Issue April 2012

2012 MBA Annual Dinner will honor Rep. DeLeo as Legislator of the Year

More than 50 years after the legal community first began to talk about reforming the management of the state's Trial Court Department, it has become a reality. It's a change that could never have happened without the work of Speaker of the House Robert A. DeLeo, who partnered with Supreme Judicial Court Chief Justice Roderick L. Ireland to draft legislation that will, this spring, place a civilian in charge of the court's business functions.

"This was the first time in my history that a speaker and Supreme Judicial Court chief justice were standing together," DeLeo said, a hint of awe in his voice as he retold the story of their partnership from his seat in a wing-back chair inside his Statehouse office adorned with ornate wood paneling.

DeLeo admitted that the Legislature and the judiciary have a history of not getting along. "Usually we're at each other's throats," he said. Not this time. DeLeo, himself an attorney, said he approached Ireland about court management: "How about you and I work on a bill together?" The chief justice took him up on the unlikely offer.

It is for that ability to join two groups often on opposing sides, and a long history of working to advance MBA-supported legislation, that DeLeo will be honored with the 2012 Legislator of the Year Award at the MBA's May 31 Annual Dinner at the Westin Boston Waterfront. This is DeLeo's second time receiving the honor; the first came in 1998 for his support of guardianship legislation.

Court Advocacy Day draws crowd, sends message to Legislature

Massachusetts courts will lose the ability to both deliver justice and ensure security within their walls if the Legislature does not approve adequate funding for fiscal 2013. That was the message delivered by court leaders and lawyers at a Court Advocacy Day hosted by the Massachusetts Bar Association and the Boston Bar Association at the Grand Staircase of the Statehouse on March 19.

"Losing more than 17 percent of court personnel directly affects our ability or deliver justice in ways that are all too familiar to you and your colleagues," Supreme Judicial Court Chief Justice Roderick L. Ireland said. "Inadequate funding has made access to justice all the more harder."

Banning underage drinking parties — a matter of public health and safety

On Feb. 21, 2012, the Supreme Judicial Court issued its decision in Juliano v. Simpson, a so-called "social host liability" case involving an illegal underage drinking party that produced a catastrophically brain-injured 16-year-old girl.1

That the drinking party was illegal was not open to dispute. The lawyer for Simpson admitted at oral argument that his client could have been charged with committing a crime for hosting a party at her premises with full knowledge (and indeed frank approval) that underage guests under her dominion and control were consuming alcohol.

In his responses to the Court, Simpson's lawyer likewise admitted that, if convicted, his client could have been imprisoned for up to a year in jail and fined up to $2,000. So, in Juliano, the SJC had the opportunity to correct a patently ridiculous anomaly in the law, viz.; a person in control of a premise has a duty of care under the criminal law to prevent underage drinking parties on her watch, but she has no corresponding duty of care under the common law to prevent injuries and deaths that so predictably flow from her conduct.

MBA to host second Gateway Cities forum on April 30

Following the success of its debut forum in Dartmouth on Jan. 26, the Massachusetts Bar Association will host its second Gateway Cities forum in Worcester on Monday, April 30, beginning at 5 p.m. in the Jury Room at the Worcester Trial Court.

"Like with the first forum, the focus of the Worcester event will be to identify ways in which attorneys can lend their expertise with issues affecting Gateway City communities across Massachusetts," said MBA President Richard P. Campbell, who set Gateway Cities as a prioritized initiative.