The Massachusetts Bar Association endorsed CORI-related resolutions brought by the Criminal Justice Section and a Complex Commercial Litigation Section proposal about unidentified IOLTA funds at its November House of Delegates (HOD) meeting, which was held virtually via Zoom on Wednesday, Nov. 17.
Criminal Justice Section Council members Ventura Dennis and Pauline Quirion asked HOD members to support two CORI-related resolutions in principle. One, addressing H1568/S925 (an act to remove collateral consequences and protect the presumption of innocence), would change the current law by allowing immediate sealing of cases upon a favorable disposition absent objection of the defendant. The second resolution, addressing S1037/H1763 (an act providing easier and greater access to sealing), would allow for automated sealing without changing waiting periods to seal records. Both measures were passed by the HOD.
Following a vote to suspend the notice rules, HOD members took up a proposal from the Complex Commercial Litigation Section seeking support for submitting comments on the proposed amendments to the Rules of Professional Conduct. ComCom Section Counsel member Francis C. Morrissey explained that the comments would address the proposal related to unidentified funds in an IOLTA account and make clear that the disbarred lawyer who was the subject of the SJC’s 2020 decision, In the Matter of Olchowski, was an "outlier," and that the majority of accounts involving unidentified funds are less than $2,500. The resolution was passed by the HOD.
Earlier in the meeting, MBA President Thomas M. Bond gave a report and recounted his recent meetings with court leaders, including Supreme Judicial Court Chief Justice Kimberly S. Budd, who discussed the concerning findings in last year’s Harvard Law School report, "Racial Disparities in the Massachusetts Criminal System." Bond said Budd asked for the MBA’s assistance with the court’s Restorative Justice program, which is focused on bringing attention to alternatives to charging in certain criminal matters.
Bond said he also discussed the IT bond bill with Trial Court Chief Justice Paula Carey, Court Administrator John Bello and Trial Court Senior Manager of Intergovernmental Relations Georgia K. Critsley, who is also vice chair of the MBA’s Criminal Justice Section. He said there will be a meeting with county bar leaders in December about IT needs in courtrooms. Bond added that he met with Superior Court Chief Justice Heidi E. Brieger over case management concerns and an idea for standardizing certain court procedures, such as changes to tracking orders.
MBA President-elect Grace V.B. Garcia provided an update on the MBA’s Leadership Academy, which held a graduation on Monday, Nov. 15, for the 2019-20 Leadership Academy Fellows whose year was impacted by the pandemic. The event doubled as a kick-off for the 2021-22 class of the MBA’s Leadership Academy, a diverse group of 33 future leaders that includes 12 lawyers from the 2019-20 class who elected to continue with the program. The new class will have their first session in December, which will focus on public speaking and working with the media. Panelists will include Carl Stevens, from WBZ News Radio 1030; Shirley Leung, a Boston Globe columnist and associate editor; and Tahirah Amatul-Wadud, a domestic relations attorney.
During his report, MBA Chief Legal Counsel and Chief Operating Officer Martin W. Healy commended the Probate Law Section for hosting another successful conference. He also encouraged people to submit nominations for the MBA’s Access to Justice Awards by Nov. 30. Healy reminded attorneys that the SJC and Trial Court were seeking attorney responses to an emailed survey asking whether certain new procedures implemented during the pandemic should be retained after risks subside. The survey also asks for feedback on the use of videoconferencing
Before adjourning, Bond wished everyone a happy Thanksgiving and congratulated ComCom Section Chair Jessica G. Kelly on her upcoming honor at Massachusetts Lawyers Weekly’s Top Women of Law event, which several officers and other MBA members attended after the HOD meeting.