Massachusetts State House.
Policy Library

A Glimpse at Our Recent Policy Agenda

July 19, 2012

This Tuesday the BBA’s Council – our governing body – held its monthly meeting.  This particular meeting served as a great example of how our public policy flows from the various prongs of our mission – to advance the highest standards of excellence for the legal profession, facilitate access to justice, and serve the community at large.  The BBA’s public policy is the body of principles that embodies our commitment to the administration of justice, the practice of law and other issues of special interest or concern to the organization.  When we do take an active role in public policy it is because we know we can be a leader in the conversation and add value to policy discussions, especially in the areas of access to justice and the fair and efficient administration of justice.

To keep current with these issues, the Council invited the new Court Administrator, Harry Spence, to speak at the meeting.  Mr. Spence candidly shared his observations of the system, his ideas for the next five years and his expectations for the Trial Court.  The BBA reiterated our support of the Judiciary and vowed to continue to work together on issues such as court funding and equal access to justice.

Also on the Council agenda were a few different issues that could have a profound impact on the legal profession.  The first is a proposed new rule from the Supreme Judicial Court (SJC), Rule 3:16: Practicing with Professionalism Course for New Lawyers.  Rule 3:16 will require an education class for newly-admitted lawyers to address issues such as law office management, professionalism and civility, professional ethics, do’s and don’ts of social media and other topics.  The BBA has put together a small group of experienced attorneys to review the proposed new rule and make suggestions regarding its implementation before it becomes effective sometime next year.

A second agenda item also came from the SJC, this time dealing with proposed changes to the Massachusetts Rules of Criminal Procedure.  The SJC has proposed amendments to Rules 12 and 29 that would change the way some criminal law attorneys practice including:

  • barring a state court judge from participating in plea negotiations unless both parties agree and only if such discussions are recorded and made part of the record;
  • binding the court to an accepted tendered plea agreement that contains either a charge of concession or an agreed sentence or sentencing range; and
  • absent agreement of both parties, revoking a court’s authority to reduce a sentence imposed under a biding plea agreement by means of a motion to revise and revoke.

The BBA’s Criminal Law Section stepped up and reviewed the changes.  Their comments are now being circulated to other Sections for input.

Our Sections were the catalyst for another item on the agenda – the update on the BBA amicus brief in Fisher v. University of Texas at Austin.  This case challenges the race-conscious admissions policies and practices at the University of Texas at Austin and is currently before the Supreme Court.  The BBA’s amicus brief in Fisher is another opportunity for the BBA to support diversity and inclusion in the entire justice system.  Getting into college is the first of many steps in becoming a lawyer.  Providing schools with the tools necessary to increase diversity will benefit the entire legal profession.  A diverse and inclusive legal community is central to the BBA’s pursuit of its mission because it will improve the quality of the legal profession and increase the public’s confidence in the judicial system.

-Kathleen Joyce
Government Relations Director
Boston Bar Association