Bar News - December 14, 2007
Why Not CLE Credit for Section Meetings?
The purpose of this letter is to express my concern that a committee of the New Hampshire Bar Association has chosen to essentially eliminate continuing education credit for substantive section meetings. This has been done without any member input or even general notice to the membership.
Speakers at section meetings devote significant effort to preparation, and contribute current information about issues of concern to attorneys practicing in particular areas of law in the state. Dialogue among members, and with presenting speakers, is not only informative, it is essential if members are to keep up to date on developments in their field of interest. Formal CLE programs cannot by their very nature, accomplish this end. I belong to both the Environmental Law Section and the Municipal Law Section. Regular CLE programs are generally relatively basic, and are necessarily limited by the need to appeal to a large audience. Section meetings can offer current substance.
Requiring a $25 contribution from each attendee whether seeking CLE credit or not, requiring two-months’ prior notice of the details of the presentation, all in addition to our regular section dues, is patently unreasonable. Why was this drastic change in policy never discussed in a public forum? I have seen nothing about it in the Bar News. The ramifications to sections and their members do not seem to have been considered. Certainly the sections were never consulted.
Let’s go back to square one and find a reasonable resolution to the perceived problems presented by section meeting CLE, and not throw out the baby with the bath water.
Carolyn W. Baldwin
Health Law CLE Cause for Concern?
I have learned to love the CLE requirement, as opposed to regarding it as a vehicle for featherbedding at the Bar Association, by treating continuing legal education as an opportunity for self-enrichment. In other words, I like to register for CLE programs that look intriguing but have no plausible relationship to my day job in the field of public utility law.
It was in that spirit that I attended the Bar Association’s “Health Law Update” on November 7. I figured it would be interesting as well as useful to me since I am an occasional medical patient myself as well as the spouse of a physician, a board member at the Concord Feminist Health Center and the father of a little girl with cystic fibrosis. In the latter capacity, I serve on the family advisory boards of both the hospital that treats my daughter and the hospital’s cystic fibrosis center.
The “Health Law Update” was indeed useful, until it turned inappropriate and mean. I refer to the Bar Association’s decision to invite a lawyer who specializes in union busting to visit New Hampshire from another state to join the program faculty. Although his talk was labeled simply “unionization of health care workers” on the agenda, this attorney was there to advise the assembled health care lawyers on how their clients can “combat” – that’s the word he used, “combat” – union organizing drives at their facilities, particularly among nurses.
I well understand that essentially every New Hampshire attorney who specializes in health care law represents hospitals and other providers that face serious challenges when it comes to labor costs. I cannot quibble with teaching those lawyers about how their clients can comply with the National Labor Relations Act, and other applicable labor law, when there is a union organizing drive in their workplaces.
What was offensive about the lawyer’s presentation was his assumption that every health care employer would automatically and vigorously oppose the unionization of its staff. In these circumstances, fairness demanded a countervailing presentation from a pro-union attorney who could point out how a health care employer might forge an effective working partnership with a union, so that the facility’s medical outcomes and fiscal soundness actually improve with the arrival of the labor organization. Believe it or not, there are unions out there that understand that such a partnership model is the appropriate one for labor organizations representing nurses and other professionals – and, indeed, that the combative approach used to unionize factories in the 20th Century is no longer effective.
The experience of listening to a union-busting talk sponsored by the Bar Association, which because of our state’s unified bar carries a whiff of state imprimatur, made me think of the bacterium Clostridium dificile and the symptom most commonly associated with it. It’s not uncommon for patients to succumb to C. dificile while in the hospital, because it flourishes in the intestines of people whose normal gut flora have been eradicated by antibiotics. The results are, to say the least, unpleasant, particularly for those squeamish about bodily fluids.
Actually, I wasn’t thinking so much of C. dificile itself but, rather, about my daughter’s experience of the bug when she had to spend ten days in the hospital, on IV antibiotics, as a three-year-old. I have a vivid memory of a kind nurse named Jean, taking extra time, for several days on end, to bring my daughter into the bathroom and, with a gentle and loving touch, clean up and comfort my poor little girl, who was way too young to understand why she had to suffer with such iatrogenic misery.
Having watched all that in a state of deep gratitude, I cannot imagine myself trying to “combat” a decision by nurses to unionize. In fact, I find myself wondering whether such efforts might help rather than hinder the cause of my healthcare-dependent family. As someone who has on numerous occasions consigned to the good care of nurses all that is precious to me in life, I feel compelled to state publicly that for the Bar Association to throw its good name behind the cause of preventing health care professionals from unionizing is utterly unconscionable.
Donald M. Kreis
Health Law CLE Designed to Educate Only
I write in response to a letter to the editor authored by Atty. Donald Kreis concerning the November 2007, Health Law Update, CLE, co-sponsored by the Health Law Section of the New Hampshire Bar Association and the NH-VT Healthcare Financial Management Association. I was both the moderator of the CLE as well as a presenter.
First, I want to second Attorney Kreis’s comments that the CLE was well-attended, interesting and useful. The faculty, as usual, was a well-prepared group of informed, inspired and experienced attorneys who represent the state, health care practitioners and providers and employers on a wide range of issues from fraud and abuse compliance, state licensing and certificate of need regulations, immigration, employment law, to physician anti-referral regulations and more. Attendees were also educated at lunch by a compelling lunch presentation by former and current presidents of the New Hampshire Medical Society on health care reform.
To the extent Attorney Kreis did not appreciate the presentation on unionization of hospitals, I apologize. This presentation by a Vermont employment lawyer was both current and informative, and not ever intended to be biased, or to represent the opinions of the Bar Association. The brief presentation was meant to inform the audience, primarily health care law practitioners and hospital or practice administrators, on the legal parameters governing organized labor relations and their workforces–which I believe it did.
As always, Attorney Kreis’s suggestions to ensure that all sides of a legal issue are fully vetted are appreciated.
Supreme Court On-the-Road Helps Inform Citizens
I was delighted to read about and see pictures of the New Hampshire Supreme Court having sessions on the road, in Bow. As a New Hampshire legislator in the House of Representatives serving on the Judiciary Committee for over ten years, I have had a unique opportunity to understand how citizens throughout our state perceive the judicial branch and judges serving in the branch.
I estimate that less than half the citizens know a district court judge, fewer, very few, know a superior court judge, but none, unless they have a case on appeal, know or have ever seen a Supreme Court judge or understand our highest court. To the citizens the justices and the function of the court are nebulous, and thus they lack trust in the court. For this reason I commend Justice Broderick for bringing the Supreme Court to the people by holding sessions outside Concord. Let the public experience a Supreme Court session. Doubtless, from their own experience, they will come away knowing that our five justices are competent, courteous and sincere New Hampshire professionals who are trying their best to serve the state. This practice brings heart and soul to the function.
I encourage the court to keep having sessions outside Concord. The people should have a better understanding of the judicial branch; just as they have of the executive and legislative branch.
Robert H. Rowe
House of Representatives, Amherst and Milford
Rule of Law in US also Faces Threats
As an attorney, I watched with intense admiration as thousands of Pakistan’s lawyers took to the streets and placed their careers and their lives on the line in support of the rule of law in Pakistan. While the attack by Pervez Musharraf on the judiciary and the constitutional rule of law in Pakistan was very open and obvious, the attacks on our own judiciary and constitutional rule of law are no less real or less dangerous.
We have witnessed many obvious threats to our Constitution and the rule of law in the past six years: the atrocious action of the US Supreme Court in essentially appointing George Bush to the presidency without one justice signing the opinion, the adoption of the USA PATRIOT Act, the illegal and unconstitutional wiretapping of US citizens, the operation of the prison at Guantanamo Bay, the torture of prisoners presumed guilty without trial, illegal renditions of foreign citizens for the purpose of torture, the illegal invasions and subsequent occupations of Afghanistan and Iraq, to George Bush’s signing statements that essentially ignore laws enacted by the Congress. I have been disappointed that far too few of my brothers and sisters in the bar have come forward to forcefully argue against these clear threats to the rule of law in the United States and in our relations with our neighbors in the world at large. There have been notable exceptions: those attorneys representing Guantanamo prisoners pro bono, military lawyers standing up to their superiors when they believed their clients’ rights were being trampled, and some who have attempted to stop wars in court.
I would hope that attorneys everywhere would keep a closer eye on these usurpations of Constitutional authority, and be willing to take all necessary actions, including actions similar to our brave brothers and sisters in Pakistan, to assure the continued supremacy and vitality of the document upon which this republic is founded.
Richard J. de Seve