Boston Bar Association
The Boston Bar Association, which also goes by the acronym BBA, is a volunteer non-governmental organization in Boston, Massachusetts, United States. With headquarters located at 16 Beacon Street in the historic Chester Harding House, across from the Massachusetts State House on Beacon Hill, the BBA has roughly 10,000 members drawn from private practice, corporations, government agencies, legal aid organizations, the courts, and law schools. It traces its origins to meetings convened by John Adams, the lawyer who provided pro bono representation to the British soldiers prosecuted for the Boston Massacre and went on to become the second president of the United States.
The Boston Bar Association's stated mission is: "To advance the highest standards of excellence for the legal profession, to facilitate access to justice, and to serve the community at large."
Governed by a Council of 30 members, the Boston Bar Association has 24 sections and more than 100 committees dedicated to substantive areas of law as well as issues such as access to justice and the administration of justice.
The Boston Bar Association makes its public policy positions known via the filing of amicus briefs, the drafting of legislation, and official comments on proposed government actions. Recent public policy positions taken by the Boston Bar Association include:
August 2012: Fisher v. University of Texas, et. al., The Boston Bar Association filed an amicus brief in Fisher v. University of Texas, et al., Supreme Court of the United States No. 11-354. The question the Supreme Court is expected to answer is "Whether [the] Court's decisions interpreting the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment, including Grutter v. Bollinger, permit the University of Texas at Austin's use of race in undergraduate admission decisions."
Joining the BBA in its amicus brief is a coalition of organizations united by a shared commitment to advancing diversity in the legal profession. These organizations share the BBA's concern for diversity in higher education, recognizing that diversity within the legal profession cannot be achieved without a pipeline of diverse law school students, and diversity at the law school level, in turn, cannot be supported without diverse representation in undergraduate institutions.
April 2012: Rachel A. Bird Anderson v. BNY Mellon, N.A., et al. Urging the Supreme Judicial Court to clarify estate planning law as it relates to Chapter 524 of the Acts of 2008 – a statute that amended the definition of “issue” to include adopted children in pre-1958 trusts, the Boston Bar Association filed an amicus brief in a case seeking answers to the questions:
Is the retroactive application of Chapter 524 to instruments executed prior to 1958 constitutional? If so, what are the consequences for actions taken by fiduciaries in reliance on Chapter 524 prior to the SJC’s determination that such an application is constitutional?
The brief notes, “Families often rely on [established principles of construction] in making irrevocable alternate arrandments, such as gifts or bequests made in favor of adopted children who were (until the effective date of Chapter 524) not beneficiaries of certain family trusts.”
November 2011: Commonwealth of Massachusetts v. U.S. Dept. of Health and Human Services, et al. No. 10-2204, and Nancy Gill et al. v. Office of Personnel Management et al., Committed to ensuring that the Constitution’s guarantees of equal protection effectively protect all people from invidious discrimination, whether on account of race, gender, national origin, religion, alienage, or sexual orientation, the Boston Bar Association has signed on to an amicus brief arguing that classifications based on sexual orientation must be subjected to heightened scrutiny.
The brief, written by the ACLU and Edwards Wildman Palmer LLP, concerns two cases that involve a constitutional challenge to Section 3 of the federal Defense of Marriage Act (“DOMA”) being heard before the First Circuit.
May 2011: The Boston Bar Association released a report, Justice on the Road to Ruin, on the Massachusetts State Trial Court’s state budget. The report states that continued inadequate court funding will inflict pain on real people.
January 2011: Fathers & Families, Inc. v. Chief Justice for Administration and Management  Amid a legal challenge to the Massachusetts Child Support Guidelines, the Boston Bar Association has filed an amicus brief in the Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts arguing these and other points:
(1) The process whereby Massachusetts Child Support Guidelines have been promulgated is in compliance with the Massachusetts Constitution.
(2) Striking down the Guidelines. . .
- Would lead to uncertainty, instability, and inefficiency in awarding child support;
- Could jeopardize Federal Funding for the Commonwealth's Public Welfare Programs.
March 2010: The Boston Bar Association Task Force on the FY 2011 Judiciary Budget released their report. The Report warns that further cuts to the Judiciary would have severe consequences for the administration of justice in the Commonwealth.
February 2010:The Boston Bar Association filed an amicus brief in the First Circuit of Appeals asserting the First Amendment rights of all litigants, including bar associations, to petition courts for the redress of grievances that have a reasonable basis in fact and in law – regardless of whether the courts ultimately grant or deny relief on the merits.
December 2009: The Boston Bar Association released the Task Force Report Getting it Right: Improving the Accuracy and Reliability of the Criminal Justice System in Massachusetts. The Report is the work product of a 20 person BBA task force comprising the broadest group of major players in the criminal justice system ever assembled to prevent wrongful convictions in the Bay State. The task force was co-chaired by Martin F. Murphy, a partner at Foley Hoag and David Meier, a partner at Todd & Weld, and appointed by then BBA President Kathy Weinman in the fall of 2008. The report makes three key recommendations:
- Enactment of a Massachusetts statute to guarantee post conviction access to DNA testing and to require preservation of biologic forensic evidence. (Massachusetts is one of only 4 states that does not have such a statute, and given the role DNA testing has played in exoneration of innocent but wrongly convicted people, the report says this is critical.)
- Expanding the membership and function of the state’s Forensic Science Advisory Board to include scientists and lawyers who are not prosecutors would put Massachusetts ahead of the curve nationally. (The report cites a 2008 study by the National Academy of Sciences raising serious questions about the scientific foundation of significant portions of forensic evidence admitted in courts.)
- Videotaping confessions. (Based on a 2004 decision of the Supreme Judicial Court most police departments are now recording confessions of suspects. The number of departments who are doing videotapes rather than just audiotapes is still in the minority. But the experience of those departments who are videotaping demonstrates that the evidence obtained is more effective because there is absolutely no doubt about what is happening, and there is nothing more powerful in a courtroom than a videotaped confession.)
November 2006: The Boston Bar Association joined with The Association of the Bar of the City of New York, the Beverly Hills Bar Association, the Los Angeles County Bar Association and The Bar Association of San Francisco in filing an amicus brief in American Civil Liberties Union, Et Al. v. National Security Agency, et al., a case now pending before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit. The brief urges the Court of Appeals in Cincinnati to affirm a lower court ruling that permanently enjoined the National Security Administration's warrantless surveillance program.
September 2005: The Boston Bar Association was one of a number of organizations which signed on to an amicus brief in United States v. Darryl Green. In addition the BBA drafted a petition to the U.S. District Court for the District of Massachusetts urging the Court to revise its jury plan to remedy the under-representation of minorities in the federal jury pool.
June 2005: Boston Bar Association President-Elect Edward P. Leibensperger testified before the Massachusetts Legislature's Joint Committee on the Judiciary, urging the defeat of all bills related to reinstating capital punishment in Massachusetts.
September 2002: The Boston Bar Association filed an amicus brief in Goodridge v. Department of Public Health in support of gay marriage as a civil rights issue stating that discrimination against gays and lesbians is unacceptable and unconstitutional.
Four times a year (Winter, Spring, Summer, Fall) the Boston Bar Association publishes a magazine called the Boston Bar Journal. The Journal is an online publication managed by a volunteer Board of Editors that presents timely information, analysis, and opinions in articles written by attorneys, judges, and others interested in the development of the law. The Journal is free to all Boston Bar Association members, and available as well to paid subscribers.
The Boston Bar Association also publishes BBA Week, a weekly e-newsletter that provides information on pro bono and public service opportunities, updates from law firms and the state and federal courts, previews of upcoming legal education programs and special events, and photo albums.
In addition, the Boston Bar Association's Sections and Committees publish E-newsletters.
The Boston Bar Association's two largest annual events are its Annual Meeting Luncheon in September, and its Law Day Dinner in May, both of which typically draw up to 1,500 lawyers and judges and feature prominent keynote speakers.
Annual Meeting Luncheon keynote speakers have included:
- John Mortimer (1991)
- William Safire (1992)
- Mort Zuckerman (1993)
- Carl Rowan (1994)
- Warren Rudman (1995)
- Jonathan Kozol (1996)
- James P. Carroll (1997)
- David Halberstam (1998)
- Eileen McNamara (2000)
- Joe Klein (2002)
- Linda Greenhouse (2003)
- Emily Rooney (2004)
- Rosabeth Moss Kanter (2006)
- Neal Katyal (2007)
- Jeffrey Sachs (2008)
- John Payton (2009)
- Michael C. Dorf (2010)
- Charles Ogletree (2011)
Law Day Dinner keynote speakers have included:
- Arthur R. Miller (1991)
- Justice Harry Blackmun (1992)
- John le Carré (1993)
- Matthew V. Storin (1994)
- Judge A. Leon Higginbotham, Jr. (1995)
- Justice Stephen Breyer (1996)
- Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist (1997)
- Judge Patricia McGowan Wald (1998)
- Judge Constance Baker Motley (1999)
- Marvin Kalb (2000)
- Susan Estrich (2001)
- Justice Anthony Kennedy (2002)
- Judge Guido Calabresi (2003)
- Judge Barrington Daniels Parker, Jr. (2004)
- Jamie Gorelick (2005)
- Harold Koh (2006)
- Deval Patrick (2007)
- Cass Sunstein (2008)
- Congressman Barney Frank (2009)
- Dr. Carol Johnson (2010)
- Martha Minow (2011)
- Michael Sandel (2012)
Service to the community
The Boston Bar Association has established public service programs utilizing lawyer volunteers. Among these programs are:
- The M. Ellen Carpenter Financial Literacy Program - co-sponsored by the U.S. Bankruptcy Court for Massachusetts – designed to teach high school students about budgeting, making sound credit choices and avoiding bankruptcy.
- The Boston Bar Association Summer Jobs Program – conducted in partnership with the Boston Public Schools, the Boston Youth Fund, and the Boston Private Industry Council, it places juniors and seniors from Boston's public high schools in paid summer internships at Boston law firms, corporate law departments, and law-related public agencies.
- The Lawyer-for-the-Day Project at the Boston Housing Court – provides pro bono lawyers to assist unrepresented tenants and landlords on summary process day.
- The Volunteer Lawyers Project of the Boston Bar Association – provides pro bono civil legal assistance to low-income clients.
- President: James D. Smeallie, Holland & Knight LLP
- President-Elect: Paul T. Dacier, EMC Corporation
- Vice-President: Julia Huston, Foley Hoag LLP
- Treasurer: Wayne Kennard, WilmerHale
- Secretary: Lisa Arrowood, Arrowood Peters
Notable Boston Bar Association Past Presidents have included:
- John Adams (1761-1766) – 2nd President of the United States
- Ebenezer R. Hoar (1879) -- United States Attorney General, 1869-1870
- William Gaston (1880-1881) - Governor of Massachusetts, 1875-1876
- Moorfield Storey (1909-1913) – President of the American Bar Association; first President of the NAACP
- Robert W. Meserve (1963-1965) – President of the American Bar Association
- John G. Brooks (1972-1974) - President of the National Legal Aid & Defender Association and a director of the Legal Services Corporation
- John J. Curtin, Jr. (1979-1981) – President of the American Bar Association
- Gene D. Dahmen (1987-1988) – First woman to serve as President of the Boston Bar Association
- Rudolph F. Pierce (1989-1990) – First African American to serve as President of the Boston Bar Association
- Hon. Sandra L. Lynch (1992-1993) – First woman to serve as chief judge of the United States Court of Appeals for the First Circuit
- Hon. Margaret H. Marshall (1991-1992) – First woman Chief Justice of the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court
- Joan A. Lukey (2000-2001) - First woman President of the American College of Trial Lawyers.
- The Boston Globe : "In 1992, young adults carried almost $1,500 on their credit cards. By 2001, their debt grew to nearly $3,000"
- The Boston Globe : "A crash course in credit"
- The Boston Globe: "Few chances for lawyers to develop trial skills"