Posts Tagged: Delivery of Legal Services Section

Learning About the Realities of Human Trafficking

A lot of the events our Sections put on at 16 Beacon are truly eye-opening, and this week’s presentation on The Realities of Human Trafficking in Massachusetts—sponsored by the Delivery of Legal Services Section and the Boston Bar Foundation, and featuring panelists from the Polaris Project—falls into that category.

The program was hosted by Lavinia Weizel of Mintz Levin, co-chair of the BBA’s Human Trafficking Committee.  You may recall reading about Lavinia—and her co-chair (and Mintz colleague) Alec Zadekin our Issue Spot blog recently, in connection with their efforts to create a streamlined process to allow defendants to vacate convictions for offenses related to their status as trafficking survivors—a proposal the BBA Council recently endorsed.  While that issue was raised during the event, the broader focus was on the various forms of sex- and labor-trafficking that are most common in Massachusetts and specific ways that attorneys can be part of the safety net for survivors.

Our first presenter was Beth Keeley, Chief of the Human Trafficking Division in the Massachusetts Attorney General’s Office and former head of the Suffolk County District Attorney’s Human Trafficking and Exploitation Bureau.  She started with some recent history on the issue, dating back to the enactment in 2000 of the federal Trafficking Victims Protection Act, which strengthened pre-existing laws.

While Massachusetts was “late to the game,” passing a state law only in 2011, Keeley argued that it’s a particularly strong law, in that—with no requirement to prove force, fraud, or coercion— it’s easier to make a case.  She also said that our statute, unlike many others, puts the focus on the trafficker/exploiter’s mens rea, rather than on the mind of the victim.

The key to enforcement, Keeley stated, is to follow a multi-disciplinary approach, with prosecutors, investigators, and victim-witness advocates all on staff at AGO, working with the State Police’s dedicated trafficking unit, the District Attorneys (many of whom also have dedicated prosecutors focusing on the problem), and social-service agencies.  Her office is able to use its statewide jurisdiction to pursue defendants across counties, treating their operations as criminal enterprises in order to maximize the impact by identifying and taking down networks.

To date, AGO has mostly gone after sex-trafficking, but they are building up their enforcement in labor-trafficking.  While the former is found most often in massage parlors, brothels, and the Web, the latter shows up in construction, domestic and cleaning work, and the service sector in general.  Still, one always needs to be mindful, in any enforcement action, of the concerns of victims.  They frequently suffer from poverty, abuse, and addiction—all factors that make people vulnerable to traffickers in the first place.  And—although the law provides them with an affirmative defense, and prosecutors, starting with AG Maura Healey, have pledged not to do so—they may be fearful of being prosecuted themselves for offenses they committed, such as sex for a fee or working without documentation.

At the same time, advocates are always striving to raise public awareness of the problem, including the role that demand plays, and exploring what else can be done beyond prosecution—educating law enforcement, holding trainings, working with labor leaders, providing pro bono representation, and advocating for enhanced funding.

We next heard from Rochelle Keyhan, who leads the Polaris Project’s strategic initiative to eliminate illicit massage business (IMB) trafficking in the US, and Francheska Loza, formerly of Foley Hoag LLP and now Polaris’s Disruption Strategies Community Organizer.  Keyhan talked more about the patterns she sees, and the 25 different types of trafficking that Polaris has identified—all of which call for distinct responses.  In the IMB sector, for example, victims tend to be older women from outside the country, often undocumented—especially from China and Korea, cultures where these activities trigger high levels of shame and self-blame, making it even more difficult to come forward to law enforcement.  They frequently fear authorities, carry high debts, lack full awareness of their rights, and are under threat from their abusers.

Two other common loci are bars and strip clubs, where an excessive cover charge may be hiding the illegal activities.  Victims there tend to be younger and come from Latin America—or US-born Latinas.  As with workers in IMB, they are usually targeted based on extreme economic need, and the networks frequently have roots in Latin America.

Labor trafficking can be found in such venues as karaoke bars and nail salons.  These cases, which are often interconnected with sex trafficking, can be easier to prosecute because victims are more willing to come forward and to reveal details to investigators.

Polaris’s disruption strategy, a focus of Loza’s work, includes research, creation of a safety net for survivors, partnership with other stakeholders, and the use of culturally-competent and trauma-informed interpreters.  It’s also critical to try to find connections among survivors, for purposes of identifying networks, since trafficking operations are generally much more sophisticated than a typical pimp’s.

The methods of control used by traffickers, which are important for people to be aware of in identifying possible operations, include:

  • isolation and confinement
  • economic coercion
  • threats directed at the victim or their family
  • intimidation and abuse, including sexual/emotional abuse

So.  Armed with all this information, what can you do to help crack down on trafficking?  Some advice from our panel:

  • Buy smarter.
    • Be suspicious of cash-only businesses, very low prices for services, or when a provider is adamant about getting a large tip.
      • Victims may be receiving little or no base compensation, making it an urgent matter that they maximize the income they generate through tips.
    • Other red flags include…
      • Excessive surveillance cameras.
      • “Body work” establishments. Massage therapists must be licensed, but using this term is a way around regulation.
    • Read online reviews:
      • Many users are up-front in describing the illegal services they’ve bought.
    • Alert someone.
      • Call the property owner, the police, municipal officials, or the Polaris hotline.
    • Call your elected representatives about making the issue a priority.
      • While you’re at it, you can ask your state legislators to support vacatur for survivors.
      • At the local level, ask about strengthening ordinances, since some cities and towns lack the authority to shut down or even investigate a business
    • Take on cases pro bono.
      • Again, you may be able to help with vacatur: Even absent the BBA-endorsed streamlined approach now under consideration in the Legislature, there exists a procedure (albeit lengthy and convoluted) to vacate convictions if the defendant was under the duress of a trafficker.

Finally, watch our Issue Spot blog for updates on the progress of vacatur legislation, and keep an eye on the BBA calendar for more events on human trafficking.

—Michael Avitzur
Government Relations Director
Boston Bar Association

Beth Keeley (Chief of the Human Trafficking Division at the Massachusetts Attorney General’s Office, far right) makes opening remarks at the event. She’s joined on the panel by Lavinia Weizel (Mintz Levin, BBA Human Trafficking Subcommittee Co-Chair, far left), Rochelle Keyhan and Francesca Loza (Polaris Project).

CEASE Network Combats Human Trafficking in Boston

Last week, representatives from Cities Empowered Against Sexual Exploitation (CEASE) – Boston spoke to attorneys on the prevalence of human trafficking in Boston. As a topic not widely discussed, it’s easy to assume human trafficking does not happen in our city. However, 14 is the average age of young women in Boston entering the sex trade and over 20,000 ads for paid sex are posted monthly in Boston alone. Lieutenant Donna Gavin (Boston Police Department) and Dhakir Warren (Demand Abolition) belong to the CEASE Network and presented these statistics along with their approach to combat demand. Through “buyer beware” campaigns, they hope to dissuade buyers, primarily older, married men with expendable income, from searching for and purchasing sex online.  Warren noted that when one sex trafficker is arrested, four more will pop up to take over the lucrative business. By curbing demand, CEASE hopes to halt the business altogether.

A recent Boston Globe article quotes Lieutenant Gavin and features a young woman whose story is like so many of those who are swept into the sex trade. For a glimpse of what’s happening in Boston, read the article here.

If you were unable to attend the program at the BBA and would like to view a video recording, please email Cassandra Shavney at [email protected].

Attorneys Pick Up Tips on How to Tackle Special Immigrant Juvenile Cases

Panelist share useful tips with attorneys who may support immigrant children in special juvenile cases.

Panelist shared useful tips to help attorneys support immigrant children in special juvenile cases.

 

Panelist Laurie Carafone (Kids in Need of Defense), Elizabeth Badger (Kids in Need of Defense), Jay McManus (Childrens Law Center of Massachusetts), and Jennifer Klein (Committee for Public Service Counsel –Somerville) gathered at the BBA last Monday to discuss special immigrant juvenile cases. The panelists shared their personal experiences and gave the attendees some advice on how they can approach similar proceedings to gain the best outcome for children involved.

Beyond the Billable reached out to Elizabeth Badger for more information. Here’s what she had to say about why she believes it’s important for attorneys and judges to educate themselves about special proceedings in immigrant juvenile cases:

“Noncitizen children appearing before the juvenile courts are often the children most in need of stability, which SIJ can provide them.  That same court proceeding to address those needs is able to provide them with the orders needed to petition for SIJ status.  However, very few families and attorneys are aware of the court’s ability to provide this relief and pathway to stabilize the children’s lives.”

Beyond the Billable Congratulates Law Day Dinner Award Recipients

The BBA Law Day Dinner is the largest annual bench-bar event in Massachusetts. Each year, the event draws over 1,300 judges, policymakers and lawyers from all sectors of the bar.

The BBA Law Day Dinner is the largest annual bench-bar event in Massachusetts. Each year, the event draws over 1,000 judges, policymakers and lawyers from all sectors of the bar.

 

The 2015 Law Day Dinner, featuring Keynote Speaker Attorney General Maura Healey, is just around the corner! As the designated public service blog of the BBA, we are particularly excited for the public service awards, which will be presented to three of our members who demonstrate an extraordinary commitment to our community.

Take a look below for more on the award-winners:

staffexecutive001The Boston Bar Association will present Barbara Mitchell, the Executive Director of Community Legal Services and Counseling Center, with the John G. Brooks Legal Services Award to honor her leadership and commitment to legal services. Barbara is a long-term member and former co-chair of the BBA’s Delivery of Legal Service Section. More recently, she has spearheaded the section’s public policy committee, weighing in on key policy discussions within the BBA.  For the past eight years, she has served as the executive director of the Community Legal Services and Counseling Center (CLSACC), a long-time grantee of the Boston Bar Foundation.

2e3cfa7Al Wallis, the Executive Director of Brown Rudnick Center for Public Interest, will receive the Thurgood Marshall Award for his leadership in public interest and corporate social responsibility. He is also a member and former co-chair of the BBA’s Delivery of Legal Service Section. Additionally, he served on the BBA Council and as a co-chair and long-term member of the Public Service Oversight Committee. In addition to his work at the BBA, he has served as legal counsel for the BBA’s Summer Jobs partner, the Boston Private Industry Council, for over a decade.

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Jack Ward, the Associate Director for Finance & Development at Greater Boston Legal Services, will receive the President’s Award for this leadership and guidance at Greater Boston Legal Services. Jack has helped the organization navigate the difficult funding environment in the wake of a decline in IOLTA funding and helped establish one of the most diversified funding bases of any legal program. He is a nationally recognized fundraising expert for legal service organizations.

Beyond the Billable congratulates and extends our gratitude to these award winners for their ongoing commitment to our community.

If you’re interested in learning more about the award winners, take a look at this recent Issue Spot post. Don’t miss the opportunity to see the honorees receive their awards in person. Click here for more information on attending the 2015 Law Day Dinner.

 

Raising Awareness on the Impact of Background Checks

 

Persis Yu, National Consumer Law Center, James Ianiri, Ianiri Law LLC, and Renay Franel, Committee for Public Counsel Services-Somerville, spoke to atendees about the impact of criminal cases and DCF records on job applications.

Persis Yu, National Consumer Law Center, James Ianiri, Ianiri Law LLC, and Renay Frankel, Committee for Public Counsel Services-Somerville, spoke to attendees about the impact of criminal cases and DCF records on job applications.

On Monday, three of the BBA’s Sections, Delivery of Legal Services, Criminal Law and Employment Law, teamed up to sponsor a panel discussion on  background checks and DFC records. Attorney James Ianiri (Ianiri Law LLC) and Persis Yu (National Consumer Law Center) shared critical information with attendees both on the importance of background checks and (perhaps most importantly) how clients can be affected by them, especially when applying for employment.

Beyond the Billable attended the program and thought our readers should take in a few key facts we found particularly notable:

  • 93 percent of companies and organizations use background checks and DCF records as tools to decide who is welcome to become a member of their staff and who is not.
  • The issue arises when companies use external third party industries to access background checks and past records.  These third party industries act as facilitators making records easily available to anyone. Over the years it has become more difficult to regulate these third party industries and ensure that they are actually doing the job right.
  • Records are often misplaced, incomplete and sometimes even inaccurate, making it very difficult for an applicant to trust the system to protect him or her from being rejected on this basis.

Special thanks to Samantha Odreman who attended the session on Beyond the Billable’s behalf.

Lynn Girton- A Champion of Justice for Those Who Might Otherwise Be Forgotten

Before a crowd of more than 1,200 people at the Boston Bar Association’s Annual Luncheon, Lynn Girton, Chief Counsel of the Volunteer Lawyers Project of the Boston Bar Association, will be awarded the John G. Brooks Legal Services Award. Lynn has been devoted her career to helping those unable to afford private counsel in civil cases.

Beyond her direct service work, Lynn has been a fixture at the BBA. Lynn was co-chair of the Delivery of Legal Services Section (DLS), is an active member of the Public Service Oversight Committee, and has been a speaker at countless training sessions. But those contributions pale in comparison to the work Lynn has done as co-chair of the DLS Active Duty Military, Family Members, and Veterans Committee.

Lynn’s commitment to Military Members and Veterans is unmatched. She was initially appointed to the BBA Committee on Legal Services for Military Personnel, Veterans and their Families in 2009. This committee worked to determine how the BBA could help soldiers who are being overwhelmed with legal issues in light of their ongoing military engagements in Iraq and Afghanistan.  The DLS Active Duty Military, Family Members, and Veterans Committee was the result of this work.

Lynn has chaired the DLS Active Duty Military, Family Members, and Veterans Committee since its inception in 2010. She has been the driving force behind aligning resources in the community to provide these soldiers and their families with the best legal resources available. But Lynn is more than just the co-chair of this committee. She is the person we call when we have a veteran in need of an attorney and don’t know where to turn. She is the resource we use when we can’t find the answer to a veteran’s questions. She is the glue and the inspiration that has us all coming back month after month to ensure that we are providing the services that these men and women deserve.

Lynn Girton leaves her mark on everything that she does. The soldiers and veterans in Greater Boston are better off today not only because of the work Lynn does, but because of the work she inspires others to do.

A Yellow Ribbon Reflection

A few weeks ago I volunteered at a Post Deployment Yellow Ribbon Event organized by the Massachusetts National Guard. These are events organized by the military to support servicemen and servicewomen preparing for or returning from deployment. The BBA Active Duty Military, Family Members & Veterans Committee attends Yellow Ribbon events to provide brief legal advice and legal resources. As the Public Service Manager at the Boston Bar Association, I had heard a lot about this project, but had yet to experience it.

It was a rainy day in May and I was running a few minutes late. As I pulled up to the Burlington Marriott I was amazed by the sheer number of military personnel in full fatigue. As I searched for the other volunteers, I zigzagged my way through a crowd consisting mostly of men who towered over me. I have no previous experience with the military, I have no friends or family who have ever served, and to say I was intimidated is an understatement.

While one volunteer manned our table, I was sent with a Retired Colonel and the other volunteer to a small board room to talk one on one with returning soldiers about their legal issues. I fielded the family law questions since that is the area of law I used to practice.

For over two hours I spoke to men who needed help and advice on their family law issues. One soldier I spoke with had his 6 year old son with him. He wanted to discuss filing for divorce; his wife had left him and the children while he was deployed. The soldier reassured his son and encouraged him to sit at the table and draw while he talked with me. As soon as the father walked away, the son ran after him and climbed into his lap.  It was obvious how much this little boy was hurting. His father left on deployment and is back but then his mother left and he had to move out of his home. I was able to provide the father with some basic information and hopefully provide him with some guidance.

In those few moments with this father and son, the sacrifices these men and women are making and the toll it is taking on their families became so clear. I heard story after story that day that broke my heart.

Volunteering at the Yellow Ribbon Event was fully outside of my comfort zone. It was a new population I had never worked with coming back from an experience I had no connection to. Although I wasn’t able to solve these men’s problems, the help I was able to provide was more than they had before walking through that door. This was an experience I will never forget, and I will definitely volunteer for another Yellow Ribbon Event.

If you are interested in learning more about Yellow Ribbon Events or any of our other programs, please contact me at [email protected].

Sonia Shah

Public Service Manager, Boston Bar Association

Sonia Shah,
BBA Public Service Manager

Memorial Day 2012: Looking Back at a Year of Legal Assistance

On Memorial Day, people throughout the Commonwealth and the country paused to remember and honor the men and women of the United States Armed Forces.  Here at Beyond the Billable, we felt compelled to look back at the initiatives created to assist the service men and women of Massachusetts by the lawyer-volunteers in our community.    

Seeking pro bono legal services for the families of troops from Massachusetts being deployed in increasing numbers for lengthy tours in Iraq and Afghanistan, the U.S. Army National Guard  approached the Boston Bar Association (BBA) in 2009. Under the leadership of then BBA President, Jack Regan,  the BBA developed an ad hoc committee to analyze the need for these services and to determine how the BBA might help.  The committee was chaired by Bill Sinnott, Corporation Counsel for the City of Boston and a retired Marine colonel, and included people with extensive military, pro bono, and/or legal services experience. After many months of reaching out to community organizations and conducting research, the committee recommended the creation of the Veterans’ Initiative and the Delivery of Legal Services Active Duty Military, Family Members & Veterans Committee.

Since then, the BBA has supported the following programs – all of which seek to address the unique legal needs of military personnel, veterans and their families. 

The Yellow Ribbon Project

Lawyer volunteers from a variety of practice areas serve as educators at Yellow Ribbon events — pre and post deployment informational sessions open to members of all five branches of the military. At the Yellow Ribbon events, BBA volunteers provide legal advice to military personnel, veterans and their families throughout the state in areas of law that include: bankruptcy, consumer debt & credit, family, financial education, labor and employment and trusts and estates.  Lawyer volunteers have also developed teaching materials and power points presented and distributed at these events.

Financial Education Veterans Initiative

Veterans and families of veterans are experiencing financial hardship brought about by deployment and the reduction in income that deployment may result.  In addition, many veterans are experiencing financial hardship for reasons relating to the current downturn in the economy.  The Yellow Ribbon Project has expanded to include a financial education outreach program.  Through the Bankruptcy Section of the BBA, lawyer volunteers provide speakers to veterans’ organizations in Massachusetts on the topic of personal finance, including managing credit and mortgage modification programs.   These programs are designed to increase the financial knowledge of servicemen and women and their families.   Members of the Section are also working with the Bankruptcy Court to reach a broader audience.

Military Legal Helpline

In December 2010, the Delivery of Legal Services Active Duty Military, Family Members & Veterans Committee created the Military Legal Helpline to connect military personnel, veterans and their families to pro bono and low fee attorneys.  This program represents a partnership of the BBA, Legal Advocacy & Resource Center (LARC), Shelter Legal Services and Volunteer Lawyers Project of the Boston Bar Association (VLP).  The Helpline is housed and operated by LARC.  Callers are referred to VLP, Shelter Legal Services and the BBA Lawyer Referral Service based on income guidelines.  

To support the Helpline, the John A. Perkins Fund of the Boston Bar Foundation provided funding for the creation of an informational brochure that is widely distributed by our partner organizations.

BBA Lawyer Referral Service Military Panels

The BBA Lawyer Referral Service is committed to serving military members, veterans, and their families. Since February 2010, BBA lawyers have assisted more than 4,500 troops and their families from MA National Guard, Marine Corps, Army, Navy and Air Reserve. The Boston Bar Lawyer Referral Service has attorneys who certify that they meet certain experience requirements and have completed specialized training to help military members, veterans, and their families with legal issues in a variety of practice areas, including Bankruptcy Law, Employment Law, Family Law, and Trusts & Estates.

To reach the BBA Lawyer Referral Service please call (617)742 0625 or (800)552-7046 Monday through Thursday, 8:30 am to 5:30 pm; Friday from 8:30 am to 5:00 pm. You can also email us at [email protected] or visit us on the web at www.bostonbarlawyer.org.

If you are interested in learning more about these projects, please contact Stephanie Lee, Public Service Programs Coordinator at [email protected].