The Nov. 18 meeting of the MBA House of Delegates featured a
full agenda and a keynote presentation from Probate and Family
Court Chief Justice Paula M. Carey. Among its business, the
delegation decided to oppose mandatory fee arbitration, approve a
resolution relative to peremptory challenges and support Limited
Assistance Representation in select courts.
CAREY SPEAKS TO STATE OF THE PROBATE AND FAMILY
MBA President Denise Squillante invited Carey to provide a status
report of the Probate and Family Court. In light of the Trial Court
budget cuts and harsh economic times, Carey's report provided a
grim reality of court operations.
"It is like something I've never seen before," remarked Carey, who
explained that "denial of justice is simply not an answer," despite
lack of resources. Carey spoke to the effect that this is having on
court personnel, many who feel like they're "shoveling sand on a
tidal wave," she explained.
Carey cited the strained existing resources and lessons learned
from staff training associated with already implemented portions of
the Uniform Probate Code as reasons that the Probate and Family
Court is filing legislation to delay the implementation of the
remaining portions of the UPC, which were slated to go into effect
on July 1, 2011. Carey has asked the Legislature to consider
delaying implementation for six months until Jan. 1, 2012.
As part of her address, Carey also hinted that delegates should
"expect that we'll have alimony reform this year."
ATTORNEY INVOLVEMENT IN JURY SELECTION
President-elect Richard P. Campbell and others convinced delegates
to support a resolution of the MBA Peremptory Task Force that
supports preserving the exercise of peremptory of challenges.
Campbell referred to these challenges as the "last vestige of
attorney involvement in voir dire."
MBA membership agreed with Campbell, who reported to the delegates
that those who responded to a survey on the topic overwhelmingly
supported the continued use of the practice.
Other groups, including the Massachusetts Association of Criminal
Defense Lawyers, Massachusetts Defense Lawyers Association,
Massachusetts Chapter of American Board of Trial Advocates,
Massachusetts Fellows of the American College of Trial Lawyers and
New England members of the Defense Research Institute, when polled,
responded in similar fashion.
Superior Court Judge Peter Agnes serves on the task force and
joined Campbell for the presentation to the delegates. "Our
recommendation is to preserve this important tool for the bar and
for the public," said Agnes.
DELEGATES SUPPORT LAR
Access to Justice Section Council Chair Jayne B. Tyrrell was on
hand to point out the positives of limited assistance
representation. Joining Tyrrell were Access to Justice Section
Council member Lee Gartenberg; Judge Dina Fein, the special advisor
for Access to Justice Initiatives; and Springfield attorney Karen
"LAR is an absolute key component to the Trial Court's Access to
Justice Initiatives," said Fein.
Duffy, whose practice is 50 to 60 percent composed of LAR work,
spoke to the benefits of "unbundling" services given the current
times. Duffy and others argued that LAR was always going to be
better than pro se litigants.
After debate and discussion, delegates unanimously supported the
concept of LAR in the court departments that have already issued
standing orders. These include all probate and family courts and
housing courts across the commonwealth.
Highlights of the meeting's other business included:
- As part of her president's report, Squillante encouraged
delegates to join her in sponsoring law students to cover their MBA
dues. She also encouraged delegates to sign on as sustaining
members of the MBA (sustaining members contribute funds beyond
their required dues to help support MBA programs and services). In
addition, she announced that President-elect Richard P. Campbell
and Treasurer Robert L. Holloway have been selected to lead a
strategic planning effort for the MBA.
- Holloway announced a surplus in the MBA budget.
- Delegates responded positively to Vice President Douglas K.
Sheff's push for the delegation to oppose the establishment of a
system of mandatory fee arbitration.
- Chief Operating Officer and Chief Legal Counsel Martin W. Healy
spoke to the changes brought forth by the November election. Healy
reported that 36 incumbent members of the House and eight members
of the Senate will not be returning to the state Legislature. Healy
told the delegation that key changes are possible with the onset of
the new session in January, particularly with the Judiciary and
Ways and Means committees.
- Delegates voted to fill the at-large delegate position vacated
by Antoinette Leoney with Martin Kane.
CELEBRATORY RECEPTION FEATURES CENTENNIAL
Following the HOD meeting, delegates and MBA members from Western
Massachusetts were invited to attend a holiday reception. The
reception featured the presentation of two Centennial Awards, to
Dorothy Varon of Mass Mutual and bankruptcy attorney Eugene B.
Berman, who accepted their awards from Campbell and Holloway.
Varon was honored for her work helping to start the Hampden County
Housing Court Lawyer for a Day program and for spearheading the
creation of a pro bono program in the MassMutual law department
that is now being expanded. She has sat on numerous nonprofit
boards, including All Out Adventures, and currently serves as an
advisor on the board of the Angkor Dance Troupe.
Berman was celebrated for his work on the issue of predatory
mortgage lending and the foreclosure crisis. He suggested and
became the chair of the Hampden County Bar Association's
Foreclosure Task Force. He also organized and chaired the Alliance
of Providers of Legal Services to Individuals Facing Foreclosure.
Berman was the organizer of Springfield's Mattoon Street Historic
Preservation Association and served as its president for many