The MBA's House of Delegates met virtually on Wednesday, March 23.
The Massachusetts Bar Association’s House of Delegates approved resolutions from the Civil Litigation, Family Law and Criminal Justice Section Councils at its meeting, which was held over Zoom on Wednesday, March 23.
MBA Vice President Damian J. Turco, who presided over the meeting, opened with a recap of the MBA’s High School Mock Trial program, which recently wrapped up its 36th season at a virtual final won by Malden Catholic. Turning also to the MBA’s Tiered Community Mentoring Program, Turco praised both community-focused programs for giving students a positive introduction to the legal profession. He also encouraged HOD members to attend the many exciting programs happening at the MBA this spring, including the March 25 Young Lawyers Division Symposium, the April 14 Complex Commercial Litigation Conference, an April 29 program on panel-conducted voir dire and the MBA’s May 12 Welcome Back Reception, A Celebration of MBA Diversity: Past, Present and Future.
MBA Treasurer Victoria Santoro Mair then gave a brief update on the MBA’s 30A Pro Bono Program, which was established in partnership with the Superior Court. The program, which seeks to target one of the greatest pro bono needs facing the Superior Court, offers opportunities to provide legal representation at no cost in cases that are brought in Superior Court under M.G.L. c. 30A by parties who are not able to hire a lawyer on their own. Cases filed under M.G.L. c. 30A involve judicial review of agency decisions.
Before introducing the minutes from the last HOD meeting, which were ultimately approved, MBA Secretary Michael H. Hayden highlighted the MBA’s 2021-22 Leadership Academy, which recently wrapped up its programming for the year with a panel on Civility in Written and Oral Communications. The MBA’s Leadership Academy trains newer lawyers on the skills to help them take on leadership positions at the MBA, their firms and their communities.
MBA Chief Legal Counsel and Chief Operating Officer Martin W. Healy also gave a report on the MBA’s advocacy efforts, beginning with the news that Gov. Charlie Baker had included language in his budget proposal to fund the three-year step increase for bar advocates. Healy also thanked the more than 800 people who took part in January’s virtual Talk to the Hill for Civil Legal Aid, noting that the MBA is continuing to advocate for an increase in the Massachusetts Legal Assistance Corporation’s budget this year. Regarding the Trial Court’s IT Bond Bill, Healy noted that it had received a favorable report from the Joint Committee on the Judiciary and is now before the Joint Bonding Committee. Healy also spoke about ongoing MBA efforts to address the courthouse health and safety issues in Springfield, and said he would be monitoring an upcoming hearing at the Supreme Judicial Court related to litigation over the courthouse.
Civil Litigation Section Vice Chair Michael D. Molloy introduced a proposal on behalf of the Civil Litigation Section Council asking the MBA to support, in principle, S.2600: An Act Relative to Personal Health Information Portability and Accessibility. Noting that current state law on medical records was enacted before electronic records became the norm, Molloy said the proposal would allow medical facilities to charge a flat rate to fulfill medical records requests rather than the per-page fee that doesn’t make sense given the electronic nature and increased volume of medical records today. The HOD voted to approve the measure.
The Family Law Section Council’s proposal was introduced by Family Law Section Vice Chair Marc Moccia and attorney Annika Bockius-Suwyn, who asked HOD members to support, in principle, S.1124, An Act to Permit Efficiency in Coparent Adoption. Noting that none of the state’s parenting laws had been updated since same-sex marriage was legalized in Massachusetts, they said the bill would streamline the process so that children are born into marriages with the presumption of parentage. The HOD voted to approve the measure.
Criminal Justice Section Co-Chair Charu Verma then introduced three separate proposals, each of which was voted on and approved by the HOD. As a result, the MBA voted to:
- Support, in principle, the prohibition of the use of space in any state or county correctional facility to house persons committed pursuant to M.G.L. c. 123 Section 35. In addition, funding for treatment should be directed toward investment in community-based treatment services for people with substance use disorders;
- Support, in principle, an Act Relative to Civil Asset Forfeiture Reform; and
- Support, in principle, the recommendations outlined in the Final Report of the Special Commission to Evaluate Government Use of Facial Recognition Technology (“Facial Recognition Commission.”)
Regarding the third proposal, Healy thanked Verma for her work on behalf of the MBA on the Facial Recognition Commission.