Approved by BBA Council 15 February 2011
(1) The Boston Bar Association’s Public Policy
The Boston Bar Association (the “BBA”) provides its members with the opportunity to engage in significant public policy work. The BBA’s public policy is the body of principles that strengthens the BBA’s commitment to the administration of justice, and the practice of law and other issues of special interest or concern to the organization. The scope of the issues addressed is as vast as the areas of law represented in the BBA’s sections. By originating innovative solutions to problems of legal policy, and participating in larger policy debates, the BBA serves the legal profession and the public in a direct and significant way.
The BBA promotes policy that has a positive impact on the profession and society. The BBA works to address these issues through input and education from our members and communication with elected officials and local stakeholders. The BBA makes its Positions known in many ways: filing amicus briefs, drafting legislation, commenting on proposed government actions and legislative proposals developed by other groups, and publishing reports and written statements.
The primary consideration of the Council when determining if a public policy proposal falls within its purview is whether the position will advance the mission and goals of the BBA. The BBA, as an organization of attorneys, takes a leadership role to increase access to justice for all, provide for the fair and efficient administration of justice, and enhance the quality of the law.
(2) Development of a Public Policy
Public policy may take a variety of forms and may begin internally or at the request of an external entity. Sections and task forces have the ability to initiate legislation, to recommend that the BBA support or oppose bills already introduced in the legislature, and to propose other public policy initiatives. Public policy positions (“Positions”) must be adopted by the BBA as a whole. Individual sections may not promulgate public policy. Any BBA section, committee, or task force (“Proponent”) wishing to pursue an idea related to the shaping of legal or public policy should contact the Director of Government Relations (“the Director”) to begin the process.
It is important that Proponents represent the interests of their membership and are well balanced in their approaches to issues in each substantive area of law. The Director can provide guidance, assistance and oversight for shaping public policy work. The Director will make every reasonable effort to encourage as wide participation as appropriate in formulating a policy proposal.
The BBA’s participation on BBA created task forces or on external task forces does not automatically constitute a formal Position of the BBA. As noted in the Task Force / Ad Hoc Committee Guidelines which are attached hereto, the participation by a BBA representative on a task force does not signify institutional consent or authority. Specific recommendations of a task force shall be considered independently of the task force report and by a separate and subsequent Council vote.
(3) Initial Consideration of a Public Policy
Any public policy proposal must be made through a form made available by the BBA. The completed form is to be submitted to the Director. If a vote of a section’s steering committee is required, that vote must be taken before a proposal may advance. In the event that there is a request for comments from BBA members, and if a vote of a section’s steering committee is not required or has not been requested, and if in the determination of the Director the comments are not advocating for a specific policy, these comments can be coordinated through the Director in consultation with the President and may be submitted without a vote.
The Director will provide the completed form and any additional materials to relevant sections as appropriate. Any section wishing to comment shall indicate preliminarily whether it wishes to take up the proposal for discussion and possible comment and will be expected to do so at the next steering committee meeting. When circumstances require a shorter comment period, a section that wants to comment should plan a special steering committee meeting via e-mail or conference call and will be expected to act, if necessary, in a timely manner.
Comments from the sections will be delivered to the Director, who in turn, will make them available to the Proponent. The Proponent should consider comments it receives from other parts of the organization and, to the extent necessary, should respond. Consensus is encouraged but the absence of consensus does not mean that the proposal cannot proceed. Once comments from interested sections are received the Director will present the proposal, as well as comments and opposing view-points and any other related documents, to the Executive Committee. At the President’s discretion, proponents and/or opponents of the proposal may be invited to present their views to the Council.
(4) Consideration by the Executive Committee
The Executive Committee will consider the policy proposal and determine whether the issue is ready for Council review. The Executive Committee has discretion to decide that no further action be taken, to set the proposal aside for a reasonable period of time, or to place the proposal (which shall be accompanied by any opposing view-points or dissenting opinions from the Proponent or from any section) with the Executive’s Committee’s recommendations before the Council for decision. The Executive Committee can decide that a proposal is not ready for Council consideration if the Executive Committee determines that it has not been appropriately vetted to the extent deemed necessary, that perspectives of external groups have not been adequately considered, that the proposal is not within the BBA’s mission, that the BBA’s engagement on this issue will have little or no impact on the outcome, that other priorities dictate the use of the BBA’s resources, or for other reasons.
Where the Executive Committee determines that time is of the essence, and consistent with Section 1 of Article IX of the BBA By-Laws, the Executive Committee may address a public policy proposal in the Council’s stead “if the Executive Committee determines that a decision should be made before it is practicable to hold a meeting of the Council.”
In the event that the Executive Committee chooses to act because time is of the essence, or votes no on a proposal, the Council shall be apprised of the Executive Committee’s decision and the substance of such action at its next monthly meeting. In addition, “any action taken by the Executive Committee may be amended or repealed by the Council, but no such amendment or repeal shall have retroactive effect.”
(5) Consideration by the Council and Approval as an Official BBA Public Policy
If the Executive Committee decides to forward the proposal to the Council for action, the proposal shall be put on the agenda for the next Council meeting. The Council will review the proposal, as well as comments and opposing view-points and any other related documents, and consider the Executive Committee’s recommendation. At the President’s discretion, proponents and/or opponents of the proposal may be invited to present their views to the Council. Final Council approval is required before a proposal becomes an official Position of the BBA.
(6) The Scope of Council Approval of a BBA Policy Position
Public policy is adopted at the Council level and remains the official position of the BBA unless reconsidered by the Council.
Approval of a BBA position will be considered to include approval of subsequent revisions which do not materially change the Position, subject to the judgment of the Director in consultation with the President and/or the Executive Committee. In the event that a material change to a Position is proposed, or whenever the Director, in consultation with the relevant section and the President and/or Executive Committee, deems it appropriate to do so, the Director will notify appropriate sections of proposed changes to a Position and of the deadline for comment. If sections cannot reach consensus on the proposed revisions, the Director will treat the proposed revisions as a new public policy proposal. If there is no opposition, the Director will notify the President and/or the Executive Committee of the proposed revision and, with the concurrence of President and/or the Executive Committee, the Director will authorize the revision proposed.
(7) Additional Provisions
All publicity concerning any BBA Position, including any requests for statements from the media, shall be referred to the BBA’s Communications Department. In the event the Director of Government Relations or the Director of Communications is unavailable, the Executive Director will assume primary responsibility in their absence.
These procedures may be amended, revoked or changed at any time by the Council.