House of Delegates fills two vacancies, supports REBA lawsuit

Issue December/January 2008 By Bill Archambeault

The Nov. 19 House of Delegates filled two open positions for at-large delegates and unanimously endorsed filing an amicus brief supporting the Real Estate Bar Association in a lawsuit over the practice of law. The meeting was held at the Hawthorne Hotel in Salem.

HOD selected John  J. Carroll Jr. and Alice B. Braunstein to fill open positions as at-large delegates from 13 candidates. In brief introductions, the candidates highlighted their qualifications and addressed their reasons for running.

Braunstein noted that she gave up the chance to repeat as an at-large delegate to serve on the MBA’s Nominating Committee because she felt it was more important to help select future leaders of the MBA. She had previously served as an at-large delegate, a Region 9 delegate and served on the Executive Management Board and Civil Litigation Section Council. She said she was interested in building the membership of the MBA.

Carroll, who was recently honored with the Massachusetts Bar Foundation’s President’s Award, praised HOD’s role as the governing body of the MBA.

“This house is the conscience of the legal community,” he said.

REBA wins MBA support

HOD unanimously voted in favor of filing an amicus curiae brief in support of REBA’s lawsuit against an out-of-state company that provides closing services in real estate transactions. REBA sought the MBA’s support because it involves the practice of law, specifically, whether conveyancing (creating, transferring and terminating interests in real estate), constitutes the practice of law.

The case, The Real Estate Bar Association for Massachusetts, Inc. v. National Real Estate Information Services, Inc. and National Real Estate Information Services, is in federal district court.

Real Estate Bar Association Past President Sami S. Baghdady, an Arlington attorney, asked delegates to support REBA’s lawsuit involving the practice of law by non-lawyers in real estate transactions.

“We felt there is an important element of consumer protection,” REBA Past President Sami S. Baghdady told HOD. He explained, for example, that conveyancing requires a lawyer’s expertise to spot occasional problems in real estate documents.

MBA Vice President Robert L. Holloway Jr. spoke in favor of filing the brief.

“This has implications for other areas of law,” he said.

REBA President Paul F. Alphen said the lawsuit was filed to protect both consumers and the practice of law from groups looking to replace roles traditionally played by attorneys, including real estate closings.

Alphen said attempts by outside groups to supplant roles traditionally played by attorneys are popping up on several fronts. “It opens the door into what is the practice of law,” he said.

The request was unanimously endorsed.

Legislative report, miscellaneous business

In his legislative report, MBA General Counsel Martin W. Healy said that a number of factors, including working with a new Judiciary Committee chair to replace Sen. Robert S. Creedon Jr., who is not seeking re-election so he can run for Plymouth County clerk of courts.

“It’s certainly going to be an interesting year for the association in terms of legislation,” Healy said.
And, he said, the MBA will need to be “vigilant” in working with the Legislature to stave off cuts.

“Make no mistake about it;” Healy said. “We’ll all have our work cut out for us to maintain funding for the courts.”

Already, the bad economy is squeezing legal aid funding, particularly Interest on Lawyers Trust Accounts, where the income has “plummeted.”

“This is having a real, devastating impact on legal services,” Healy said.

MBA Treasurer Denise Squillante told the delegates that the Joint Alimony Task Force, which the MBA is partnered with the Boston Bar Association on, said the group has been busy working on the issue and expected to report back in the future.

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