House of Delegates covers eco-savings, CORI reform, state budget deficit at January meeting in Springfield on Jan. 16

Issue February 2008 By Jennifer Rosinski

The Massachusetts Bar Association held its third House of Delegates meeting of the 2007-08 association year at the Sheraton Springfield on Jan. 16 following a luncheon.

MBA President David W. White Jr. shared news that the association has saved more than $1,000 in electricity in two months after employees were asked to make changes, such as turning off lights when rooms are empty and shutting down computers at night, in keeping with the recently launched MBA Lawyers Eco-Challenge. The Conservation Law Foundation in Boston is collaborating with the MBA on the program, which asks lawyers to sign a pledge to make their office more Earth friendly. (For more information about the initiative, see stories on pp. 10–11 and visit

White also shared news that the MBA supports, in large part, recently unveiled reforms to Criminal Offender Record Information laws proposed by Gov. Deval Patrick. MBA General Counsel Martin W. Healy also discussed CORI reform during his report.

Criminal Justice Section Chair Lee J. Gartenberg is working on the issues of expunged records and non-convictions, which the reforms do not tackle, Healy said. The MBA pledges to work with the state in those areas, he said, noting, “A lot more work needs to happen.”

Healy also announced that discussion of the state’s fiscal 2009 budget has begun with talk of a possible $1 billion deficit. Like last year, the MBA will fight any cuts to the budget that negatively impact the legal system, he said. “We will be vigilant in our efforts,” Healy said. “It will be a very difficult budget climate.”

MBA Executive Director Marilyn J. Wellington announced a new fundraising campaign for the Massachusetts Bar Institute, which supports programs like Dial-A-Lawyer and the Mock Trial Program. Materials will be mailed in early February. “If every member of the MBA contributed $20, it would cover all of these programs,” Wellington said.

The MBA’s budget is on track, MBA Treasurer Valerie A. Yarashus said during her report. On a positive note, section membership has increased because of new memberships in the Young Lawyers Division.

MBA Secretary Robert L. Holloway Jr. presented the minutes from the Nov. 1, 2007, House of Delegates meeting, which were approved without change.

The leadership voted to support four proposals presented at the meeting:

• A redraft of S.878, which would rewrite M.G.L. c. 188, the Massachusetts Homestead Act. Submitted by the Real Estate Bar Association, the revision of the law would make several changes that aim to close loopholes. The new law would retain homestead rights when a new mortgage is placed on a home and when a home is bought before marriage and transferred after marriage to the couple. It would also make beneficiaries of a trust eligible for homestead provisions.

• A proposal from the IOLTA Committee to amend Mass. R. Civ. P. 23 as it relates to disposing of residual funds in class action proceedings. Presented by the Access to Justice Section Council, the proposal would require defend-
ants to direct unpaid residue plus interest to nonprofit organizations or foundations which support projects that benefit a class of people simi-lar to those represented in the suit, or to the Massachusetts IOLTA Committee.

• Efforts by the Judicial Administration Section Council to draft and submit a proposal that would allow state court judges to experiment with a liberalized version of Rule 3.5(d) in civil cases. The rule change, if applied, would allow lawyers to contact jurors. The pilot program would seek to determine whether jury contact resulted in a greater number of juror complaints and/or post-trial motions.

• A proposed standing order of the Probate and Family Court related to impoundment of guardian ad litem reports. The amendment would allow counsel to make copies of reports for in-office use only and to provide copies to expert witnesses and consultants as long as they agree with provisions of the order.

The leadership voted to table until the next House of Delegates meeting in March discussion about a redraft of S.1277/H.2226 proposed by Health Care for All. Civil Litigation Section Chair Jeffrey Catalano suggested the proposal to support the redraft be postponed until it can be reviewed by all section councils.

The next HOD meeting will take place at 2:30 p.m. March 6 at the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum in Boston.