Improving advocacy and trial skills for litigators who practice in state court, federal court and alternative-dispute venues

Dacier’s Take on. . . The MA Constitution, An Independent Judiciary, and Civil Discourse

If you’ve been spending too much time on Amazon.com you may have missed the greatest bargain to be had in Massachusetts.  Available free-of-charge at the State House Bookstore is The Constitution of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts in hard copy.

At the risk of sounding like your high school civics teacher, I’m going to urge you to read this magnificent document that provides us with three separate, co-equal branches of government, and guarantees us an independent judicial branch. You may even want to take a moment to thank John Adams for his work as a dedicated volunteer, drafting the Massachusetts Constitution in less than one month. He’s also the lawyer who founded the organization to which the Boston Bar Association traces its roots and the second president of the United States.

Some context may help. Think back to September of 1779, a time in American life when there were more pressing matters than purchasing back to school clothing and supplies. Both Massachusetts and our nation were on the brink of bankruptcy.

We needed a constitution to establish a framework for governing our state. At the same time we feared anything smacking of the British monarchy. Our founders had grown increasingly frustrated with judges whose rulings reflected loyalty to the king rather than loyalty to any established principles of impartially rendered justice.

By June 1780, the Massachusetts Constitution was ratified by a convention. According to David McCollough, this constitution was one of Adams’ great achievements in life. And the greatest aspect of this constitution was that it established an independent judiciary with judges appointed, not elected, for life. Judges were to uphold the Constitution and to deter any overreaching by the Governor or the Legislature.

Even without the word processing and redline function we take for granted today, this did not deter convention delegates from making a few changes to Adams’ draft. According to McCollough, he wasn’t happy to see his reference to all men being “born equally free and independent” changed to all men being “born free and equal.” Similarly Adams, an ardent proponent of a powerful executive elected by the populace, disliked the fact that the legislature was ultimately given the right to override the governor’s veto.

But rather than bicker about words, Adams and others compromised for the sake of a greater good, a sound framework for governing Massachusetts. What’s remarkable is that 233 years later, the Massachusetts Constitution still enables us to live as a state of laws, not of men.

Still I’m troubled by the apparent, willful ignorance of the role and the stature of the judiciary in ensuring “an impartial interpretation of the laws, and administration of justice.”  We have considerable judicial talent and sound court management. But the courts need the resources to ensure that the rights guaranteed by our constitution are not at risk.

What’s more, the dialogue between those of divergent viewpoints on any variety of issues affecting how our state is governed and how our spending priorities are determined has gotten so shrill that we have come to tolerate that which is unacceptable – gridlock. Have we gotten so entangled in minutiae and redlining that we’ve forgotten the big picture or whatever it was we hoped to accomplish in the first place?

Fortunately, here in Massachusetts the spirit of compromise prevailed enough to provide our state court judges with a long overdue pay raise, the first installment of which will go into effect in January. Still years of underfunding have left our judicial branch in catch up mode.

How about we return to the type of civil discourse that made passage of the Massachusetts Constitution possible? Could we start by trying to identify principles we can embrace rather than bickering ad infinitem? Civil discourse can be time consuming as we reach out to constituents who may not share our views and vice versa. But the alternative is gridlock, and that is not what democracy is all about.”

To view the newly launched BBA blog, Dacier's Take, click here

Litigation Committees

  • Alternative Dispute Resolution Committee
    This committee hosts speakers on a wide variety of issues relating to arbitration, mediation and other dispute resolution processes. It strives to offer programs that are of value to individuals who serve as mediators and arbitrators, as well as advocates representing clients in dispute resolution processes, both domestic and international.

    Contact Information

    James B. Peloquin

    Conn Kavanaugh Rosenthal Peisch & Ford, LLP

    (617) 482-8200

    William McClare Dunham

    Sherin and Lodgen LLP

    (617) 646-2017

  • Antitrust & Business Litigation Committee
    This committee provides a means of dialogue and learning for members who share an interest in business litigation.

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    Stephen D. Riden

    Beck Reed Riden LLP

    (617) 500-8660

    Rachel M. Brown

    Shapiro Haber & Urmy LLP

    (617) 439-3939

  • Class Actions Committee
    This committee explores the ever-changing landscape of class action practice and procedure in federal and state courts in a wide variety of areas, including mass torts, environmental law, securities and consumer fraud.

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    Lauren Guth Barnes

    Hagens Berman Sobol Shapiro LLP

    (617) 482-3700

    Matthew G. Lindenbaum

    Goodwin Procter LLP

    (617) 570-8318

  • Construction Law Committee
    This committee addresses all aspects of construction law, including contract documents and alternative project delivery systems; construction litigation, arbitration and ADR; public contract law and other legal issues of interest to practitioners who handle matters relating to construction.

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    Carolyn Marie Francisco

    Corwin & Corwin LLP

    (617) 742-3420

    Jeff D. Bernarducci

    Holland & Knight LLP

    (617) 854-1408

  • Environmental Litigation Committee
    This committee focuses on Chapter 21E, CERCLA, insurance, clean air and clean water litigation.

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    Seth Schofield

    Office of the Massachusetts Attorney General

    (617) 727-2200

    Katherine Kimball

    Bingham McCutchen LLP

  • Federal Practice and Procedure Committee
    This committee concentrates on developments in federal civil procedure and practical issues affecting practice in federal court. Areas covered include changes and proposed changes to the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure and the District of Massachusetts' Local Rules; reports of new and significant decisions interpreting the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure and the Federal Rules of Evidence; and presentations concerning such practical matters as the District of Massachusetts' mediation program and the use of technology in the courtroom.

    Contact Information

    Matthew N. Kane

    Donnelly, Conroy & Gelhaar, LLP

    (617) 720-2880

    Benjamin M. Stern

    Holland & Knight LLP

    (617) 305-2022

  • Intellectual Property Litigation Committee
    This is a joint committee between the Intellectual Property and Litigation Sections. This committee provides education concerning the enforcement of patent, trademark, copyright and trade secrets rights as well as the defense of those accused of infringing on such rights, in federal and state courts and before the International Trade Commission.

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    Kelli Powell

    Wilmer Cutler Pickering Hale and Dorr LLP

    (617) 526-6819

    Dalila Wendlandt

    Ropes & Gray LLP

    (617) 951-7884

    Christina M Licursi

    Wolf Greenfield

    (617) 646-8384

  • Litigation Membership Committee
    This committee aims to increase participation in the Section through outreach activities.

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    Carla Reeves

    Manion Gaynor & Manning LLP

    (617) 670 8800

  • Litigation Public Policy Committee
    The BBA is very active in legislative and regulatory changes. Attorneys are often asked to lend their expertise.

    Contact Information

    Christopher D. Strang

    Desmond, Strang & Scott LLP

    (857) 233-5534

    Alexandra M. Gorman

    Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom LLP & Affiliates

    (617) 573-4852

  • Litigation Public Service Committee
    Each year in recognition of Pro Bono Month, this committee, along with the Rappaport Center for Law and Public Service at Suffolk University Law School holds a pro bono opportunities fair for attorneys and law students. The committee also focuses on pro bono trainings and brown bag programming.

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    Jonathan Hayden

    McCormack Firm, LLC

    (617) 951 2929

  • Massachusetts Practice and Procedure Committee
    This committee concentrates on developments in Massachusetts civil procedure and practical issues affecting practice in Massachusetts courts.

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    R. Victoria Fuller

    Rose, Chinitz & Rose

    (617) 536-0040

    Nigel Long

    Lynch & Lynch

    ((508)) 230-2500

  • Professional Liability Committee
    This committee covers issues involving the liability of accountants, lawyers, physicians, architects and other professionals for malpractice, including liability under federal statutes and consumer protection laws.

    Contact Information

    Gary M. Ronan

    Goulston & Storrs PC

    (617) 574-3593

    Debra A. Squires-Lee

    Sherin and Lodgen LLP

    (617) 646-2036

  • Securities Enforcement and Litigation Committee
    This committee aims to foster dialogue among the legal and investigatory staff of securities regulators, lawyers who represent companies and persons involved in regulatory investigations/enforcement proceedings and lawyers who represent plaintiffs in private securities litigation and shareholder derivative actions.

    Contact Information

    Sarah G. Kim

    Office of the Massachusetts Attorney General

    (617) 727-2200

    Richard Rosensweig

    Goulston & Storrs PC

    (617) 482-1776

    Kathryn Alessi

    Goodwin Procter LLP

    (617) 570-1041

  • Steering Committee
    The leadership committee of the Section organizes programs and discusses policy. To inquire about opportunities, please contact the Section Co-Chairs.
  • Tort Committee
    This committee addresses all matters relating to injury and damage to persons and property.

    Contact Information

    Steve Bolotin

    Morrison Mahoney LLP

    (617) 439-7500

    Eric Asquith

    Todd & Weld LLP

    (617) 624-4769