Senator Steven Baddour
This past Thursday I attended a hearing at the Senate Judiciary Committee which was co chaired by Senator Cynthia Creem. Much of the issues before her committee related to divorce practice areas including issues related to alimony, child custody, shared parenting and others.
These are important issues that affect every family going through divorce and separation and many of these bills have been tied up in the Judiciary committee for years. On the positive side, Senator Creem has tremendous expertise in this area since she is an actively practicing divorce lawyer while she is also a State Senator. However, the fact that she is a practicing divorce lawyer also raises conflict of interest questions to the public.
The current system which encourages litigation at the expense of emotionally charged couples is to the benefit of lawyers. At the hearing, much of the testimony against changing the current system was by the Massachusetts Bar, the Boston Bar and the Woman's Bar Association, of which Senator Creem is also a member of. Many in the public, however, disagreed with the position of these various Bar Associations.
It is the members of those aforementioned Bar Associations and Senator Creem who get tremendous economic benefit from maintaining the current adversarial system. Other states have taken different approaches. Just like doctors prescribing drugs from companies who wine and dine them, considered a direct conflict of interest, a practice which the legislature has now banned.
I ask the public, how can Senator Creem prevent her personal bias and personal economic interest from not influencing her decisions on whether some of these reform bills leave her committee or not? Many in the public do think it is a direct conflict of interest for a practicing divorce lawyer to Co Chair such a committee.
It will be interesting to watch whether Senator Creem will allow out of her committee, and onto the house floor for debate, such bills that include alimony reform and shared parenting for fit parents (A ballot initiative that was supported by 86% of voters who voted on it in 2004) , bills if passed that would directly affect Senator Creems own personal income. Time will tell. The public deserves for our elected officials to not put themselves in a position of conflicts of interest.
Lets hope that despite her personal interest in these bills that she will do the right thing and allow the bills to move out of her committee for a floor debate and vote.