The first House of Delegates meeting of the Massachusetts Bar Association’s 2017-18 year, held on Sept. 27 at the MBA’s Boston office, provided an opportunity for HOD members and MBA officers to get acquainted with one another, as new MBA President Christopher P. Sullivan discussed some of the priorities for the MBA and upcoming programs, including the Oct. 26 State of the Judiciary Address.
Sullivan touted the MBA’s work on two issues that have taken center stage in recent months — immigration and criminal justice reform — and pledged to continue working closely with the MBA’s section councils and affiliated bar associations. He also welcomed members of the MBA’s second Leadership Academy class, several of whom were in attendance.
Following brief reports from President-elect Christopher A. Kenney and Secretary Hon. Thomas J. Barber, MBA Chief Legal Counsel and Chief Operating Officer Martin W. Healy gave a legislative update on the state’s budget, which was passed over the summer. He also announced that former MBA President Robert W. Harnais had been handed the gavel as the new chair of the Joint Bar Committee on Judicial Appointments this year.
UMass Lowell Assistant Dean Frank Talty, Ph.D, was invited to the podium, where he spoke about his school’s new Master of Public Administration (MPA) in Justice Administration program. He was followed by Equal Justice Coalition Chair Louis Tompros, who presented his report on where the coalition is now on legal aid funding and what is needed going forward. Tompros, a partner at WilmerHale, urged the members of the House of Delegates to join the Walk to the Hill on Jan 25, 2018.
American Bar Association Delegate Alice Richmond, a past MBA president, presented the nominees for MBA delegates to the ABA, noting that Massachusetts lost one delegate this year due to a change in the rules requiring a percentage of attorneys in the state to be ABA members. HOD members then voted to appoint Harnais, MBA Past President Marsha V. Kazarosian and Frank Morrissey for two-year terms.
Criminal Justice Section Chair Georgia K. Critsley wrapped up the September meeting with an update on criminal justice reform legislation in Massachusetts, noting that her section council has focused on mandatory minimum reform, CORI reform, raising the felony threshold and making fees/fines more affordable.
November HOD in Springfield
In what is becoming an annual fall tradition, the Massachusetts Bar Association House of Delegates held its November meeting in Springfield at the TD Bank Conference Center.
Highlighting the meeting was the announcement by Healy, the MBA’s chief legal counsel and COO, of a wide-sweeping criminal justice reform bill passed by the House of Representatives on Nov. 14. The House bill follows a Senate version of the bill, which was passed in October. The House bill repeals mandatory minimum sentences for certain drug-related crimes, eliminates fines for those that are unable to afford them, provides for bail reform measures, allows the sealing of certain criminal records and increases the larceny threshold.
“It’s probably, at least in recent history since I started back in 1989, the only time that every branch of government has agreed to do a reform in criminal justice,” said Healy. “This is an unprecedented moment.”
Healy publicly acknowledged the vital work of MBA members Lee Gartenberg and Peter Ellikan in the successful passage of both criminal justice bills. A six-member conference committee appointed by both the House and Senate will now begin discussion to reach a compromise measure.
Sullivan, presiding over his second HOD meeting as president, began the meeting by welcoming members and thanking them for making the trip to western Massachusetts. In his president’s report, Sullivan praised the launch of the MBA’s new website, which went live in October. “It’s clean. It’s modern. It’s fast. We did it the right way,” remarked Sullivan.
He also announced the development of a statewide training program by the MBA and the Massachusetts Law Reform Institute to be held in January, which will address best practices concerning the recent statewide expansion of the Housing Court. In addition, Sullivan noted the formation of an ad hoc MBA committee, which will be tasked with addressing diversity within the Massachusetts judiciary.
To conclude the meeting, Hampden County Bar Association (HCBA) President Travaun Bailey provided an update on the association’s recent activities in western Massachusetts. Immediately following the meeting, MBA members had the opportunity to attend a “Toast to the Season” reception sponsored by the Hampden County Bar Association at the Springfield Sheraton.
The next House of Delegates meeting will be held on Jan. 25, 2018, at the MBA’s Boston office.