The Massachusetts Bar Association's governing body, the House of
Delegates, unanimously endorsed two pieces of legislation at a
meeting on July 26 in Dedham.
The Criminal Justice Section Council won HOD's endorsement for a
bill pending in the Legislature that would allow offenders access
to post-conviction DNA testing if they can meet certain criteria. A
majority of other states have adopted similar measures. The
endorsement calls on the state to provide unspecified funding to
properly store biological evidence at the local and state
"There is a series of thresholds that would have to be met … to
make sure the courts are not lightly overturning convictions," said
Michael E. Fabbri, chair of the Criminal Justice Section
The Juvenile and Child Welfare Section Council gained HOD's
support in principle for legislation that would raise the threshold
for treating alleged offenders as adults from 17 to 18. Putting
17-year-olds under the jurisdiction of the Juvenile Court would
bring Massachusetts in line with the federal government and 38
states. It would also address an inconsistency in Massachusetts,
which does not treat 17-year-olds as adults in most legal
The bill would not change the law mandating that 17-year-olds
accused of murder be tried in adult court, or prevent a 17-year-old
accused of other serious crimes from being indicted as a youthful
offender and given an adult sentence.
Region 7 Delegate Lee J. Gartenberg said that the system would
benefit from shifting the focus from adult jurisdiction to
juvenile, and Peter T. Elikann, chair of the General Practice, Solo
& Small Firm Section Council, said the change would reduce
"It's not a question of pandering to or doing a favor for these
juveniles, it's doing a favor for ourselves," Elikann, a criminal
defense attorney, said.
Martin W. Healy, the MBA's chief operating officer and chief
legal counsel, told delegates about the progress of a number of
issues in the Legislature, including court reform and alimony
reform. He also said that averting the layoffs and courthouse
closings the state's top judges warned about recently would require
supplemental funding in the fall of around $20 million.
Officers discussed new programs, including the MBA Pro Bono
Prescription, in collaboration with the Medical-Legal Partnership
Massachusetts network, and MBA Mentoring Circles, to pair
experienced and newer attorneys. Treasurer Robert L. Holloway Jr.
reported that membership retention and recruitment is on track, and
successful fundraising for the Centennial Ball created a surplus
that allowed for the creation of a $50,000 Oliver Wendell Holmes
Jr. Centennial Scholarship fund.