Institute for Legislative and Governmental Affairs

Programs and Events 2003 - 2004

By Arthur D. Wolf, Director

Fall 2003

Springfield Mayoral Debate

The first mayoral debate between Attorney Charles Ryan and Senator Linda Melconian occurred on October 1. Televised live by WGBY (PBS station), Professor William Mandel and members of the press—representing the print and broadcast media—served as panelists putting questions to the candidates. Members of the student body also asked the candidates questions the public submitted, which produced lively and informative exchanges.

Eighth Annual Supreme Court Review Conference

On October 18, the Institute sponsored the Eighth Annual Supreme Court Review Conference. Professors Leora Harpaz, Arthur Leavens, Jennifer Levi, and Arthur Wolf (moderator) discussed the principal cases the Court decided during its October 2002 term. The presentations focused on decisions involving criminal law, First Amendment, sexual orientation, affirmative action, immigration, and federalism. At the conclusion of the program, the four professors explored the recent trends in the Supreme Court.

Massachusetts Appeals Court

The Massachusetts Appeals Court heard oral argument during a morning session at the School of Law in November. Honorable Charlotte Perretta (presiding), Honorable Kent Smith, and Honorable Elspeth Cypher sat for the court.The Massachusetts Appeals Court typically holds session twice a year at Western New England University. Focusing on regional cases, these so-called “hot bench” proceedings, in which judges may ask attorneys questions during oral presentations, allow our students to witness the court in action. Observing a court in session has proved to be a beneficial educational tool to assist student who may someday argue a case before the court.

Special House Subcommittee on Court Funding of Massachusetts Legislature

Last fall the Institute also hosted a legislative hearing of the Special House Subcommittee on Court Funding. In July, Speaker of the House Thomas M. Finneran appointed Representative Gale D. Candaras ’82 (D-Wilbraham), Division Leader, as the chair of the Subcommittee to examine: (1) the fiscal practices and policies of the judiciary to allocate, manage, and spend appropriations; (2) the process to develop, create, and administer the budget for the judiciary; and (3) the practice and policies for the implementation of technology, including planning, usage, and spending. The Subcommittee presented recommendations on court funding to the full House during the debate over the fiscal year 2005 budget. The Subcommittee members are Candaras (chair); House Chair of the Joint Committee on the Judiciary Representative Eugene O'Flaherty; House Majority Leader Rep. Salvatore DiMasi; and Representatives James Leary, Colleen Garry, Joseph Driscoll, John Quinn, Harold Naughton, David Torrisi, Scott Brown, Donald Humanson Jr., and Thomas George.

Continuing Legal Education Programs

The Legislative Institute, the Office of Development and Law Alumni Relations, and the Massachusetts Bar Association, together with the four western county bars, sponsored four continuing legal education programs with special rates for Western New England University School of Law graduates and students. The first seminar, "How to Handle a Residential Real Estate Closing," presented a comprehensive, step-by-step discussion of the law and practice of conducting a residential real estate closing.Our expert panel guided the participants from the offer/acceptance and "Purchase and Sale" agreement through the actual closing, offering practical advice at each step. We were privileged to have a distinguished panel composed of Attorney Dennis P. Powers ‘82, program chair and past president of the Hampden County Bar, Attorney Daniel M. Rothschild, and Dean Arthur R. Gaudio.

On November 4, we hosted the "Second Annual Western Massachusetts Recent Developments in Bankruptcy Law." Our expert panel of bankruptcy judges and practitioners provided an update on recent developments and hot issues in the bankruptcy field, including automatic stays, non-dischargeability, disqualification through debtor's conduct, dischargeability of divorce property settlements, and electronic filing in the bankruptcy court. Our distinguished faculty included: Attorney Jonathan R. Goldsmith, program chair; Honorable Joan N. Feeney, Chief Bankruptcy Judge, U.S. Bankruptcy Court; Honorable. Henry J. Boroff, U.S. Bankruptcy Court (Worcester); Attorney Lisa Van Gordon d'Errico; Attorney Jack E. Houghton Jr.; Attorney Jerry P. Katz; and Attorney Michael B. Katz.

The third CLE program, “Elder Law Basics” examined the basic rules of Medicaid eligibility, strategies to preserve assets, ways to protect the primary residence from Medicaid liens, and alternative long-term care and housing options. Our distinguished faculty was lead by Attorney Hyman G. Darling ‘76, the program chair. Attorney Carol C. Klyman ‘96 of Springfield and Attorney Michael J. Williamson from Northampton joined Chairman Darling on the panel.The fourth and final CLE program for the fall addressed consumer litigation under Chapter 93A and Chapter 176D of the Massachusetts General Laws. The program was designed to teach the latest techniques for litigating civil actions arising under these two statutory provisions. Designed for both plaintiff and defense attorneys, our panel of experts provided an overview of the most recent developments in the law and offered practice tips and pointers to help develop litigation skills in the context of 93A and 176D. Our exemplary panel included Attorney Mark J. Albano, program chair; the Honorable Kenneth P. Neiman, Magistrate Judge, U.S. District Court, Springfield; and Attorneys Paul S. Weinberg and David W. White-Lief.

Spring 2004

Joint Committee on Health Care of the Massachusetts Legislature

The Joint Committee on Health Care of the Massachusetts Legislature held a very important hearing here last April presided over by Peter Koutoujian (D-Newton), the House Chair of the Joint Committee. It heard testimony on the topic of disparities in health care treatment and resources available to Hispanic Americans. The Committee is conducting a series of oversight hearings across the state.

State Representative Gale D. Candaras '82 (D-Wilbraham), a health care advocate, cosponsored the event with the Legislative Institute. She stated: "Cuts to health care have been severe and certain groups have suffered more than others. We have to find ways to equalize accessibility to finite health care resources and try to find ways to minimize the impact uninsured populations are having on our hospitals." The Health Care Committee held hearings at the Law School in 1999 on the nursing crisis in Massachusetts hospitals.

Collaborative Law Training Seminar

The Legislative Institute and the Massachusetts Collaborative Law Council co-sponsored a two-day collaborative law practice training last April, the first such training session held in western Massachusetts. Collaborative Law is an innovative approach to law practice, in which attorneys for both parties resolve conflicts using cooperative strategies rather than adversarial techniques and litigation. The process combines both traditional and new approaches to problem solving. The Collaborative Law process uses the best features of mediation with the added security of zealous, yet rational, advocacy by an attorney. It has been applied to a wide spectrum of law such as business, employment, and family law, where it began. The training generated great enthusiasm in western Massachusetts to expand the number of collaborative lawyers in the practice.

Continuing Legal Education Programs

The first CLE of the spring term centered on probating an estate, one of the basic building blocks of a trusts and estates practice. The Legislative Institute and the Massachusetts Bar Association co-sponsored, "How to Probate an Estate" a two-part program held on consecutive Tuesdays in February. These seminars were designed to help attorneys build an estate practice on a solid foundation. The panelists focused on the nuts and bolts of estate administration and estate taxation.

Our distinguished faculty for both sessions included the program Chair Attorney Michele Feinstein of Shatz, Schwartz and Fentin, Springfield; the Honorable David M. Fuller, Hampden County Probate and Family Court; Professor Fred D. Royal Western New England University School of Law, Springfield; and Attorney Ann I. Weber of Shatz, Schwartz and Fentin, Springfield. The topics discussed in Session I included: collecting the information needed for estate administration; guiding clients through the process; processing the estate in court; taking inventory and preparing an accounting; and finalizing the estate settlement. Session II topics included: collecting the information needed to decide whether the estate is taxable; valuing the estate; preparing the estate tax return; and the recent changes to the federal estate tax laws.

The Institute also co-hosted a CLE program on family law, "Recent Developments in Family Law." The New Lawyers and Family Law Sections of the MBA and of the Berkshire, Franklin, Hampden, and Hampshire County Bar Associations co-sponsored the seminar. Our distinguished speakers reviewed important recent cases and legislation as well as addressed some of the challenging issues facing family law practitioners today. Key issues included: child support; division of assets; custody and visitation; alimony; same-sex marriages; spousal abuse cases; and jurisdiction, including PKPA, UIFSA and UCCJA/MCCJA.

Our excellent speakers included Attorney Richard D. Packenham, as program co-chair, Packenham, Schmidt & Federico, Boston; Attorney Mary Socha program co-chair, Bozenhard, Socha & Ely, West Springfield; and Honorable David G. Sacks, Hampden Probate and Family Court, Springfield.

Siena College Summer Internship Program

The Institute hosted two students from Siena College, which sponsors a unique summer program at four American law schools for its best students interested in a career in law. Amanda Chafee and Katie Donahue, officers in the Siena Pre-Law Society, graced our campus this past summer. They worked on a legislative project involving vehicular homicide, momentum to the families of victims, prosecutors, organizations such as MADD, and the general public. Their project was suggested to the Institute by Representative Gale D. Candaras '82 (D-Wilbraham). The Institute solicits project ideas throughout the year from Legislative members. At the conclusion of their internship, Amanda and Katie submitted an extensive memorandum with recommendations to Candaras for legislative action at the next session of the General Court.