Daily Archives: Thursday, October 2, 2014

Gearing Up for Pro Bono Month with Housing Court GAL Training

Joe Ann Smith (Boston Housing Court), Hon. Jeffrey Winik (Boston Housing Court), and Catherine Downing (Law Office of Catherine F. Downing and Associates) walked attendees through everything they need to know to become a GAL in the Boston Housing Court.

Joe Ann Smith (Boston Housing Court), Hon. Jeffrey Winik (Boston Housing Court), and Catherine Downing (Law Office of Catherine F. Downing and Associates) walked attendees through everything they need to know to become a GAL in the Boston Housing Court.

You’re probably familiar with the BBA’s work with the Boston Housing Court (see this post and this post), but we hosted a new training on Monday evening on what you need to know to become a Guardian-ad-Litem (GAL) in the Housing Court. If you’re wondering what a GAL does, we have you covered. As a certified GAL for the Housing Court, judges appoint you to assist clients who have cognitive or mental health issues that make it difficult for them to navigate the court system.

Beyond the Billable checked in with one of the panelists, Catherine Downing (Law Office of Catherine F. Downing and Associates), to learn more about the training. Here’s what she had to say:

What do you hope attendees learned at the training

“The real human perspective of the value of serving in this role, including the fact that you have the awesome power and responsibility of making decisions that will impact another’s life, including the decision whether they can remain in their homes.  I hoped that I encouraged prospective Guardians to try to think creatively in order to help persons in desperate straits, helping them to locate resources and reconnect with their formal and informal support network, including family members and friends who may have become estranged.  By suggesting best practices for them, I wanted to give them a structure in which to do this good work. “

Why should attorneys volunteer as GALs in the Housing Court? 

When I am asked why I take appointments as a GAL, I always return to what I was taught when I was younger: for those to whom much has been given, much is expected to be returned.  Serving as a Guardian ad Litem allows attorneys to take the skills that we would normally use to litigate and allows us to use them to benefit those most in need: the people with mental challenges that are easily overwhelmed by the court system.  Knowing that I have helped some of these people reconnect with their estranged families, helped them to obtain resources to address their sometimes multi-layered issues so that they can either stay in their current home or they can find better alternative housing.  At the end of the day, having done this work, those attorneys who serve in this role will learn, from the heart, that they have served justice, and that they have served it well.”