during the meeting, beginning with a vote to support, in principle, a proposal for Massachusetts to adopt the Uniform Trust Decanting Act (UTDA), after a presentation by Probate Law Section Council member Lisa M. Rico and Probate Law Section Chair Kevin G. Diamond. Enacting this proposal in the commonwealth, they explained, would provide more clarity for trustees to follow when decanting a trust.

After voting to suspend the rules to take up two additional proposals, the HOD also voted to approve the endorsement of the Honoring American Veterans in Extreme Need (HAVEN) Act of 2019, presented by Complex Commercial Litigation Section Council member Francis C. Morrissey. The act would exclude certain disability payments made to veterans or their dependent survivors from the monthly income calculation used for bankruptcy means testing.

Following a report by Criminal Justice Section Vice Chair Charu A. Verma, HOD members also voted to endorse, in principle, proposed legislation that would create a state task force to develop uniform policies for law enforcement agencies that use body-worn cameras. Verma noted that the HOD previously voted to support the use of body-warn cameras by law enforcement in May 2017.

The next HOD meeting is scheduled for May 23.