Nearly 600 attorneys and guests attended the NH Bar Association’s Midyear Meeting on Friday, February 21st, at the DoubleTree by Hilton in Manchester NH to participate in a day of educational sessions, award presentations and networking.
The title of this year’s meeting, “Speaking Up: Power, Peril and Politics,” examined the historical events that shaped the legal and moral compass of our nation, encouraging participants to reflect on how these events are relevant today.
“The NHBA is thrilled to have produced cutting edge MYM programs touching on legal ethics that effect everyday Americans. That’s exemplified by lawyers’ roles in Watergate and overcoming the Japanese-American internments during WWII.” remarked George R. Moore, Executive Director of the New Hampshire Bar Association.
President of the League of Women Voters of New Hampshire, Liz Tentarelli, began the day at the Gender Equality Breakfast. Tentarelli spoke to an audience of nearly one hundred about the history of women’s suffrage.
She provided a thoughtful historical timeline of the struggle for the right to vote, reminding attendees that calls for women’s equality came long before the suffrage movement in the 19th century.
“Long before the women’s suffrage movement there were calls for women’s equality,” Tentarelli began, citing Mary Wollstonecroft’s “A Vindication for the Rights of Women,” published in 1792.
After taking her audience through a lengthy history of over one hundred years of activism by such groups as the Lowell and Dover Mill Girls, Tentarelli brought the conversation back to the present.
Voting rights, she explained, did not spring, “fullblown from any particular event,” but were part of a much larger “striving for equality,” that she said continues today in the form of the Equal Rights Amendment, recently given an extension by the House of Representatives.
“Just like the suffrage fight, women are certainly in this fight for equal rights for the long haul.”
Christina Ferrari of Bernstein Shur Sawyer & Nelson, P.A. in Manchester, accepted the Philip S. Hollman Award for Gender Equality this year.
Ferrari, a member of the Litigation and Dispute Resolution, Business, and Healthcare Practice Groups, represents individuals and businesses in complex litigation matters and appeals. She is President of the New Hampshire Women’s Bar Association (NHWBA), and has been on the Board of the NHWBA since 2011.
Ferrari’s speech began by thanking the New Hampshire Bar Association and the Gender Equality Committee, her colleagues, and her husband, Tim Yarnall.
The theme of her speech was courage in the face of inequality and inequities.
“When inequity persists, and it does in our profession, despite the real strides that have been made, sitting on the fence is not enough, she said, adding, “We must get comfortable with being uncomfortable and not accepting the status quo.”
In the first educational session of the day, James D. Robenalt presented Lawyers as Whistleblowers, a look at the intrinsic details of the role that John Dean played as White House counsel during Watergate. The series of events that unfolded during Watergate brought about fundamental changes in legal ethics, requiring lawyers to “report up” and “report out” when crime or fraud cannot be stopped despite the best efforts of the lawyer.
Afternoon participants had a chance to view the American Bar Association’s Silver Gavel Award-Winning documentary, And Then They Came for Us: The Perils of Silence. Narrated by George Takei and others who were among the 120,000 Japanese Americans incarcerated during WWII, the story follows Japanese American activists as they speak out today against the Muslim registry and travel ban.
A discussion group, moderated by NHBA Board of Governors’ President, Edward D. Philpot, Jr. followed the film.
Participants fielded questions and reflected on the importance of protecting civil liberties. Echoing the sentiment of the other participants on stage, Mona Movafaghi of Drummond Woodsum & MacMahon in Manchester, said “We need to speak in a civil way and get out of the boxing ring.” Movafaghi, who has also worked on the United States’ border with Mexico, quoted Laura Bush, who has said that the detainment of children taking place there is as bad as the Japanese-American situation during WWII.
Carol Ann Conboy, who was in attendance, praised both of the afternoon programs.
“Both programs were thought provoking. There were a lot of insights and variety as well as fascinating parallels to today’s legal climate. They caused me to think about the realities, about what it means to be American.” She added that, “Our country’s ideals were sorely misused. To the extent that we think it can’t happen to us. It can happen to us. The fear that was unsupported by evidence caused the suffering. Fear over evidence.”
Pleased with the turnout, NHBA President of the Board of Governor’s, Edward D. Philpot, Jr. noted, “This program has been extremely well received and we have really captured everyone’s attention delivering a terrific and top notch program for members of the bar.”