HOD votes to support report on civil legal aid

Issue January 2015 By Jason Scally

The Massachusetts Bar Association House of Delegates (HOD) voted to support increased funding for civil legal aid at its November 2014 meeting. Supporting civil legal aid is a yearly priority of the MBA through its work with the Equal Justice Coalition. With the vote, the MBA officially backed an October 2014 report by the Boston Bar Association's Statewide Task Force to Expand Legal Aid in Massachusetts.

The vote was one of several items on the agenda for the Nov. 20 meeting, which was held at the Andover Country Club. MBA President Marsha V. Kazarosian started the meeting by praising several recent MBA programs, including two successful MBA "firsts": the October 2014 Consumer Advocacy Symposium and Pinnacle Awards and the kick-off reception for the Complex Commercial Litigation Section (ComCom), the MBA's newest section. Kazarosian also provided updates about her recent meetings with the chief justices of various court departments and spoke briefly about her work as MBA representative on several state commissions. The MBA president also encouraged everyone to participate in the judicial evaluations this year.

MBA Vice President Jeff Catalano announced that the MBA was preparing to unveil an annual scholarship for law students - an initiative that was started during the MBA's 100th Anniversary year. While parameters are still being worked out, Catalano said the goal was to award a scholarship to a law student starting with this year's annual dinner on May 7.

The HOD heard good news on the membership front from MBA Secretary Christopher P. Sullivan, who is also chair of the Membership Committee. Noting that "membership is growing every day," Sullivan credited the creation of ComCom and the Workers' Compensation Section for helping to attract new members. He also pointed to the MBA's strong numbers among law schools.

MBA Chief Legal Counsel and Chief Operating Officer Martin W. Healy's report included an update about the MBA's recent amicus filings, including one in the Supreme Judicial Court case of  Reckis, et al v. Johnson & Johnson, et al. where the MBA opposed the expansion of federal preemption of tort liability in failure-to-warn cases.

Looking ahead to the MBA's upcoming legislative priorities, Healy cited the MBA's push for higher criminal justice attorney salaries. In particular, he said the bar needs to speak loudly for bar advocates seeking higher rates for their work. "I'll be advocating strongly for that and I ask for your help," Healy said. "Be vocal with your legislators and local leaders you bump into."

Guest speaker Glenn Mangurian, chair of the Court Management Advisory Board, gave a detailed account of the board's role in court reform at a time he called "a historic moment for the courts." As a non-attorney, Mangurian described how he brings a unique perspective to his leadership role, and how he's been inspired by the court workers he sees during his visits.