Change Is Upon Us – Tracking Governor Baker’s Appointments

We’ve been scouring the news around here for information about our next governor.  We are interested to see what policy changes, will come with the change in leadership.  For now, we’ve been keeping track of Governor-Elect Baker’s appointments as we look forward to working with them in the coming years.  Here is a breakdown of his selections by position, starting with his complete transition team and followed by his chief of staff and the cabinet members named thus far:

Transition Team

Team Head – Jim Peyser – the Managing Director of NewSchools City Funds at NewSchools Venture Fund’s Boston Office.  He served as Chairman of the Massachusetts Board of Education for seven years under Governors Cellucci and Romney and as Undersecretary of Education and Special Assistant to the Governor for Charter Schools for Governor William Weld in addition to working for more than seven years as Executive Director of the conservative think tank Pioneer Institute.

State of the State Committee – Michael O’Brien is the lone remaining chair of this committee after the other individual selected, former transportation secretary Richard Taylor resigned.  O’Brien is Executive Vice President at Winn Companies and former city manager of Worcester.

Human Resources Committee – co-chaired by Deb Hicks and Danroy Henry.  Hicks is Senior Vice President and Chief Human Resources Officer at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute and formerly worked at Harvard Medical School and Harvard Pilgrim Health Care (HPHC) where she was instrumental in helping HPHC move from receivership to profitability.  Henry is Chief of Human Resources and Corporate Social Responsibility at child-care provider Bright Horizons and formerly worked in HR roles at Pepsi and Reebok International and executive roles with Staples, Blinds To Go Superstores, and Fleet Boston Financial.

Better Government Committee – co-chaired by Stephen Goldsmith and Steve Poftak.  Goldsmith is the Daniel Paul Professor of the Practice of Government and Director of the Innovations in American Government Program at the Harvard Kennedy School of Government.  He previously served as mayor of Indianapolis and deputy mayor of New York, as well as chief domestic policy advisor to the George W. Bush campaign in 2000.  Poftak is Executive Director of the Rappaport Institute at the Harvard Kennedy School and former Director of the Center for Better Government at the Pioneer Institute.  He has researched and written scholarly articles on topics such as transportation policy, government efficiency, municipal finance, and job creation.  Prior to his work in academia he served in the Executive Office for Administration and Finance under Governor Romney.

Community Committee – co-chaired by Robert Lewis Jr. and Chrystal Kornegay.  Lewis Jr. is best known for his work in nonprofits and under Mayor Tom Menino.  He recently left his position as President for Programs at the Boston Foundation to start a new nonprofit called Home BASE, which leverages sports to engage boys and young men in Roxbury, Dorchester, and Mattapan.  Kornegay is President and CEO of Roxbury nonprofit Urban Edge, which works to produce and preserve affordable housing for rent and purchase as well as offering educational programming on housing and financial issues.

Schools Committee – co-chaired by Martin T. Meehan, Jr., and Beth Anderson.  Meehan is a former Congressman and current Chancellor of the University of Massachusetts Lowell.  He served in the US House of Representatives for over a decade representing Massachusetts 5th Congressional district, which at that time included the Lowell area.  He was best known for his advocacy on campaign finance reform and was a leader on gay rights issues, including the repeal of the so-called “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy.  Anderson is founder and Chief Executive of Phoenix Charter Academy Network.  This nonprofit runs two schools in Chelsea and Lawrence for disadvantaged youths and is looking to start a third in the Springfield area.

Healthcare Committee – co-chaired by Deb Enos and Keith Hovan.  Enos is the former CEO of Neighborhood Health Plan, who stepped down earlier this year.  She previously held positions at Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts, Cambridge Eye Doctors, and the Hospital Corporation of America.  Hovan is President and CEO of the Southcoast Health System.  Prior to joining Southcoast, he was Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer at Danbury Hospital in Danbury, CT.

Jobs and Economy Committee – co-chaired by Jay Ash, Roger Crandall, and Karen Kaplan.  Ash is the City Manager of Chelsea.  He is a former State House aide to Majority Leader Richard Voke, former president of the Metropolitan Area Planning Council and founder of the Metro Mayors Coalition.  Roger Crandall is Chairman, President, and CEO of Massachusetts Mutual Life Insurance Company, where he has worked since 1988.  He serves on the Governor’s Council of Economic Advisors.  Kaplan is Chairman and CEO of advertising firm Hill Holliday, where she rose through the ranks after first starting as a secretary in 1982.

Cabinet-Level Appointments (as of 11/25/14)

Chief of Staff – Steven Kadish is the Senior Vice President and Chief Operating Officer at Northeastern University.  He previously held leadership positions at Dartmouth College and Brigham and Women’s Hospital in addition to serving as Undersecretary of the Executive Office of Health and Human Services for Governor Romney.

Energy Environment Secretary – State Representative Matt Beaton of Shrewsbury is an environmental engineer who started his own energy efficient consulting company.

Undersecretary of Finance and Administration – Kristen Lepore is the Vice President of Government Affairs at Associated Industries of Massachusetts.  She is the former Deputy Chief of Staff and Director of Fiscal Policy for Governor Paul Cellucci.

Health and Human Services Secretary – Marylou Sudders is an Associate Professor at the Boston College School of Social Work.  She is the former Mental Health Commissioner and former president of the Massachusetts Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children.

Housing and Economic Development Secretary – Jay Ash, who is also serving on the Jobs and Economy transition team and is described above.

We have a keen interest in the process and are watching to see who will be appointed next.  We look forward to working with these and other members of the Baker Administration on issues surrounding the BBA’s mission such as access to justice, funding for the judicial system, and the legal profession.

– Jonathan Schreiber
Legislative and Public Policy Manager
Boston Bar Association
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Judicious Partnership: The Intersection of BBA and SJC Initiatives

Just under a month ago, new Chief Justice of the Supreme Judicial Court (SJC), Ralph Gants, gave his first annual State of the Judiciary address.  He declared four points of emphasis, all of which have ties to the BBA.  We are already seeing movement in these areas, behind the energetic and committed leadership of Chief Justice Gants.  The following is a rundown of his four stated priorities and the BBA’s involvement with each.

  • Sentencing reform. The Chief called for individualized, evidence-based sentencing and a reconsideration of mandatory minimum sentences.  A long-time proponent of sentencing reform, the BBA has opposed mandatory minimum sentences, and worked to establish fairer graduated sentencing, with heightened judicial discretion, for decades.  We are interested in working with the judiciary to re-examine the current sentencing structure.
  • Civil justice system reform. We are currently working with the courts to reform the civil justice system.  Chief Justice Gants pledged that each Trial Court department that handles civil litigation would convene a working group to develop cost-effective options that parties could agree upon for proceeding with their cases.  Over the last few weeks, the BBA has been asked for nominees to serve on the working groups for various court departments,.  While each request is slightly different, they ask the BBA to name a few members with expertise in the court department at hand to help with the goal of streamlining civil litigation.  Each working group will devise a “menu” of options for litigants, starting with, in the Chief Justice’s words, “the usual three course meal of full discovery, a jury trial. . . and full rights of appeal.”  However, the working groups are tasked with finding other, less expensive and less time-consuming dishes for litigants desiring them.  Examples from Chief Justice Gants’ speech include limited discovery, bench trials, and possible limitations on the right or scope of appeal.
  • Access to justice. We have been at the forefront of  work on access to justice with the BBA Statewide Task Force to Expand Civil Legal Aid in Massachusetts (task force).  In his speech, the Chief Justice referenced the work of the BBA task force directly, saying, “The Report demonstrates that investing in civil legal aid is not only an investment in equal justice, but also a sound fiscal investment, generating savings in public expenditures greater than its costs.”  He urged the Legislature to consider the task force’s request for an additional $30 million in funding for civil legal aid over the next three years.  The   Boston Globe editorial team endorsed the funding request shortly thereafter.  The Globe also published a letter to the editor earlier this week, authored by Jeff Baliban of Alvarez & Marsal, one of the independent economic analysts who focused on domestic violence issues in the task force report.
  • Jury voir dire. We have also been involved with jury voir dire issues.  BBA Council member Mark Smith of Laredo & Smith, currently serves as BBA liaison to the SJC working group on voir dire.  The working group is critical for the Chief Justice’s commitment to establish protocols implementing the new law on attorney voir dire by February 2015.  The group anticipates the release of a draft proposal around the end of this year. The superior court will work to develop pilot programs soon after.  We look forward to seeing what they come up with and to working with the courts on making the new law a success.

In short, we are pleased that progress is already being made in these four important areas highlighted by Chief Justice Gants.  The BBA takes is proud to be a thought leader in the law and a long-time supporter of the judiciary.  We look forward to helping see these efforts through to fruition, as part of our long-standing commitment to advancing justice in our community.

– Jonathan Schreiber
Legislative and Public Policy Manager
Boston Bar Association
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Another Point of View: Looking at the News from a Legal Aid Perspective

Earlier this week we were pleased with the Boston Globe editorial on our recent task force report, “Investing in Justice: A Roadmap to Cost-Effective Funding of Civil Legal Aid in Massachusetts.”  The Globe shares our view that “[t]he Legislature should find a way to increase funding for civil legal aid in the next budget.”

As we’ve discussed before, the report is the culmination of 18 months of hard work by leaders from around the state and independent economic analysts.  It makes a compelling argument that we need to increase funding for civil legal aid in order to help people in our society secure basic rights to life necessities such as shelter and protection from an abuser.  The Globe agreed, endorsing the report and concluding that its statistics on cost-savings – a return of $2 to $5 for every dollar spent on certain areas of legal aid – more than justify our call for increased state investment.  As the editorial board concluded, “It’s far better to invest money now for legal aid than it is to bear the costs later.”

The Task Force report itself has been the subject of recent media coverage in a variety of forms.  But once you’ve read the report, it’s remarkable how many other stories in the news register as tangentially related – stories about the growing ranks of poor, homeless, and abused among us.  While increased funding for legal aid is not a panacea for all of these tales, it would certainly make a difference by keeping people from being wrongfully evicted, securing them deserved federal benefits, and helping them escape a cycle of domestic abuse.

Part of the problem we discovered was simple supply and demand.  The number of people qualifying for legal aid, with income at 125% of the federal poverty level has increased to nearly one million people in Massachusetts, while the number of legal aid attorneys has decreased over the last seven years due to declines in funding.  As the Boston Globe reported earlier this week, the current poverty rate in the state is at its highest point since 1960.  It is no wonder, then, that 64% of qualified individuals seeking legal aid are turned away, as the Task Force discovered.  There are simply not enough attorneys to meet the demand.  This situation results in individuals incurring more debt to meet their daily needs, plunging them into further debt and poverty.  Though many of these people likely qualify for some sort of federal benefits, it is often very difficult for them to navigate the complex system and paperwork without the help of a legal aid lawyer.

In late October, CNN Money reported on debt and credit issues facing victims of domestic violence.  We know from our work on the Task Force Report that concerns about finances are a major factor in domestic violence, and often a trigger of abuse, particularly when there is an income disparity that creates a dependence of one partner upon the other.  Ideally a domestic violence victim will leave their abuser, but with no money and no place to go, this can be a daunting task.

Only a couple weeks later, the New York Times reported that shelters nationwide report that nearly ¼ of all families cite abuse as the cause for their stay.  Civil legal aid providers can help domestic abuse victims by aiding them in securing restraining orders, demanding funds, such as child support payments from abusers, to help promote the victim’s independence, and working with shelters to assure a placement.

Homelessness presents its own difficulties, as recent stories demonstrated just how easy it can be to fall into homelessness and the dire need for shelters, especially after the recent closure of the Long Island bridge.  From our Task Force we learned that 56% of eligible people with housing problems in Massachusetts were turned away from legal aid, and a significant number of them were likely facing wrongful eviction that could have been prevented.  The result is increased costs for the state from police to health care, and shelter expenses, not to mention the long-term costs resulting from children growing up without stable homes and the increased difficulties in finding a job while living in a shelter.  In assessing such situations, the Task Force’s independent economic analysts calculated that every dollar invested in this area likely saves the state nearly three dollars.

Civil legal aid is a sound investment for the state – one that will create a positive return while also helping those individuals most in need.  While it can’t, in isolation, solve our problems of domestic violence, homelessness, and poverty, it will change many lives, and hopefully that will be the news we get to read about in the future.

– Jonathan Schreiber
Legislative and Public Policy Manager
Boston Bar Association
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2014 Election Wrap-Up

The BBA’s Government Relations Department regularly works with legislators, the executive branch, and the judiciary, but the landscape in which we do so will be quite different at the start of 2015 from the past four years, with a new Governor, Attorney General, Senate President, Senate Ways and Means Committee chair, and House co-chair of the Judiciary Committee.

The biggest news from Tuesday’s statewide election is that Charlie Baker narrowly defeated Attorney General Martha Coakley.  Outgoing Governor Deval Patrick was recently honored with the BBA’s Beacon Award for his historic commitment to diversity and inclusion in the judiciary.  The responsibility for nominating judges will now rest with the new Governor.

All such judges must be confirmed by the Governor’s Council, an elected eight-member body, and there we will see little change at the start of the next two-year term, with only one new member in Joseph Ferreira, a part-time attorney and retired Somerset police chief, who spent 36 years as a police officer and is replacing Councilor Oliver Cipollini.

Karyn Polito will chair the meetings of the Governor’s Council, in her new role as Lieutenant Governor.  Since the departure last year of former Lieutenant Governor Tim Murray, Governor Patrick chaired those meetings, though he lacks the LG’s authority to cast the decisive vote in case the Council is evenly split.

Maura Healey, who has served on the BBA Council and Executive Committee, will become the nation’s first openly gay Attorney General.  A first-time candidate, she previously worked under current AG Coakley as Chief of the Business and Labor Bureau, the Public Protection and Advocacy Bureau, and the Civil Rights Division.

The other newly-elected statewide official is Deborah Goldberg as State Treasurer, replacing Steve Grossman, who left the office to run for Governor.  Secretary of the Commonwealth William Galvin and State Auditor Suzanne Bump will return to those offices.

Massachusetts’ nine-member Congressional delegation will gain Seth Moulton, elected from the Sixth District, on the North Shore, which is currently represented by John Tierney.  U.S. Senator Ed Markey was elected to a full six-year term, having first won election in 2013 to the seat when John Kerry became U.S. Secretary of State.

In the State Legislature, Vinny de Macedo will be one of five new Senators, after winning the South Shore seat that out-going Senate President Therese Murray gave up.  House Representative Ryan Fattman defeated Senator Richard Moore in central Massachusetts.  All other Senators seeking re-election won, leaving the Republicans with six seats in the 40-member body come January, their highest total in ten years.  Three other Senate openings were created by the departures of Senator Stephen Brewer, who declined to run again; Senator Barry Finegold, who opted to run instead for Treasurer; and Senator Gale Candaras, who ran for Hampden County Register of Probate in a race still too close to call. Those seats will be filled, respectively, by House Representative Anne Gobi, former House Representative Barbara L’Italien, and Eric Lesser.

But the biggest changes in the Senate will come at the leadership level: Stanley Rosenberg is expected to be chosen by his colleagues as the new Senate President, when the Senate convenes for the 2015-2016 legislative session.  He will then have the opportunity to name his leadership team, as well as all Senate committee chairs, which will include a new Ways and Means chair to write the Senate’s budget, now that Chairman Brewer is retiring.

In the House, Speaker Robert DeLeo and Ways and Means Chair Brian Dempsey will likely stay in their current positions.  However, the Speaker will name a new House co-chair of the Judiciary Committee, after former Representative Eugene O’Flaherty left earlier this year to become Corporation Counsel to the City of Boston and was never officially replaced.

While final results have not all been determined, it appears that two sitting Representatives, Denise Andrews and Rhonda Nyman, lost re-election bids on Tuesday, to Susannah Whipps Lee and David DeCoste, respectively.  Overall, House Republicans are poised to add at least five seats, and possibly six, to their existing total of 29 out of 160.  Of special note to BBA members, Michael Day of Stoneham, Co-Chair of the Civil Rights and Civil Liberties Section, was elected to the State House, winning an open seat.

One thing we like to keep an eye on when viewing the Legislature is the number of Senators and Representatives who are attorneys.  By our best count, that figure will be 54, out of a total of 200, when the new Legislature is sworn in early next January.  This represents a drop of 6 or 7 from the start of the last two-year session, and it underscores the work we must sometimes do to educate non-lawyer legislators about issues of importance to lawyers, the courts, and the practice of law.

Four statewide ballot measures were also contested: Voters approved a repeal of the 2013 law indexing the gasoline tax to inflation (Question 1) and a new requirement that employers of 11 or more offer paid sick time to employees (Question 4), but rejected an expansion of the Bottle Bill (Question 2) and an effort to repeal the 2011 law that allows casino gambling (Question 3).

We will continue to update you on developments on Beacon Hill, and we look forward to working with the elected officials above on behalf of the BBA.

— Michael Avitzur
Government Relations Director
Boston Bar Association

How We Got Here

The BBA’s recent report on civil legal aid in the Commonwealth , “Investing in Justice: A Roadmap to Cost-Effective Funding of Civil Legal Aid in Massachusetts,” paints a dire picture.  In spite of generous monetary support from the private bar and Legislature alike, nearly two-thirds of those who qualify for legal aid are turned away due to a lack of resources.  It is a sad and frustrating state of affairs when some 54,000 qualifying individuals cannot obtain the legal help they need to secure necessities such as shelter or protection from a batterer. This predicament didn’t manifest overnight.  This is how we got here…

The Massachusetts Legal Assistance Corporation (MLAC) was established by the Legislature in 1983 to provide financial support for legal assistance programs in Massachusetts.  Shortly thereafter, in 1985, the Interest on Lawyers Trust Account (IOLTA) program was created by the Supreme Judicial Court.  The IOLTA program collects interest on funds held in trust by attorneys and uses them to help fund legal aid.  By 1990, MLAC’s total funding was just under $8.4 million.  This included nearly $3 million from IOLTA, $2.8 million from a surcharge on civil case filing fees, and almost $2 million from a legislative appropriation.

In 1994, the Legislature changed the law, moving the funds from the surcharge on civil filing fees from MLAC to the General Fund.  While the Legislature has since greatly increased its yearly appropriation to MLAC, up to $15 million in Fiscal Year (FY) 2015, it has never again given MLAC a direct source of revenue as it had from the filing surcharge through 1994.  This item has produced around $4 million of income for the General Fund in the last few years.

At the same time, IOLTA revenue was generally increasing, until it reached tens of millions of dollars annually in the early 2000s, including more than $16 million in FY 2007 and $17 million in FY 2008.  MLAC total funding in each of those years was over $25 million.  When the recession hit in 2008, IOLTA plummeted and the legislative appropriation dropped.  MLAC’s total funding decreased over ten million dollars in a single year.  Each year since then, IOLTA funding has continued to drop, and although the Legislature has continued to gradually increase funding for legal aid, and individuals — mostly lawyers — have continued to contribute tens of millions of dollars’ worth of pro bono services and monetary donations, legal aid funding lags behind the growing need.

One figure in particular helps highlight this gap: Turn-away rates, which were about 50% in the mid-2000s, have reached an estimated 64%, as calculated by the BBA’s Statewide Task Force to Expand Civil Legal Aid.  The funding decreases forced legal aid agencies to lay off experienced attorneys and implement hiring freezes.  Compounding the problem, the state experienced a nearly 25% increase in the number of individuals qualifying for legal aid in recent years, to almost 1 million people today.

Now that we know how we got here, we are excited to see where we can go.  “Investing in Justice” demonstrates, through the work of three independent economic analysts, that the state stands to save a significant amount of money by investing in civil legal aid.  The report recommends a $30 million annual increase in legal aid funding over the course of the next three years.  We know that amount is not even close to enough to solve all our problems, but it is a sound start.  We hope the Legislature will heed the advice of SJC Chief Justice Ralph Gants from his State of the Judiciary Address, asking them to carefully consider our findings and recommendations.  The money the state invests in legal aid will pay dividends, and not just for the state’s bottom line. The investments improve the administration of justice in the courts and, most importantly, they improve the lives of individuals in Massachusetts, allowing them to secure basic needs such as shelter, safety, and human dignity.

– Jonathan Schreiber
Legislative and Public Policy Manager
Boston Bar Association
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The Long Road to a Roadmap

On Wednesday, October 15, the BBA released its Task Force report on civil legal aid issues – “Investing in Justice: A Roadmap to Cost-Effective Funding of Civil Legal Aid in Massachusetts.”  We are extremely proud of the report.  As far as we know, this is the first time data such as turn-away rates and a survey on judge’s observations has been so systematically gathered and examined.  In addition, the report features the outstanding work of three independent economic analysts, who, working pro bono, broke down the areas of housing, domestic violence, and federal benefits into cost-benefit analyses based on state funding.

The report’s findings paint a dire picture.  Roughly 64% or more than 54,000 income-qualifying people who sought civil legal aid in Massachusetts last year were turned away due to lack of resources.  In addition, more than 60% of judges said that lack of representation resulted in a negative impact on the court’s ability to ensure equal justice.

However, the economic analysts’ reports reveal a potential boon for the Commonwealth.  Conservative estimates showed that investment in civil legal aid would actually result in cost savings to the state and growth for our economy.  Taking these numbers into account, the task force recommends a $30 million increase in annual state funding to help bridge the gap between existing resources and what is needed to provide appropriate civil legal aid to all who are eligible.  Although that amount will not solve the entire problem, it would be a great start.

“Investing in Justice” was released to some fanfare, with an exclusive article on the cover of the Boston Globe, radio coverage on WBUR and WBZ, and continuing media coverage, including a feature-length story in the MetroWest Daily News.  However, it is important to remember that this did not all happen at once.  The report is the result of more than 18 months of hard work by a devoted group of task force members.  Even beyond that it is the result of the foresight of task force chairman and former BBA president J.D. Smeallie, Holland & Knight, who decided to tackle the gargantuan issue of civil legal aid funding as his presidential initiative almost two years ago.

When J.D. Smeallie became president of the BBA in 2013, he took note of the revolution occurring in New York State surrounding funding for civil legal aid.  Since 2010, the state had been massively expanding its legal aid funding, based largely on reports issued by its Task Force to Expand Access to Civil Legal Services, chaired by Helaine Barnett and created by Chief Judge Jonathan Lippman.

Each year, the task force was comprehensively exploring different aspects of legal aid.  It gathered testimony from legal aid clients and business leaders and solicited the work of economists to examine potential cost-savings from legal aid funding.  It examined pro bono initiatives and ways law schools could get involved to meet the unmet needs for legal aid.  Finally, it made findings and recommendations for action, many revolving around state funding . . . and the state was listening.  In FY 2012, Judge Lippman demonstrated his personal commitment to civil legal aid, setting aside $27.5 million from his general court operating budget for civil legal services.  That allocation increased with the support of the state legislature to $55 million in FY14 and to $70 million in FY15.

Smeallie looked to New York’s task force as a model and began crafting his own team in Massachusetts.  He had a few priorities – to include representatives from all parts of the state and to make sure they had diverse interests.  In the end, his efforts produced the 28-member BBA Statewide Task Force to Expand Civil Legal Aid in Massachusetts:

Susan Alexander – Executive Vice President and Chief Legal Officer at Biogen Idec Inc. 
Lawrence Bacow -
Former President of Tufts University 
Chris Barry-Smith

Manisha Bhatt
 – Senior Attorney at Greater Boston Legal Services
Jonathan Chiel – Executive Vice President and General Counsel at Fidelity Investments
Hon. Martha Coakley – Attorney General of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts
Katherine Cook – Chief Legal Counsel at The Office of the Governor
Paul T. Dacier – Executive Vice President and General Counsel at EMC Corporation, Past-President of the Boston Bar Association
Lawrence S. DiCara – Partner at Nixon Peabody LLP
Russell Engler – Professor of Law at New England Law | Boston
Hon. John V. Fernandes – State Representative at the Massachusetts House of Representatives
Robert Holloway – Past-President of the Massachusetts Bar Association
Kathleen Joyce – Senior Counsel at Boston Redevelopment Authority
James C. Kennedy – Chief Legal Counsel at the Massachusetts House of Representatives
Joan Lukey – Partner at Choate, Hall & Stewart LLP
Hon. Richard J. McMahon – Justice at Probate and Family Court, Bristol County
Martha Minow – Dean of Harvard Law School
Alice Moore – Counsel to the Massachusetts Senate
Susan Murley – Co-Managing Partner at Wilmer Cutler Pickering Hale and Dorr LLP
Joseph Nauman – Senior Vice President and General Counsel at Acushnet Company
Lon Povich – General Counsel at BJ’s Wholesale Club
Lonnie Powers – Executive Director of Massachusetts Legal Assistance Corporation (MLAC)
Mary Puma – Chief Executive Officer of Axcelis Technologies
Faye Rachlin – Deputy Director of Community Legal Aid in Worcester, MA
Elizabeth Soule – Executive Director of MetroWest Legal Services
Veronica Turner – Executive Vice President at 1199SEIU United Healthcare Workers East in Massachusetts
Hon. David Weingarten – First Justice at Boston Municipal Court, Roxbury Division
Hon. Jim Welch – State Senator at the Massachusetts State Senate, Hampden District

A look at their affiliations above shows how well he succeeded.  The group includes representatives from across the state, bringing together leaders from business, academia, and all three branches of government; attorneys from legal services, private practice, and in-house staffs.  In addition, the task force recruited three independent economic analysts, who provided pro bono services.  Analysis Group studied potential cost savings to the Commonwealth from civil legal aid funding in the area of housing, foreclosures, and evictions.  Alvarez & Marsal looked at domestic abuse issues, and NERA Economic Consulting calculated the potential for economic growth from investment in civil legal aid in the area of federal benefits.

We are proud to have watched this process from the beginning – the inspiration, the drafting of the task force, 18 months of intensive study, and finally the release of the report and resulting media and public reactions.  We hope that you will take the time to read “Investing in Justice” for yourself – contemplate the problem and consider the proposed solutions.  We hope that it will has profound an effect for you as it does for us.

– Jonathan Schreiber
Legislative and Public Policy Manager
Boston Bar Association
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Governor Patrick and the Importance of a Diverse Judiciary

On October 14, we will honor Governor Deval Patrick with the 2014 BBA Beacon Award for his commitment to diversity on the bench.  It is important to reflect on the immensity and breadth of his impact, because his work certainly transcends the judicial branch.   For example, most executive-branch employees are now women, and more than a quarter are people of color.  During his time in office, there has been a 10% increase in the number of women holding managerial positions in the executive branch, and a 57% increase for racial minorities.

These changes are not happenstance; they were the direct result of a concerted effort by the Patrick Administration to overhaul the executive branch.  During his first month in office, Governor Patrick enacted Executive Order 478, declaring his commitment to diversity.  In 2011, he reaffirmed this commitment with Executive Order 526.  The orders spell out the means to achieving diversity through hiring.  Some of the highlights include:

  • Section 2 – declares “non-discrimination, diversity, and equal opportunity” as policies of the executive branch “in all aspects of state employment, programs, services, activities, and decisions.”  It charges each agency to consider the effects of its actions on achieving this policy.
  • Section 4 – calls for the protection and affirmative promotion of equal opportunity and diversity in all state, state-assisted, and state-regulated programs, activities, and services.
  • Section 10 – requires diversity training for current executive-branch employees at all levels and for all future new hires.

Similar to the executive branch, the judiciary has changed markedly over the past seven years as well.  It is currently at a high point of diversity.  Earlier this year, the Supreme Judicial Court’s first Chief Justice of color, Chief Justice Roderick Ireland, was replaced by the first Jewish Chief Justice, Ralph Gants.  In addition, with the appointment of Geraldine Hines, the first black woman to serve on the SJC, the state’s highest court has a majority of female justices for the first time.  Governor Patrick also appointed the first openly gay SJC justice, Barbara Lenk, and the first Asian-American justice, Fernande R.V. Duffly.

Diversity on the bench is important for a number of reasons.  A jury trial calls for a set of one’s peers gathered from the community, yet there is no such ideal in place for judges.  Thus, those who preside over cases may not be as representative of the population they serve.  As a recent Boston Globe article explored, this arrangement could be a source of bias, a troubling thought even if it is likely unintentional.  As one scholar contends, true impartiality requires judges from diverse backgrounds and viewpoints to avoid a situation where one perspective dominates.  Consider as well that people who come in contact with the judicial system may feel a lack of confidence in, or out of touch with, the court if the judges, clerks, attorneys, and others they encounter do not reflect the broader community outside the courthouse.

Achieving a diverse judiciary is a major problem across the U.S.  In most states, racial and gender diversity on the bench lags behind not only that of the state population, but also the diversity of the bar, suggesting possible bias in judicial selection.  In fact, a 2010 Brennan Center study, which advocated for improved judicial diversity, made grappling with implicit bias its top best-practice recommendation for judicial nominating committees.  The problem here is two-fold: first, bias limits the diversity of the bench, and second, in a state like ours where citizens can apply for judgeships, it could have a chilling effect on qualified minority candidates.  Governor Patrick has worked to make sure that this doesn’t happen in the Commonwealth.  His Executive Orders and judicial appointments have fulfilled a myriad of the Brennan Center study’s suggestions and made Massachusetts a leader of judicial diversity.

We are proud of the progress Massachusetts has made under Governor Patrick’s guidance.  We look forward to honoring him next week and hope that whoever follows him in office will build on his progress on diversity in both the judicial and executive branches.

– Jonathan Schreiber
Legislative and Public Policy Manager
Boston Bar Association
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Annual Judges Meetings: The BBA Meets with the Courts

Over the past two weeks, we began our annual series of presidential meetings with the chief justices of various courts and court departments in Massachusetts.  Thus far, BBA President Julia Huston and staff have met with Chief Justice of the Trial Court Paula M. Carey and Trial Court Administrator Harry Spence, Chief Justice of the Probate & Family Court Angela M. Ordoñez, Chief Justice of the Housing Court Steven D. Pierce, and Chief Justice of the U.S. District Court for the District of Massachusetts Patti B. Saris.  In keeping with our commitment to appropriate funding for the courts, and to access to justice, we discussed ways the BBA can assist specific court departments in achieving their goals for the upcoming fiscal year and beyond.  Here are some takeaways from these sessions:

  • Access to Justice: The Trial Court is looking to expand on the successful Court Service Center (CSC) programs. The Brooke Courthouse CSC alone served 1,500 people in the last three months, mostly for domestic cases.  The Probate & Family Court is working on the same front, attempting to expand its Family Court Workshops to help those in need with their legal problems.

 

  • Funding: The Trial Court continues to implement elements of its Strategic Plan. Part of this plan calls for the creation and expansion of specialty courts.  This year, the Trial Court received $2.7 million for the administration of specialty courts, and it is working to get these up and running. The court hopes to install eight more specialty courts this year and 24 over the next three years, possibly adding a domestic violence specialty court to the four types currently in operation – mental health, substance abuse, homelessness, and veterans courts.

 

  • Technology and Modernization: The Trial Court is building a strong foundation for the future through innovation. To streamline practice for attorneys and pro se litigants alike, it is seeking to expand Alternative Dispute Resolution and Limited Assistance Representation programs.  The Court is also integrating technology into its daily practices, including electronic applications for criminal complaints and e-filing.  It recently launched a pilot program in Bristol County that gives attorneys online access to dockets and calendars; this program has resulted in a marked reduction in calls to the court office.  The next step for the Trial Court will be to roll-out “Court View to Go,” an application that provides attorneys instant case updates on smartphones.  The Probate & Family Court is working on similar projects, including a new status-inquiry form and a pilot program on limited-issue settlement conferences.

 

  • Court Practice and Procedure: The Trial Court and Probate & Family Court are examining internal practices. The Trial Court is revising its judicial evaluation process, in order to better assess and train its judges.  The Probate & Family Court expressed concerns over a lack of civility exhibited by attorneys and is working with the Massachusetts Bar Association to update their civility guidelines and examine ways to help attorneys reform their behavior, such as sending offending attorneys to a civility education program in lieu of the monetary sanctions that can currently be imposed.

 

  • Housing Court Expansion: We spent most of the Housing Court meeting discussing a possible statewide expansion. Currently, almost 1/3 of the state’s population is unable to access the Housing Court, including the Cape and Islands; almost all of Norfolk County; South and West Middlesex County; and the towns of Revere, Chelsea, and Winthrop.  The potential expansion would not require any new courthouses; it would simply mean adding judges to sit at regular weekly sessions.  This plan would ease some of the District Court’s caseload, while preserving the District Court’s concurrent jurisdiction.

 

District Court Sentencing and Release Concerns: Sitting down with the Chief Justice of the U.S. District Court for the District of Massachusetts, Patti Saris, we spoke about sentencing – a topic she is thoroughly familiar with, as chair of the U.S. Sentencing Commission.  She expressed concerns about mandatory minimum sentences.  The BBA has long opposed such sentences, because judges should have discretion to consider the nuances of each case and the individual defendant when making sentencing decisions.  Although achieving consensus on eliminating these sentences may prove difficult on the federal level, it is possible that the sentences could instead be decreased, and the Chief Justice briefed us on some pending legislation in Congress to do just that.

We spoke as well about re-entry programs for people released from incarceration; these are critical to reducing recidivism, and Chief Justice Saris had suggestions about how our Public Interest Leadership Program (PILP) could help work with the state on successful reentry.  For individuals recently released from prison, housing concerns go hand-in-hand with finding a job, since low-wage employment may not be enough to sustain housing.  Meanwhile, affordable Section 8 housing is rife with restrictions, often barring convicted felons — which can lead them to stay instead with the very people they should be avoiding as part of a successful reentry plan.

As for court funding, the Chief Justice explained that the federal court budget crisis is resolved, if only for now, and the Court has filled vacancies created during a hiring freeze.  However, the Court remains wary that these issues could arise again.

We have more meetings scheduled for the coming weeks and will continue to keep you posted on our discussions as we seek to learn more about how we can work to assure the continued excellence of the Massachusetts judiciary.

– Jonathan Schreiber
Legislative and Public Policy Manager
Boston Bar Association

Representative Tsongas at the BBA

cropped tsongas

On Tuesday, U.S. Representative Niki Tsongas visited the BBA to speak about her efforts to eliminate sexual assaults within the military.  Representative Tsongas is the Ranking Member of the House Armed Services Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations.  She is one of the leading voices in the country on this pervasive problem, the scope of which has only recently come to light.

While it is estimated that 26,000 service members experienced unwanted sexual contact in 2012, only about 13.5% of military sexual assaults get reported – a figure that is even lower than reporting rates among the general population.  The problem is not limited by gender or sexuality.  Furthermore, victims are often traumatized multiple times – first with the initial assault, again when they file a formal report with sensitive and personal information, and often a third time when they face isolation, retaliation, and the frustration of being ignored.

Military sexual assault concerns have become so intrusive that Representative Tsongas often speaks of meeting a military nurse who had been deployed several times to Afghanistan and Iraq yet considered herself more at risk of being assaulted by fellow service-members than harmed by enemy combatants.  This nurse was so concerned that she kept a knife tucked in her waistband to protect against potential attackers from her own armed services.

In response, Representative Tsongas has drafted a number of bills, some of which have been enacted, to help the military respond from within, give support to survivors, and help victims seek justice.  She also serves as co-chair of the Military Sexual Assault Prevention Caucus, which she established with Congressman Mike Turner.  The Caucus holds regular hearings, travels to military bases, and receives briefings from members of the armed forces and activist organizations to better assess the problem and devise solutions.

With the help of leaders on the issue like Representative Tsongas, the shocking prevalence of sexual assaults within the military has garnered much attention from Congress.  And the public focus that resulted may be responsible for a sharp spike in reports from service members this past year, as victims become more comfortable speaking out against their abusers – indicating a possible turning point for a military culture that for too long has encouraged silence.

In her talk to the BBA, Representative Tsongas listed the keys to addressing the issue of military assault: patience, persistence, and bipartisanship.  She continues to be a leader in all three.

– Jonathan Schreiber
Legislative and Public Policy Manager
Boston Bar Association
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Learning and Doing – BBA Government Relations Department Update

It’s been a busy past few weeks in the BBA’s Government Relations department.  Although the legislature is not in formal session, we’ve had plenty of activities and events to keep us occupied.  Here is a rundown of some of the recent goings-on.


Inspiring Public Service Leader Eugene O’Flaherty speaks to PILP

EO at PILP

A couple weeks ago we attended a meeting of the BBA Public Interest Leadership Project (PILP), for an intimate discussion with former legislator and current City of Boston Corporation Counsel Eugene O’Flaherty.  The presentation gave us a great opportunity to hear about the life and career of one of Boston’s most well-known public-service attorneys.

Eugene O’Flaherty spoke candidly and at length about his upbringing, legal work – often as a bar advocate, legislative career, and current role as Boston’s Corporation Counsel.  When he was 26, O’Flaherty decided to run for a vacant State Representative seat in his district.  Despite the fact that his opponent was a well-established and respected member of the community who vastly outspent him, O’Flaherty won the election.  He credits this first victory to outworking his opponent – knocking on doors and speaking first-hand with the people in his district.

He was subsequently re-elected nine times, serving for 19 years, 12 of them as Chair of the Judiciary Committee.  O’Flaherty described chairing this Committee as both a challenge and a triumph.  He was pleased at his appointment to the post in 2002, but noted that his reaction may have demonstrated naiveté.  The Judiciary Committee regularly considers many of the most contentious bills, and O’Flaherty explained that his service made him both appreciate the challenge of the position and grow a thick skin.  He cited defeating the reintroduction of capital punishment as his greatest success in this role.   O’Flaherty also noted close ties to his community as a driver of his success, explaining that his constituents tended to be highly politically involved and proactive in identifying issues of importance for him to champion.

This year, O’Flaherty made a jump to working as Corporation Counsel at the repeated requests of Mayor Marty Walsh, a close friend since the time they joined the Legislature.  He told PILP about his adjustment – thus far it has been both demanding and gratifying, but certainly no small task to limit the city’s legal exposure across all areas of law, keep the city running smoothly, and help the Mayor implement his vision.

One thing is for certain, Eugene O’Flaherty is no stranger to serving the public and getting results in the face of great challenges.  The PILP members were energized by his presentation and continued the discussion with multiple questions about his life and extensive career accomplishments.  He ended his presentation by challenging PILP members to get involved with local government and the City of Boston by serving on one of its Boards and Committees.  We learned a lot about a respected lawyer and public servant and were pleased to watch him inspire the next generation of public interest lawyers in Boston.


 Leaders in the Fight against Opiate Addiction Come Together

The conversation from one of our recent blog posts continued in early September at “In Our Own Backyard: A Panel Discussion on the Opiate Epidemic in Massachusetts.”  This discussion, hosted by The United States District Court, District of Massachusetts and held at the Moakley Courthouse, featured two panels of distinguished speakers sharing their work, observations, and ideas about how to solve the opiate crisis in Massachusetts.

The first panel featured Boston Mayor Martin J. Walsh, Representative Randy Hunt, Doctor Alexander Walley, and U.S. District Court Judge Leo T. Sorokin.   The second panel consisted of Quincy Police Lieutenant Patrick Glynn, Senior U.S. Probation Officer Andrew Laudate, Lahey Behavioral Health Services Representative Kevin Norton, Boston Medical Center Representative Colleen LaBelle, and Learn to Cope, Inc. founder Joanne Peterson.  Here are some of the major points they discussed:

  • The key to solving the opiate addiction crisis is combining enforcement, education, and treatment.
  • Education must start for children in elementary school in addition to being generally available for everyone, especially parents.
  • More first responders should be trained to administer Narcan, a drug which can reverse the effects of an opioid overdose.
  • Police and drug enforcement officers need to provide facilities for people to deposit their un-used prescription pills to avoid their misuse or theft.
  • The Massachusetts prison system would better serve recovering addicts by shrinking or eliminating “queues” – to receive treatment. A great deal of data corroborates the fact that addicts who assent to treatment are far more successful if they receive that treatment immediately rather than having to wait for weeks or even months to begin.
  • The state needs more treatment facilities and we must find ways to overcome the financial shortcomings facing these institutions.
  • There are currently some effective programs that merit continuation and possible expansion such as the District Court’s CARE program whereby judges meet with drug addicts undergoing treatment to monitor their progress and assess the need for small responsive penalties. This program has a proven track record, allowing judges to be most responsive to a person’s needs and immediately reactive to potentially negative or dangerous behavior that could lead to recidivism or further drug abuse.

Civil Legal Services Achieve Breakthrough

We recently learned about a major SJC ruling that lowered the standard for defendants to have their case records sealed and giving judges further guidance on this issue.  The ruling is the result of the hard work of Greater Boston Legal Services’ (GBLS) CORI & Re-entry Project.  It will help individuals who are burdened by their criminal record, which can interfere with their ability to reintegrate in society by adding hurdles to tasks such as securing housing or a job.

Under the previous regime of the Commonwealth v. Doe case, litigants, who were often unrepresented, had to prove that: (1) the value of sealing their records clearly outweighed the constitutionally-protected value of the record remaining open to the public, (2) that there was a compelling state interest in sealing the record, and (3) that there was a risk of specific harm from the record.  Otherwise judges had little guidance on the practice of record sealing.

The new case, Commonwealth v. Pon, lowers the record sealing standard to “good cause” and provides additional guidance for judges, advising them to consider the government’s interest in reducing recidivism, facilitating reintegration, and ensuring self-sufficiency by promoting employment and housing opportunities for former criminal defendants.  Thus, future litigants need only share a present or foreseeable future disadvantage related to their CORI for the court to seal the record.  MassLegalHelp offers assistance by way of information and forms to those seeking to seal their criminal records under the new ruling.


In all, the last few weeks have kept us busy, just the way we like it.  We will continue to keep you in the know on all of our latest news and events.

– Jonathan Schreiber
Legislative and Public Policy Manager
Boston Bar Association
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