f/k/a . . . the archives

August 11, 2004

blurbs on Mass. Bar Advocates

Filed under: — David Giacalone @ 12:55 pm

- – below you will find a collection of f/k/a/… “one breath punditry” blurbs on the assigned counsel, or Bar Advocate, fee crisis in Massachusetts

. .  For summaries and links explaining why the Editor of this weblog believes the bar advocate boycotts to be unlawful and unethical, click here.
Aug. 12, 2005
Massachusetts Lawyers’ Weekly has a wrap-up of the new pay-raise law,
with quotes from many of the interested parties.  See “Bar advocates return
in droves, crisis averted: Legislature passes pay-raise bill”  (by Tony Wright,
Aug. 8, 2005).   Also, in a letter to the MLW editor, attorney Deborah Sirotkin-
Butler advises a “wait and see” approach to the new legislation.
Aug. 8, 2005
Champion Magazine, the journal of the National association of Criminal

Defense Lawyers, has an article in its August edition, entitled “Lawyers on Strike —
Beware the Antitrust Laws,” by Malia Brink, which is now (ironically) posted at the
Bristol County Bar Advocates website, here.   I’m heartened to see that a criminal
defense lawyer who looks at the issues in good faith can understand the antitrust
problems that I have been pointing out to the Massachusetts folk for over two years.
July 29, 2005

Yesterday, the Massachusetts legislature passed and sent to the Governor an assigned
counsel bill that followed closely the House version of assigned counsel fee reform. 
Legislature OKs raises for criminal defenders,   Daily News Tribune, by Emelie Rutherford,
July 29, 2005).  The bill, which was signed into law today by Lt. Gov. Kerry Healey (Gov. Mitt,
Romney is on vacation) will.  Scroll to the July 29, 2005 update to this post for more details.

July 27, 2005
Mass. high court justice refuses to order the Legislature to raise assigned
counsel fees.  See “Lawyers granted time on pay dispute,” by Dan Ring,
Springfield Republican (July 27, 2005). Excerpt:
“An associate justice on the state’s highest court yesterday said
the state Legislature should receive more time to approve higher
hourly pay for private lawyers for the poor and resolve a crisis that
started last year in Hampden County.
“During a conference on a lawsuit that seeks increased hourly pay
for the court-appointed lawyers, Associate Justice John M. Greaney
also said it was unlikely the Supreme Judicial Court would order
lawmakers to appropriate money to settle the dispute since legislators
are making progress.” 
July 23, 2005
An 81% raise in the  past two years is not enough for Massachusetts
Bar Advocates.  See Does “Bar Advocate” equal “Greedy Lawyer”? for extensive
commentary, with excerpts and links from prior posts.
June 9, 2005
potluck
Many Massachusetts Bar Advocates have no shame: they are willing to 

publically break the antitrust laws, and disrupt the judicial process, in order
to coerce the State to raise their assigned counsel fees.  Some of them have
started another per se illegal joint boycott, refusing to take cases of indigents
charged with murder. (see Boston Globe article, June 8, 2005).  They’ve been
egging themselves on, at their Yahoo Group website, since April — talking
about taking “summer vacations” again (like last year’s boycotts), with the chant
of “NNC!” (“No New Cases!”).  Sadly, the Massachusetts antitrust law does
not apply to regulated professions.  However, the Bar Advocate conduct here 
clearly falls within FTC v. Superior Court Trial Lawyers Assn. (493 U.S. 411,
1990), and the recent FTC Clark County [WA] Lawyers matter.   Indeed, group
boycotts aimed at raising prices are criminal offenses under the Sherman Act.  If
the FTC or the Department of Justice do not take action very soon, I hope some
antitrust plaintiffs’ lawyers will take on this case on behalf of the taxpayers of
Massachusetts. 
  • Last year’s boycott got the Bar Advocates a 25% fee hike. 
    A major Legislative Report, in April, recommended 50% more
    over three years. [see post]  The Bar Advocates want more, now.
  • We’ve been covering this topic for the past two years. See, e.g.,
    here and here.
April 4, 2005
April 2, 2005
March 21, 2005
House Majority Leader John Rogers, the head of a commission studying indigent legal
services in Massachusetts said today that the Commission – which is expected to issue
its report next week – will recommend another payhike for private lawyers who represent
the poor. (details here, from Boston Herald, March 21, 2005) 
Feb. 18, 2005 
What does it mean that one-third of Massachussetts legislators are lawyers,
but Massachusetts Bar Advocates went 25 years without a pay raise?
December 14, 2004
On December 13, 2004 — the Massachusetts Association of Court Appointed Attorneys made a formal
submission to the Legislative Commission studying the court-appointed situation in Massachusetts.  You c
an access the comprehensive report, including a summary and bibliograhy, here.
Nov. 29, 2004
Two of the biggest lawyer groups in Massachusetts are “challenging a ruling that allows judges in Hampden County to force attorneys to represent the poor in criminal cases.”  (AP/Boston Herald, Legal groups challenge judges’ right to force them to take cases,  Nov. 29, 2004)  Fuller coverage in this post – mass. lawyers still looking out for #1
October 11, 2004
The Boston Globe weighs in on “Defending the Defenders” (October 8, 2004), recommending starting fees of $60 per hour for indigent defense counsel, and asserting that this “is a matter of better defending people’s constitutional rights,” rather than about public safety or badly-behaving lawyers.  We think it’s about all three.
Oct. 8, 2004
The President of UMass Dartmouth is contemplating a merger with the Southern New England School of Law, saying that the recent Bar Advocate crisis “raises the importance of public service law” and shows “a need for public-service-oriented attorneys”  in the State.  (SouthCoastToday, Oct. 8, 2004).
Sept. 15, 2004

Per The Sentinel (by Matt O’Brien, 09/15/04), Fitchburg lawyer Pauline Cormier and a half dozen other bar advocates “grudgingly began re-accepting court-appointed cases this week after a weeks-long protest failed to garner the pay hike they demanded.”  In addition,

Fitchburg lawyer Christopher Walton said he and many other lawyers are still refusing to take cases. Other lawyers were not immediately available for comment at press time Tuesday. “We’ve had meetings all along and it’s been said all along that some people are in a better position to take cases and some aren’t,” Cormier said. “There’s been no pressure … They were fine with my decision, as far as I know.”

Sept. 10, 2004
  • Mass. AG Reilly asks bar advocates to “accept cases at the new, higher rates while the commission [studying how to build a more effective public defender system] does its work.” (Boston Globe, Sept 10, 2004)
Sept. 5, 2004
  • Springfield Mass. newspaper calls on boycotting assigned counsel to start taking cases, and Legislature to find a solution, including higher pay. (Springfield Sentinel, Sept. 5, 2004).

    • “We agree that these lawyers should be paid more for their work, but their decision to simply refuse cases is only making a bad situation worse.”

    Sept. 4, 2004
  • David Feige has a thoughtful column at Slate: “Public Offenders:
    Why criminals in Massachusetts are getting out of jail free.”  He says only
    a comprehensive public defender system, not one relying so heavily on
    assigned counsel will provide adequate service.  We agree.(via Talk Left)

    August 29, 2004

  • The Commission has been appointed to study all aspects of how Massachusetts provides legal services to the poor, including the pay of assigned counsel.   It will report findings by Feb. 1. (article, Springfield Republican, Aug, 28, 2004) 
    August 28, 2004
  • Here’s my first sighting of the Massachsetts press calling the widespread refusals to take cases by “bar advocates” a “boycott” (rather than a strike or some strange coincidence) – Lawyer boycott sets wanted man free, Fitchburg Sentinel, by Matt O’Brien, Aug. 28, 2004.
    • National Law Journal has published a Letter to the Editor on the boycott, written by your Editor. [Aug. 30, 2004, subscrp. req'd, but here's my draft]
    August 24, 2004

  • Mass. bar advocate boycott:  While Hampden bar group president Bonavita sees no organized effort to get fees raised:
    •  high court Justice Spina is worried the courts will become “hostage to lawyers” who don’t like the pay.
    • Asst. AG Kehoe notes “They are … putting the squeeze on, aren’t they?  They are staying in the program, hoping the pay will go up?”
    • Ed. Note:  Sympathetic to the bar advocates, Mass. news media still refuse to use the “b” word (boycott). 
    Aug. 23, 2004
    National Law Journal covers Mass. assigned counsel crisis — forgets to say its unlawful (link via Bristol County Bar Advocate website) (Aug. 23, 2004).
    Aug. 21, 2004
    Bar advocates intensify fee boycott, resist emergency recruitment — Massachusetts Lawyers Weekly (Aug. 22, 2004)
    Aug. 18, 2004

    Faced with the bar advocate boycott, Mass. high court okays emergency assignments by courts.

    Aug. 16, 2004
    Today, Mass. Bar advocates are helping eachother refuse court emergency appointments.  Some questions for them from me here.
    Aug. 14, 2004
    We agree: Citing emergency, Mass. Judge orders lawyers to take indigent defense cases (but see angry letter to Gov. Romney from Bristol County bar group).  [indignant lawyers for indigent decry indenture!]
    Aug. 13, 2004
    Blessed are the bar advocates who keep taking cases. See MetroWest Daily News, Aug. 13, 2004.

    Speaking of indigent defense lawyers who take every case,  I’ve been much enjoying the 2002 tales Rumpole Rests His Case (by John Mortimer, narrated by Tony Britton).

    Aug. 12, 2004 p.m.
    In response to this news item, I just sent this message — Please End the Boycott — to a large group of Massachusetts assigned counsel and other interested persons.
    Aug. 12, 2004 a.m.

    In Massachusetts: “Romney blames lawyers for crisis” (masslive.com, Aug. 12, 2004)

    • “[Gov.] Romney said it’s outrageous that lawyers are willing to let criminal
      defendants go free because the lawyers believe they need a pay increase.”

    • Ed .Note: it’s not a strike, it’s a group boycott by competitors (that’s worse).

    Aug. 11, 2004
    Striking lawyers arrested!!  In India, but not in Massachusetts (despite our efforts) (As usual, May It Please the Court covers the news as only J. Craig can)  This might give Gov. Mitt ideas, though.
    Aug 10, 2004
    Accused felons freed due to (unlawful) boycott by Massachusetts lawyers.  (Boston Herald; Republican; Legal Reader)
    August 7, 2004
    “Lawyer crisis may set indigent defendants free” (Boston Herald, 08-07-04)
    Aug. 7, 2004 workman not working 
    Tom Workman, President of the Massachusetts Association of Court-Appointed Attorneys (MACAA), sent an e-mail yesterday evening, responding to my position that the boycott by Bar Advocates is unlawful and unethical.  Tom states that the “>Lavallee decision has changed the landscape, and may instead make it unethical for indigent defense counsel to take cases.  Click here to see his message and the response I posted tonight at TalkLeft.

    p.s. See the Decision and Order in the FTC’s Clark County Assigned Counsel case for a good outline of the kinds of activity that are and are not permitted when seeking higher fees.  The relevant provisions are available at this weblog by clicking Assigned Counsel Don’t’s & Do’s

    Aug. 5, 2004
    Sadly, bar advocates (assigned counsel) in Massachusetts are continuing their unlawful and unethical collective boycott.  Click here to see ethicalEsq’s letter to the editor.
    • District Court Chief Justice Lynda Connolly told the Boston Herald, “It is disturbing to me that the attorneys would put their personal interests in terms of compensation ahead of the interests of their clients.”
    “shark tiny”
    Aug 1, 2004
    With  a $7.50/hr raise will Mass. lawyers continue their illegal group boycott?[U.S.Sup.Ct/SCTLA, and FTC/Clark County]   (articles in Boston Globe, New Bedford Standard-Times, Aug. 1)  See TalkLeft; and MACAA Press Release.
    July. 29, 2004
    Mass. High Court says Lawyer Shortage Violates Defendants’ Rights — some could be released.  LaVallee v. Hampden Justices (see AP/Standard-Times)
    July 28, 2004
    One lawyer took indigent defense cases yesterday at Lynn (MA) District Court.  Can you say “illegal boycott“? (See Lynn Daily Item)
    July 20, 2004
    Mass. indigent defenders “on strike” for higher fees. (ethicalEsq frets and so should the  FTC) 
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