The BBA had another year full of public service. For a look back at our members’ work in the community, take a look at the photos below:
The BBA had another year full of public service. For a look back at our members’ work in the community, take a look at the photos below:
Each year the Boston Bar Foundation grants funding to a number of legal service organizations that provide access to justice for those in our community who need it most. With the Adams Benefit fast approaching, Beyond the Billable decided to check in with one of the grantees, Community Legal Services and Counseling Center (CLSACC). It turns out that one of their attorneys has recently traveled to a detention center in New Mexico to assist with women and children’s immigration cases. We reached out to Lisa Laurel Weinberg, a Political Asylum Attorney at CLSACC, to hear more about one of her recent cases. Here’s what she had to say:
What types of cases have you been working on at the Artesia Detention Center?
The Artesia Detention Center is a family detention center. The detainees who are being held there are all mothers with their children. The women are primarily from El Salvador, Honduras, and Guatemala. All of the women I spoke to were fleeing from violence. They were primarily fleeing intimate partner violence, gang violence, and in many cases – both. I successfully represented a mother and her 17 year old and 6 month old daughters who were fleeing from severe domestic violence in their political asylum case. They had an individual merits hearing, which is their trial, before a federal immigration judge.
How did you first get involved with these types of cases?
I am a political asylum lawyer at Community Legal Services and Counseling Center (CLSACC). I am also a member of the American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA). AILA put out a call to its members to request that lawyers go to Artesia on an emergency basis to help the women and children in Artesia. AILA also offered scholarships to encourage lawyers to go. As a legal services attorney, I was awarded one of the scholarships
The Artesia family detention center is in a remote desert town in New Mexico hundreds of miles from the nearest city. Detainees are not permitted to leave, so in effect they were being prevented from obtaining legal counsel. In order for the women to obtain lawyers, lawyers have to go to them. All of the immigration proceedings are held in the detention facility remotely by video teleconferencing before judges from the Executive Office of Immigration Review in Arlington Virginia (this has since been changed to Denver). Before the lawyers started arriving, the women and children were going through immigration proceedings at the Artesia facility without the benefit of legal counsel and many were being deported. Now that they have lawyers that equation has shifted and many are being released either on bond, parole, or with legal immigration status.
Please share a story from your time at the Artesia immigration detention center.
When I arrived in Artesia on Monday September first, one of the cases that I was handed was the case of a woman and her two children who had fled severe domestic violence at the hands of her spouse whose Individual Merits Hearing in their asylum case was going to be held in one week on September 8th. This is the hearing before a federal immigration judge on the merits of her political asylum claim where it is decided whether she has a well-founded fear of persecution on a protected ground and can remain legally in the United States as a refugee. If she was not successful in her claim, she and her children would be ordered removed (deported) from the United States. It was a week away from her hearing and she did not have an attorney to represent her. I met the client (with my colleague from CLSACC paralegal/BIA Accredited representative Karen Bobadilla) the next day and we realized the case submissions had to be put together in two days in order to arrive in Arlington Virginia by the Friday deadline and the client had to be prepared to testify by the following Monday. To put it in context, outside the facility, political asylum cases before an immigration judge can take months or even years to prepare. The isolation of the facility, the forced isolation of the women and children, and the expedited process meant that I could not obtain evidence that is standard in political asylum cases such as evaluations by a doctor and a mental health professional or any affidavits from people who witnessed the abuse. After a 4 hour video hearing in the facility the case was continued because the judge wanted to hear from an expert. We came back to Boston and secured the expert on Domestic Violence in Honduras and two weeks later Ms. Bobadilla and I flew down to Arlington Virginia to finish the case. The expert testified for almost two hours and then after closing arguments the judge granted the case.
This year marks Greater Boston Legal Services’ 15th year as a BBA sponsor organization. The BBA and GBLS have teamed up for years to train attorneys to take pro bono cases and recruit volunteers. Case in point – today the BBA and GBLS are joining forces to host a CORI training to help clients from Roxbury, Dorchester, and other low-income Boston communities to seal their records and break the cycle of poverty. Later this month, we will host a training for the BBA Lawyer for the Day in the Housing Court Program, and GBLS is one of the legal services organizations whose partnership makes the program possible.
However, the BBA GBLS relationship goes far beyond programs and trainings. GBLS staff members are active members of the BBA leadership and we often call upon GBLS to weigh in on challenging policy recommendations. Furthermore, the Boston Bar Foundation supports GBLS through grant funding.
But you’ve probably heard enough about our partnership from us, so we reached out to Jacquelynne Bowman, the Executive Director of GBLS, to hear more about the relationship from GBLS’ point of view. Here’s what she has to say:
“GBLS’ longstanding partnership with the BBA has had some major impacts on the delivery of legal services in the community! First, you go back to 1900 when a significant percentage of BBA council members created the Boston Legal Aid Society, GBLS’ predecessor, then journey through the years of significant support in favor of legal aid against federal funding cuts to the leadership today in supporting increased funding for legal aid all resulting in thousands of clients who would not otherwise have access to justice, getting it. BBA membership for our staff has resulted in:
We look forward to many more years of collaboration with GBLS.
October 1st means one thing—Pro Bono Month has officially kicked off! If you’re not familiar with Pro Bono Month, here’s the deal: Each year Governor Deval Patrick issues a proclamation naming October Pro Bono Month (you can read last year’s version here). With the help of the Courts and our Boston Bar Foundation Grantees, we’ve put together a calendar packed full of pro bono trainings to prepare you to get involved in the community.
Don’t waste any time—the events begin this week! Take a look below for some highlights:
October 9th 3:00 to 6:00 pm
The BBA is teaming up with Greater Boston Legal Services to train attorneys to help clients from Roxbury, Dorchester and other low-income Boston communities to seal their records and break the cycle of poverty and unemployment.
Pro Bono Recruitment Fair & Open House at Suffolk University
October 20th 4:30 to 6:30 pm
This event, sponsored by the Boston Bar Association and Suffolk University Law School, allows attorneys and law students to meet representatives from local legal services organizations and to learn more about the pro bono opportunities in our community.
October 28th 3:00 to 6:00 pm
This training will prepare attorneys to work with pro se landlords and tenants through the BBA Lawyer for the Day in the Boston Housing Court Program.
Representing Survivors of Human Trafficking: An Introduction for Attorneys
October 29th 4:00 to 6:00 pm
Join an expert panel who will walk you through two human trafficking case studies, highlighting common challenges and identifying helpful resources to keep in mind when representing clients.
There are many more events and trainings planned this October. See the full Pro Bono Month calendar here.
Click here to view the full list of events.
With the end of summer in sight, we are taking the opportunity to catch up with Summer Jobs students funded by the Boston Bar Foundation. You’ve already heard where the 14 BBF students are working this summer, but we wanted to offer our loyal readers a closer look at what they have been working on this summer. Take a look below to hear about three of the interns’ current projects and their takeaways from their internships so far.
Student: Alexandra Suazo
Employer: Massachusetts Department of Labor
Job Responsibilities: While working at the Department of Labor Alexandra has concentrated on several different projects. One of her first projects was to identify and sort records in accordance with the Statewide Record Retention Schedule. She has also been focused on improving the agency’s webpage by updating information and adding links to resources. Her most recent project included making the website more accessible to reading-impaired constituents. At her internship, Alexandra also got to witness Massachusetts history when she witnessed the Governor signing the Domestic Workers Bill of Rights.
Alexandra says: “This has been a great experience, something that I won’t hesitate to do again if I was given the option. Seeing the Governor sign a bill was something that I never thought would have happened. I found it very interesting how he signed the bill with about 20 different pens then he handed them out!”
Student: Cesaltina Barros
Employer: Committee for Public Counsel Services – Palmer Street Roxbury
Job Responsibilities: Cesaltina’s experience at the Committee for Public Counsel Services has centered on criminal cases. She has been responsible for opening and closing criminal cases, handling database work, drafting subpoenas, scanning police reports, operating the switchboard, and much more. Tina has also had the opportunity to attend court sessions, and observe criminal justice in action.
Cesaltina says: “I like learning about the criminal cases. I like to talk to people and get to know new cases and new things that I never thought people would do. I also go to court and I love that. It’s exciting because of the way they speak to each other and the way they try to express things.”
Student: Hannah Givertz
Employer: U.S. Federal District Court for the District of Massachusetts
Job Responsibilities: At the U.S. District Court, Hannah has been observing court cases, cataloging and organizing files, and editing memos. Hannah is also the coordinator for the Ward Fellowship where she is in charge of projects, such as scheduling and confirming meetings with various public servants and organizing an annual trip to Washington D.C. In addition, she assists the Honorable Judge Mark L. Wolf by editing memos and working with law clerks.
Hannah says: “Getting to know how the courthouse runs has definitely been the highlight of my work this summer. Doing the behind-the-scenes work with the law clerks has helped me to better understand the work of a lawyer, while observing court sessions and watching the judge preside over cases has helped me to better understand the justice system.”
Stay tuned to meet the other BBF funded students.
As you may remember from this article, the Boston Bar Foundation funded 14 Boston public high school students to work in legal service and government agencies through the BBA Summer Jobs Program with the help of Boston law firms. In addition to money allocated from the Foundation itself, local firms donated to the BBF to help support a summer job. This morning, the sponsoring firms had the opportunity to hear first-hand from the students at the BBF Summer Jobs Breakfast, where the students shared stories of their experiences going to court and helping with large office projects.
The BBF would like to thank the following firms for their generous contribution to the BBA Summer Jobs Program:
Take a look below for more highlights from the morning:
While our readers know about the Boston Bar Foundation’s impact in our community, you may be less familiar with the group of people who make this work possible—the BBF’s Society of Fellows Program. The Fellows are a community of philanthropic lawyers dedicated to advancing the BBF’s mission of increasing the availability of legal help to those in need, supporting innovative legal services projects and programs, and providing meaningful ways for lawyers to connect with our community. We’ve noticed amazing growth from the Fellows Program since the beginning of this year, so we crunched some numbers to calculate how the Society of Fellows impacts the BBF.
As of today, 45 Fellows have either joined or upgraded their memberships for this year alone, pledging a total of $335,000. This support has allowed us to use fundraising revenues for specific causes. For example:
Don’t just take it from us. Hear firsthand from some of the individuals who have joined this year on why they made the decision to pledge as a Fellow:
“The BBF’s mission to support pro bono work and access to justice for Boston’s needy is so critical to us as lawyers and citizens, and I am really grateful and excited for the opportunity to work with the BBF and the Society.” – Karen M. O’Toole, Fidelity Investments
“Each day, too many of our fellow citizens must face serious legal issues – from the loss of disability benefits to eviction – while being unable to afford having a lawyer at their side. I am proud to support the Boston Bar Foundation’s mission of expanding legal service, assistance and access to all in our communities.” – Scott A. Roberts, Hirsch Roberts Weinstein LLP
“All lawyers have a professional responsibility to assist those with limited means. I admire the work of the Boston Bar Foundation and the tangible, positive impact of the Foundation in the lives of those who most need its help. I am proud and thankful to be a Junior Fellow and to assist in this work.”—Kimberly Butler-Rainen, Tamkin & Hochberg, LLP
This morning, the BBA’s Claflin Center was abuzz with Summer Jobs students exchanging stories about their summer positions, including interesting office projects and recent courtroom experiences at the BBF Summer Jobs breakfast. Thanks to donations from a number of local law firms, the BBF increased its support of the Summer Jobs Program by funding 13 positions at nonprofit and government agencies this year. In order to celebrate this record-breaking year and the hard work of the students, the BBF hosted a celebratory breakfast to thank the firms for their donations and congratulated the students on their hard work this summer. Last week BBF students shared their favorite experience of the summer with BBA Week, and this morning they had the chance to share with those who made their summer experience possible.
The BBF would like to thank the following firms for their generous contribution to the Summer Jobs Program:
Dain Torpy, P.C.
Hemenway & Barnes LLP
Hirsch Roberts Weinstein LLP
Jackson Lewis LLP
Morrison Mahoney LLP
Here are a few highlights from the morning:
Last Thursday, BBF supporters crowded into 16 Beacon to mingle and enjoy delicious treats – featuring four chocolate fountains scattered throughout the building — at the BBF’s annual Justice Is Sweet event. With the help of the 250 attorneys who attended and the 32 firms and companies who sponsored the event, the BBF raised over $31,000 to support its charitable mission. Fundraisers like Justice is Sweet help make the BBF’s work possible – including their funding of a number of our public service programs such as the M. Ellen Carpenter Financial Literacy Program, Lawyer for the Day in the Boston Housing Court, the Summer Jobs Program, and Law Day in the Schools.
Here are a few photos in case you missed the event:
To learn more about how the BBF supports several of the BBA’s public service initiatives, please visit the BBF’s new website here.
As you may have heard, the Boston Bar Foundation has generously sponsored 13 Boston Public High School students to work at government agencies and nonprofit organizations through the BBA’s record setting Summer Jobs Program. These students will have the opportunity to gain experience in a professional setting and participate in enrichment seminars on professional development, financial literacy, and student loans. Students will head off to their first day of work on July 8th following a kickoff event with Mayor Thomas Menino at the BBA.
Check out the list of placements below:
Committee for Public Counsel Services, Palmer Roxbury
Committee for Public Counsel Services, Roxbury
Massachusetts Executive Office of Health and Human Services
Greater Boston Legal Services
Interest on Lawyer Trust Accounts
Legal Advocacy and Resource Center
Massachusetts Law Reform Institute
Suffolk County District Attorney’s Office
United States Bankruptcy Court
United States District Court
Volunteer Lawyers Project of the Boston Bar Association
To learn more about how the BBF supports the Summer Jobs Program, please visit the BBF’s new website here.
The BBF would like to thank Jackson Lewis, Hirsch Roberts Weinstein, Hemenway & Barnes, and Brennan, Dain, Le Ray, Wiest, Torpy & Garner, P.C. for their generous donations to the BBF to fund Summer Jobs positions.