Opening Remarks by MACDL President Max Stern
Welcome all to our Winter Meeting in what we believe to be our 34th year. We are not certain about our age because we actually started only as a glimmer in Harvey Silverglate’s eye, then graduating to corners of his and Andy Good’s desks, and we can’t be sure about precisely when that glimmer first appeared. But we know that we are now approaching middle age.
There are those who think that the concept of an association of criminal defense is an oxymoron, since criminal lawyers are such unreconstructed individualists. And it is true that defense lawyers tend to be opinionated, stubborn, and hard to satisfy, and as different from each other as are their clients. But we have found an overriding common interest in the need to advance the shared concerns of our profession and, more importantly, to safeguard to rights of our clients. Outside as well as inside the courthouse, the cause of our clients will not be heard without our voice. We stand for a fair, just and humane criminal justice system, and by engaging in that form of advocacy we stand in the shoes of generations of our forebears, from John Adams forward.
Let me tell you a little bit about what we are doing now to achieve this goal:
We are at the state house, led by our legislative committee, chaired by Liza Lunt and Marty Rosenthal. We have two urgent matters of concern there. First, there is the “three strikes” legislation, along with several other bundled repressive measures, which if passed will vastly increase the Massachusetts prison population. Sadly, we are fighting a rear guard action on this issue. On the positive side, however, we are supporting a bill eliminating juvenile life without parole, and legislation is advancing. Please access the information from our website and help us in this effort.
We have an active amicus committee, chaired by Peter Krupp, which files briefs in the SJC on all issues of vital concern, with a good deal of success.
Our nominees are serving on various official committees and commissions appointed by the SJC and the legislature. Jim Doyle is our representative to the new SJC Eyewitness Identification Study Group. Patty Garin is our representative to the Special Commission to Study the Commonwealth’s Criminal Justice System. Bruce Ferg has been appointed on our recommendation to the SJC Standing Advisory Committee on the Rules of Criminal Procedure.
We are enhancing our professional skills. Lenore Glaser chairs the CLE committee, which will be holding a seminar on forensics in April, and our yearly post-conviction seminar in June. In conjunction with the Young Lawyers Division, chaired by McKenzie Webster, the committee has been holding a series of Happy Hour CLE’s on a variety of topics. At these sessions, you can get refreshed in every respect.
Our Lawyers’ Assistance Strike Force – led by Victoria Kelleher – continues to defend members who are in trouble because of their zealous advocacy for their clients.
We have just started a new federal practice committee, chaired by Tracy Miner and Joe Savage, where there is plenty of room for participation.
And we are hard at work on increasing our membership so that we can strengthen our voice where we are working now, and make it heard in places where it is not, yet.
Tonight, our honorees and our speaker represent the three indispensable components of a humane justice system.
First, thorough, persuasive, and relentless advocacy. Stephanie Page. Stephanie represented the “dominatrix” whose client died during a consultation in which he was strapped to a rack, with a hood over his head, and a collar around his throat. His dismembered body was found in a dumpster. Those were the undisputed facts. The defendant was acquitted of all charges. Stephanie has done a lot of other things, but what else do you need to know about the quality of her advocacy?
The second component is a decision-maker who will listen to defense advocacy with an open mind, will hear it, and who will judge the persons who come before him with empathy, compassion, and the courage to do the right thing. That is and always has been Judge Michael Ponsor, who has also not been bashful at speaking out publicly against injustice, as he did against the death penalty.
The third element is humane law. Marsha Levick has spent her career crafting and arguing and gaining acceptance for the legal doctrines which will make the criminal justice system understand and treat juveniles as the children they really are. She has had extraordinary success in that effort, from the Supreme Court on down.
I especially welcome Judge Ponsor’s present and former colleagues on the federal bench.
And I extend a special welcome to all our new members, all of whom are urged to get involved in the work of our organization.