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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: 4/2/2020

Contact: Richard M Page Jr.
BBA/BBF Executive Director
617-778-1916

BBA President Christine Netski Appoints COVID-19 Crisis Response Working Group

The COVID-19 pandemic is presenting emergency legal issues (some foreseeable, others less so) that go to the heart of the BBA’s mission. For as long as this crisis persists, the Association will need a high-level Crisis Response Working Group to identify, consider and monitor emerging issues, and make recommendations as to appropriate BBA policy decisions, statements and actions. Last week, BBA President Chris Netski appointed members of the group, including President-Elect Marty Murphy as Chair. These members bring forth a diversity of expertise, which will allow them to have comprehensive discussions on the breadth of issues that have come up as a result of the pandemic. 

The group has met twice so far and has broken itself down into the following subcommittees, which are considering the following issues:

  • Civil Access to Justice
    • The Working Group is concerned about preserving litigants' access to justice at a time when courthouses are either restricted or closed altogether.
    • Legal-service providers, stretched in the best of times, are coming under tremendous strain, especially in areas such as unemployment benefits, consumer-debt collection, and domestic violence.
    • We are attempting to assess how we can best help law firms' pro-bono efforts to identify needs for private attorneys and facilitate remote access.
  • Criminal Justice
    • As you've probably seen, the Working Group was pressed into immediate action on this front when CPCS and MACDL filed an emergency petition last week asking the SJC to order steps to be taken to expeditiously reduce the incarcerated population. The BBA filed an amicus letter in support of the petition earlier this week. 
    • The Court held an expedited hearing in the case earlier this week, and that is currently the focus of efforts in this area. 
    • While arrests have declined significantly, there remain questions about whether the system will have the capacity to keep up and preserve due process, given courthouse closures and restrictions, and the possibility of judges, attorneys, and staff being sickened or isolated in large numbers.
  • Immigration
    • Similar to incarcerated individuals, ICE detainees are at high risk of coronavirus infection, and similar arguments have been made for their release. Although immigration officials have pledged to limit their enforcement during the crisis and to mostly avoid health-care facilities, hearings are continuing for some detainees, a process that may itself be putting all participants in danger.
  • Impact on Business, Non-Profits, Individuals and Practice Issues
    • We are tracking several discrete issues within this category, including:
      • A movement to impose moratoria on evictions and foreclosures during (and even somewhat beyond) the current state of emergency
      • Concerns about law schools and current law students -- especially third-years, who will have to take the bar exam later and whose legal careers may not be starting in a timely fashion
      • Execution of documents that may be held up by requirements that notarization be done in person, at a time of isolation and social distancing
      • Publicly-held corporations and non-profits, many of which are not authorized to hold their scheduled annual meetings virtually, even during an emergency

The crisis group is looking forward to taking action on these issues, and will keep the membership updated on opportunities to help. We’ll continue to monitor and update you on these and other emerging concerns, but we also have a favor to ask of you: If you are aware of any other issues that have arisen in your field, or affecting the practice of law or access to justice generally, please let us know! Thanks in advance for your input.

Please refer to our COVID-19 resource page for more information on resources, webinars, and practice area-specific guides that we have gathered thus far. The BBA remains committed to continuing to serve our members, the legal profession, the justice system and the Greater Boston community as we face the challenges brought on by the rapid spread of the coronavirus.

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The Boston Bar Association traces its origins to meetings convened by John Adams, who provided pro bono representation to the British soldiers prosecuted for the Boston Massacre and went on to become the nation’s second president. Its mission is to advance the highest standards of excellence for the legal profession, facilitate access to justice, serve the community at large and promote diversity and inclusion.