House of Delegates support eyewitness ID study, other measures

Issue December 2013 By Jason Scally

The November House of Delegates meeting convened at New England Law | Boston last month, the first of several HOD meetings that will be held at Boston-area law schools during the 2013-14 association year. Massachusetts Bar Association President Douglas K. Sheff opened the meeting by recounting several recent and successful bench-bar collaborations, including the MBA's annual Bench-Bar Symposium. Sheff also previewed his upcoming "12 for 12" initiative, a new program aimed at getting 12,000 lawyers to ask 12 clients to send letters of support to legislators for increased court funding.

Among the most discussed items at the meeting, the HOD voted unanimously in favor of recommendations contained in a study aimed at improving the procedures used in eyewitness identification in criminal trials. Criminal Justice Section Council Chair Radha Natarajan and Vice Chair Adam J. Foss presented the recommendations contained in both the majority and minority reports of the Supreme Judicial Court Study Group on Eyewitness Identification, which were formulated by prosecutors, defense attorneys and academics. In supporting the measure, several MBA delegates commended the collaborative nature of the study.

Two other measures brought before the HOD also met with unanimous support. Delegates voted to support in principle legislation (H3099/S1643) that would eliminate automatic suspensions for convictions of delinquency or adjudications on drug offenses. Delegates also elected to support a bill (H2389) that would give collective bargaining rights to employees of the Committee for Public Counsel Services, much like those enjoyed by other public employees.

In addition to a My Bar Access presentation and other MBA-related business, delegates heard from several members of other organizations. MBA Vice President Chris Sullivan introduced Patrick Curran from the Federal Bar Association for a presentation on the SOLACE Program, which is a network of legal professionals who assist attorneys and other legal professionals facing difficult personal tragedies. American Bar Association Delegate and MBA Past President Alice Richmond also announced that the ABA will be holding its annual meeting in Boston next summer.

Massachusetts Bar Foundation President Jerry Cohen and MBF Executive Director Elizabeth Lynch closed out the meeting with an announcement about the MBF's annual appeal and the MBF's 50-year anniversary, which will be celebrated in 2014.