Annual Dinner celebrates contributions to the profession

Issue June 2014 By Scott Van Voorhis

From judges to top lawmakers, a who's who of the legal and political worlds turned out for the Massachusetts Bar Association's Annual Dinner on May 15 to applaud an array of distinguished recipients for their dedication to the law and community service.

Chris Matthews, host of MSNBC's "Hardball," offered a sweeping keynote address to a packed ballroom at the Westin Boston Waterfront, reminiscing about his years as an aide to House Speaker Thomas P. "Tip" O'Neill and lamenting the hyper-partisanship of today's Washington.

Matthews, a Holy Cross graduate, also had a confession to make in keeping with the theme of the evening -- a celebration of dedication to the rule of law and service to the larger community.

"I salute you for being what I wanted to be for the last 40 or 50 years -- a lawyer," said Matthews, adding he admired "your skill set of being able to know the law, but also being able to spot the key conflicts and areas of common ground." "At least from what I saw on 'The Good Wife,'" he quipped.

Rep. Garrett J. Bradley (D-Hingham) was honored with the MBA's Legislator of the Year Award. Bradley was cited for his work fighting for funds to spur economic development projects in his district, as well as his work with the MBA on medical malpractice legislation.

Bradley also helped forge legislation in 2012 to control health care costs and has risen to a leadership position that "puts him in a direct path of every piece of legislation passed in the House," said MBA Vice President Christopher P. Sullivan.

Boston Mayor Martin J. Walsh received the MBA's 2014 President's Award. Walsh, a Boston native, was cited for his years of work with the organization on workplace safety issues as well as his long record as a legislator and now mayor promoting economic development, civil rights and marriage equality, among other important causes.

Walsh brought his decades-long commitment to workplace safety when he was appointed to the MBA's Workplace Safety Task Force.

"I can't think of any other profession that has made service such a central part of its mission," Walsh noted.

MBA president Douglas K. Sheff reflected on his time in office, which he said was shaped by the aftermath of the Boston Marathon bombings.

Sheff noted the Massachusetts legal community rose to the occasion, with 87 lawyers "tirelessly" putting in countless pro-bono hours representing victims and their families through the MBA's program.

"[After the] two blasts that changed our lives, the MBA, as always, was there providing representation to victims and their families," said Sheff.

"We made this the year of the worker," he said. "The MBA took pride in in the representation of the underrepresented."

Sheff, in turn, won praise from Marsha V. Kazarosian, the MBA's president-elect. "You are a tough act to follow," she said.

A range of top local elected officials and judges attended the Annual Dinner, including Chief Justice Roderick L. Ireland of the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court and House Speaker Robert A. DeLeo, among others.

Five lawyers and one law firm were recognized with Access to Justice Awards for their dedication to working with the underrepresented and underprivileged:

Gerald D. Wall won the Legal Services Award for his decades of work providing legal help to immigrants at Greater Boston Legal Services.

Stephen J. Phillips won the Pro Publico Bono Award for his dedicated representation of more than 130 hospice patients at Baystate Visiting Nurse & Hospice.

The law firm of Klein Hornig LLP received the Pro Bono Award for Law Firms for many hours spent helping with local food banks and representing low-income tenants fighting eviction or foreclosure.

James B. Krasnoo, who won the Defender Award, began his career in the Attorney General's Office but decided to become a bar advocate after seeing firsthand the plight of defendants without adequate legal representation.

Lisa F. Edmonds won the Prosecutor Award for her work with juvenile offenders and domestic violence at the District Attorney's Office for the Cape and Islands.

Jessica Berry received the Rising Star Award for her work above and beyond the call of duty at the Children's Law Center.