HOD approves Access to Justice Award winners, legislative proposals

Issue March/April 2016 By Jason Scally

The Massachusetts Bar Association's House of Delegates (HOD) tackled a full agenda and more at its Jan. 21 meeting in Boston, which featured guest speakers and votes on several proposals, including the 2016 Access to Justice Award winners.

To start the meeting, MBA President Robert W. Harnais opened the floor to Superior Court Judge Janet Sanders, who urged attorneys to complete judicial evaluations, stressing that the responses were anonymous. Harnais then gave an update on the recently launched Section 35 Helpline, which is up and running in Norfolk County.

MBA President-elect Jeffrey N. Catalano spoke about the MBA's newly created Civility Committee. MBA Vice President Christopher A. Kenney and Catalano also discussed their collaboration on an MBA leadership institute, which will be designed to nurture and develop future leaders at the MBA. A curriculum is currently being developed, Kenney said.

Catalano returned to the podium later in the meeting, along with his Todd & Weld LLP colleague Eric Asquith, to discuss a proposed Amendment related to the state's lodging house statute, which would expand the definition of what constitutes a "lodging house," triggering additional safeguards for tenants. Catalano said he would bring it to section councils for comments.

Each year the MBA's Access to Justice Section Council offers nominees for the Access to Justice Awards, which are presented at the MBA's Annual Dinner. The HOD voted to support this year's slate of nominees, which includes:

Rising Star: Margaretta H. Kroeger, Framingham

Legal Services Attorney: Valerie Fisk, Cambridge

Pro Bono Law Firm: Nutter, McClennan & Fish LLP, Boston

Pro Bono Publico Attorney: Charles R. Casartello Jr., Springfield; and Ingrid Martin, Boston

Defender: Benjamin H. Keehn, Boston

Prosecutor: Ellen Berger, Springfield

Lifetime Achievement Award: T. Richard McIntosh, South Coastal Counties Legal Services (awarded posthumously)

The HOD also took up several other proposals, voting to:

  • Approve a Juvenile & Child Welfare Section Council proposal urging certain "pillars" (principles) be included in any legislation involving expungement of a juvenile's record.
  • Approve a proposal by the Civil Rights & Social Justice Section Council seeking support for a resolution and the American Bar Association's letter to Congress urging the enforcement of immigration laws that do not restrict the resettlement of refugees on the basis of a person's origin, race or religion.

After voting to suspend notice rules, the HOD weighed in on two proposals submitted by the MBA's Family Law Section Council. The HOD voted to approve opposition to Senate bill 834, which would rewrite the state's custody laws. Members also voted to support commenting on a proposed standing order on parent coordinators