Posts Categorized: Public Interest Leadership Program

Access to Education in Massachusetts: The Education Project Visits PILP

Kicking off the 2017-2018 Public Leadership Interest Program (“PILP”), the PILP class dedicated the month of October to discuss current issues in access to education. On October 11, Matt Cregor, the Director of the Education Project of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights and Economic Justice*, visited the PILP class to discuss the work of the Education Project and two hot topics affecting access to education in the Commonwealth: charter schools and school discipline.

Cregor described the ongoing efforts related to charter school reform, beginning with the failed legislative efforts in the early 2010s, 2016’s Ballot Question 2, and the currently-pending case of Doe v. Peyser, argued in early October at the Supreme Judicial Court. Through all three avenues, reformers have sought to lift the statutory cap on charter schools, arguing that it “arbitrarily and unconstitutionally deprives [students not granted entry into charter schools] of the opportunity to receive an adequate public education.” Proponents of the cap, however, argue that the cap protects funding to traditional public schools, which serve more students of color, students with disabilities, and English language learners.

Cregor also described The Education Project’s focus on school discipline and its impact on access to education. The effects of school discipline are acute: just one out-of-school suspension has been found to double a student’s likelihood of dropping out of school. The Education Project is concerned by the high rates of suspensions — particularly out-of-school suspensions — used in Massachusetts public and charter schools, and the disparate use of these practices on students of color and students with disabilities. Cregor and the PILP class also discussed the state of school discipline in the Commonwealth both before and after the passage of Chapter 222, a new law effective as of 2014 to reduce reliance on out-of-school suspensions. The PILP classed also learned of ways to volunteer with The Education Project’s efforts in working to see that the law is implemented faithfully by Massachusetts schools. Attorneys can volunteer through the Lawyers’ Committee to take pro bono cases, as well as present School Discipline Know Your Rights presentations to students, parents, and community organizations.

For more information on The Education Project, please visit http://lawyerscom.org/projects/education/ 

Meeting recap provided by PILP Members Marley Ann Brumme (Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom LLP & Affiliates) and David Chorney (Donoghue Barrett & Singal).

*The Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights and Economic Justice is a 2017 grantee of the Boston Bar Foundation.

Recap: PILP Hosts Symposium on “Constitutional Battlegrounds”

Mark C. Fleming (Partner, WilmerHale), Ivan Espinoza-Madrigal (Executive Director, Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights and Economic Justice), Jack M. Beermann (Professor of Law, Boston University School of Law) and moderator Kent Greenfield (Professor of Law, Boston College Law School) discuss constitutional law and the federal government.

On Monday, nearly 100 people packed the Boston Bar Association for the culminating symposium of the Public Interest Leadership Program (PILP): Constitutional Battlegrounds: Civil Rights in a Changing Landscape. For the past year PILP has been meeting twice a month to learn about various issue areas ranging from housing discrimination to the opioid crisis and learning ways they can become involved as attorneys and leaders in their community. During the year, the class also had the opportunity to meet with judges to discuss the courts and the judicial perspective, including Chief Justice Roberto Ronquillo, Jr. and Judge Eleanor Sinnott (Boston Municipal Court).

As their final project, the class decided to hold a symposium to further the dialogue around the constitutional issues in the national spotlight. Inviting local speakers from the area familiar with constitutional law, PILP divided the event into two panels: one focusing on the recent changes in federal law and policy and the other on how states can and cannot react to changes in federal policy. Each presenter spoke about their issue area of focus, but attendees were encouraged to ask their questions to the expert panel.

PILP member Hannah Joseph (Beck Reed Riden LLP) shared a bit about her experience:

“The most rewarding aspect of being involved in PILP was hosting our end-of-the-year symposium, Constitutional Battlegrounds: Civil Rights in a Changing Landscape. The speakers – representing academia, the Commonwealth, civil rights groups, and the private sector – are experts in the area of constitutional law and shared diverse perspectives regarding key issues in today’s political climate. Similarly, the audience, comprising attorneys representing a wide variety of practice areas, was engaged and actively contributed to the discussion. It had the electricity and excitement of a town hall meeting,” she said.

PILP’s 13th class year has now ended and the 14th class is underway. If you’re an attorney who’s been practicing for less than 10 years or you’d like to recommend the program to a colleague, you can find more program information here.

Rep. Michael S. Day (State Representative, Massachusetts House of Representatives), Bessie Dewar (State Solicitor, Massachusetts Attorney General’s Office), Jessie Rossman (Staff Attorney, American Civil Liberties Union of Massachusetts), and moderator Lawrence Friedman (Professor of Law, New England School of Law) speak about the role of state governments in shaping the law of the land.

Boston Health Care for the Homeless’ SPOT Program Discussed at PILP

As concerns and discussions around the growing opioid epidemic throughout the Commonwealth and the nation continue, the Public Interest Leadership Program (PILP)recently heard a guest presentation from staff with Boston Health Care for the Homeless Program (BHCHP) to discuss their newest program, SPOT (Supportive Place for Observation and Treatment). With opioids being implicated in 81% of deaths of homeless men and women, SPOT’s primary goal is to reduce harm associated with opioid use, and ultimately help vulnerable populations gain access to treatment for substance use disorders or detoxification. PILPers heard from Cheryl Kane, R.N., and Catherine Minahan, Corporate Relations Manager, who provided information on the severity of the increase in the city’s opioid overdoses, which are magnified among people experiencing homelessness.  Kane has been with BHCHP for nearly 20 years, and explained the positive impact that SPOT has had since it was opened in April 2016, as well as the permitting, regulatory and public opinion hurdles that arose in creating the program.  In a little over a year, the SPOT program cared for nearly 500 individuals in over 3,800 encounters.

You can read more about the work of the SPOT program here.

PILP Discusses Boston’s Police Body Camera Pilot Program

As discussions around criminal justice reform continue, the Public Interest Leadership Program (PILP) recently heard from Segun Idowu, the Co-Organizer of the Boston Police Camera Action Team (BPCAT). In addition to his role with BPCAT, Idowu works at the Edward M. Kennedy Institute for the United States Senate where he is currently the Visitor Services Manager, and is the 3rd Vice-President for the Boston chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People. He helped organize BPCAT after the shooting of Michael Brown in 2014 and in September 2016, the Boston Police Commissioner announced the start of the body camera pilot program and in March, the program was extended to allow more time for data collection. BPCAT worked with community partners such as the ACLU of Massachusetts to help develop the pilot program’s policy that was adopted by the City of Boston and they continue to follow the results of the program.

You can read more about the work of BPCAT on their website.

Equality in our Democracy: Demos Vice President Visits PILP

Many Americans may take the right to vote, or run for a seat in local government, for granted. But one organization in Boston has dedicated its resources to ensuring that Americans are truly on equal footing when it comes to voter registration, representation in government and other disparities in politics stemming from socioeconomic issues.

Demos began as a think tank in 2000, and has since evolved to include a litigation component in addition to its focus on federal and state policy work. Vice President of Policy & Legal Strategies Barbara Wright said one of Demos’s priorities is to expand the options available to people looking to register to vote. Voter registration, they argue, is a responsibility that should be shared by the government and not entirely assumed by the individual voter. The importance Demos’ places on voter registration is backed by the U.S. Census Bureau’s data on the 2008 presidential election voter turnout. Many have heard that 64% of eligible voters turned up at the polls; however, nearly 90% of registered voters voted, demonstrating that once registered, citizens will exercise their right to vote.

In recent months, Demos has released publications on a wide variety of subjects related to economic inequality, including the racial wealth gap in the U.S. and the danger of being a student debtor in today’s economy. Earlier this month, Demos released a report detailing the effects of Supreme Court rulings that have altered the regulations governing election spending.

To learn more about Demos’s, work, please click here.

PILP Hears From Experts on Domestic Violence Issues

To wrap-up their meetings on domestic violence, PILP met last week with Carrie Spiros (Assistant District Attorney at the Middlesex County’s DA’s Office) and Jennifer Bolton (Senior Manager of Prevention & Education at Domestic Violence Ended). Spiros reviewed the laws guiding her office’s prosecution of domestic violence. Chapter 209A legally defines domestic violence in Massachusetts and was expanded in 2014 by Chapter 260 to include strangulation and suffocation as indicators that the abuser has a higher risk of homicide. Both Spiros and Bolton noted that if an abuser strangles their victim, they are more likely to fatally harm the victim at a later time.

Describing the work of Domestic Violence Ended (DOVE), Bolton noted that her organization and most other domestic violence organizations in the state belong to the Jane Doe Inc. coalition. The coalition works toward providing services for domestic violence victims. DOVE specifically provides shelter services, legal advocacy, counseling, community educational trainings and more. If you’re interest in the work of DOVE, you can find more information on their website: http://dovema.org/

PILP’s back-to-back sessions focusing on domestic violence fell shortly before White Ribbon Day, an initiative of Jane Doe, Inc. which encouraged men and boys to become an active part of the effort to end domestic violence. Governor Charlie Baker joined 115 communities and organizations around Massachusetts in recognizing White Ribbon Day on March 1.

Applications Open for 2017-2018 PILP Class

The Boston Bar Association is pleased to announce that it is now accepting applications for its 2017-2018 class of Public Interest Leaders. The BBA’s Public Interest Leadership Program (PILP) is a unique leadership program for new lawyers which promotes civic engagement and public service by advancing the leadership role of lawyers in service to their community, the profession and the Commonwealth. Over the past few months, Beyond the Billable has been recapping PILP’s monthly meetings. If you’d like a refresher on what they’ve been up to this year, find their stories here.

If you’re interested in the program, we invite you to join us on Monday, March 6, 2017 from 5:30 PM – 7:00 PM to learn more. PILP has four specific purposes:

  • To identify and recognize present and future leaders in the BBA and the Boston legal community.
  • To contribute to the professional and leadership development of promising young attorneys.
  • To integrate young leaders into the BBA and its public service landscape — at the same time significantly contributing to the public interest.
  • To build a powerful alumni network of lawyer leaders who by their actions demonstrate that part of being a successful lawyer is giving back to the community.
  • The information session will feature PILP alumni who will provide insight into the program, discuss the application process, reflect on their experiences, and answer questions.

If you’d like to attend on Monday, please sign up here.

To download the application, please click here. Applications are due March 31, 2017 to Cassandra Shavney, [email protected].

PILP Gets Primer on Domestic Violence Law

Last week, the Public Interest Leadership Program (PILP) heard from Mithra Merryman (Greater Boston Legal Services) and Margo Lindauer (Northeastern University School of Law) on how the legal system works to help victims of domestic violence (DV) . After reviewing the legal definitions of violence and abuse, the presenters moved to cover more specific components faced when assisting a victim of domestic violence.

Victims may request a restraining order against their abuser, which can be applied either where the victim is living or where the majority of abuse occurred. Merryman and Lindauer shared the benefits and drawbacks of both jurisdictions and discussed instances when a restraining order may not benefit the victim. Additionally, PILP heard how domestic violence cases are impacted when the victim is an immigrant. The speakers described that many DV victims are less likely to come forward if they fear deportation and that abusers will use the threat of deportation against their victims. While the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) of 1994 allows married Green Card holders to file immigrant visa petitions, unmarried immigrants are not covered by the act. The co-presenters also stressed throughout the meeting that the prevalence of domestic violence is the same across all demographics: race, age, socioeconomic status, sexual & gender orientation, etc.

If you’re interested in pro bono projects related to domestic violence, the presenters suggest looking into the below organizations*:

*All organizations listed are 2016 Grantees of the Boston Bar Foundation

PILP Meets with Juvenile Probation Officer Michael Gilraine

Rounding out the Public Interest Leadership Program’s month discussing juvenile justice, the class heard from Michael Gilraine, a juvenile probation officer at Suffolk Juvenile Court. Gilraine opened by describing the basic difference between child delinquency cases, when a juvenile is charged with a crime, and Child Requiring Assistance (CRA) cases, ones in which a child’s guardian or school files with the court on behalf of a child requiring assistance. A child may be referred to the court for a number of reasons (stubbornness, truancy, etc.) which are outlined in the Suffolk Juvenile Court’s Handbook. The Handbook also describes the various courses of action a juvenile may take after their initial meeting with a probation officer. The severity of a child’s situation generally determines the child’s plan.

Gilraine’s work is rewarding, he says. Friday is his favorite day of the week, when he visits area schools to check in with students and their teachers. He said it’s great to see when students are in school and are proud of the work they’re accomplishing.

If you’d like to work on family law issues, the Volunteer Lawyers Project of the Boston Bar Association* hosts both a Family Law Clinic and Guardianship Clinics. You can find more information on their website.

*The Volunteer Lawyers Project of the Boston Bar Association is a 2016 grantee of the Boston Bar Foundation.

PILP Kicks Off the New Year Discussing Juvenile Justice

Earlier this month, the Public Interest Leadership Program (PILP) met with Professor Francine Sherman of Boston College Law School who has been teaching Juvenile Justice and Children’s Rights & Public Policy for two decades. Professor Sherman founded and directs the Juvenile Rights Advocacy Program at BC Law and is certainly an expert on the subject, and she provided a comprehensive overview of the topic for PILP. She discussed the two approaches to juvenile justice, social welfare and social control, and the historical practices behind both concepts.

Over the past century, juvenile justice has varied from being an institutionalized system linked to criminal justice to a support system for children whose parents are unable to care for the child. More recently, from the 1990s to mid-2000s, juvenile justice took on the “do the crime, do the time” mantra and resulted in more youth entering the adult criminal justice system.  Then, Professor Sherman described the switch that’s been taking place from 2005 for juvenile justice to move back to the social welfare concept. Supreme Court cases including Roper v Simmons (2005), Graham v. Florida (2010), and Miller v. Alabama (2012), which extended Graham v. Florida all moved juvenile justice away from mirroring the adult system. Juvenile justice continues to evolve as many of laws are state/county based and after Miller v. Alabama, many states’ laws were unconstitutional. Professor Sherman also noted the movement toward “fairness” in the system and acknowledging childhood development.

Concluding, Professor Sherman noted the 3 “R’s” of supporting juveniles who’ve found themselves in the justice system: rights, remedies, and resources. From her perspective, the resources component is the most lacking. However, if you would like to support youth in need of legal aid, there are a number of organizations in the Boston area in need of volunteers and support. Two organizations Professor Sherman suggests looking into are the EdLaw Project* and Citizens for Juvenile Justice.

*The EdLaw Project’s parent organization, the Children’s Law Center of Massachusetts is a 2016 grantee of the Boston Bar Foundation.