Posts Tagged: Public Interest Leadership Program

Prisoners’ Legal Services Briefs PILP on Incarceration Trends and the Organization’s Work

Guest Post: Caroline Donovan (Foley Hoag), Sophia Hall (Lawyers for Civil Rights) and Susanna Jones (Foundation Medicine) are members of the BBA’s 2018-2019 Public Interest Leadership Program.

On January 7, 2019, Prisoners’ Legal Services* (“PLS”) presented to the 2018-2019 class of the BBA’s Public Interest Leadership Program (“PILP”), about current trends and PLS’s ongoing advocacy on behalf of incarcerated persons. Presenting for PLS was Executive Director Lizz Matos and Staff Attorney Jesse White. PLS is a non-profit legal organization that provides civil legal assistance to people who are incarcerated in Massachusetts state prisons, county jails and houses of correction.

By way of setting the stage, Matos shared some startling statistics, including that 22,000 people from Massachusetts are behind bars today and the rate of imprisonment has grown dramatically in the past 40 years. Furthermore, African Americans are incarcerated at a rate six times higher than their White contemporaries, and Latinos at a rate four times higher. Furthermore, Massachusetts is one of the least progressive states when it comes to parole, only granting parole in approximately 34% of cases, and having a tremendously high return rate for technical violations, rather than new criminal offenses. In 2016, for example, Massachusetts returned almost a quarter of its entire parole population to prison for technical violations.

After setting the stage, Matos and White shared some of the most recent work being managed at PLS. In terms of litigation, for example, they shared challenges with water conditions at MCI Norfolk, asbestos at MCI Framingham, and the 5-person visitor cap at Souza-Baranowski Correction Center. As for legislative work, Matos and White talked about their efforts on behalf of the Criminal Justice Reform bill, particularly as it relates to medical parole, improving the Prison Rape Elimination Act, and efforts surrounding solitary confinement. Finally, PLS shared some insight into a new project regarding the treatment of ICE detainees being held at houses of corrections.

*Prisoners’ Legal Services is a 2019 Boston Bar Foundation grant recipient.

Massachusetts Bail Fund Seeks to End Pre-Trial Incarceration by Providing Resources for Court-Appointed Counsel and their Clients

Guest Post: Caroline Donovan (Foley Hoag), Sophia Hall (Lawyers for Civil Rights) and Susanna Jones (Foundation Medicine) are members of the BBA’s 2018-2019 Public Interest Leadership Program.

On Monday, January 28, 2019, Atara Rich-Shea, the Director of Operations for the Massachusetts Bail Fund, described current bail practices in Massachusetts to members of the Boston Bar Association’s Public Interest Leadership Program and invited engagement with and support for Massachusetts Bail Fund’s efforts to eradicate the system of pre-trial incarceration.

Empirical research evidences the myriad problems of pre-trial bail. For example, as compared to individuals who can post bail, individuals who cannot post bail and are thus held pre-trial are more likely to:

  • Be convicted
  • Receive harsher sentences
  • Plead guilty

To address these and other inequities, the Massachusetts Bail Fund covers bails of $500 or less. Beyond avoiding some of the unjust outcomes described above, the posting of bail allows individuals to work, attend school, and spend time with their families while they resolve their charges.

The Massachusetts Bail Fund can provide bail of $500 or less; if the bail amount is greater than $500, the Massachusetts Bail Fund can provide up to $500 if the individual can obtain the difference in funds from other sources. Court-appointed counsel whose clients would benefit from a referral to the Massachusetts Bail Fund should go here to review the requirements and make a request.

Public Interest Leadership Program Alumni Mingle with Prospective Applicants

Earlier this week, the BBA hosted an information session and alumni reception for its Public Interest Leadership Program. The program, which now includes nearly 200 alumni, is currently seeking applicants for its 16th class. At the information session, Rich Baldwin (PILP 2016-2017, Foley Hoag) described his experience in the program as both inwardly and outwardly fulfilling. Participants in the program meet twice a month and hear from guest speakers across a variety of public interest issue areas. These presentations and conversations enrich the PILP members’ understanding of their community and introduce them to new ways to volunteer and engage with service providers in the Greater Boston area. Additionally, PILP members are each responsible for planning and executing two meetings for the class, as well as working together toward a culminating project for the year. Baldwin spoke about how this project is a significant outward facing element of the program. Each class has the opportunity to dive into a public interest issue area and educate and support their peers and the public through the project. During Baldwin’s PILP year, his class organized and held a symposium at the Boston Bar Association focusing on Constitutional Battlegrounds: Civil Rights in a Changing Landscape. After hearing from Baldwin and BBA Staff, prospective applicants were able to mingle with PILP alumni and hear their perspectives on the program.

The application for the 2019-2020 class is available to download here and is due on March 29th. Applicants must be attorneys within their first 10 years of practice, public interest minded, and able to commit to the 14-month program, beginning in June 2019. Questions about the program or application can be directed to Cassandra Shavney at [email protected]

Members of the first PILP class in 2003-2004 pose in front of the Boston Bar Association’s historic building, the Chester Harding House.

Public Interest Leadership Program Application Available Now

The Boston Bar Association is pleased to announce that it is now accepting applications for its 2019-2020 class of Public Interest Leaders. The BBA’s Public Interest Leadership Program (PILP) is a unique leadership program for new lawyers that promotes civic engagement and public service by advancing the leadership role of lawyers in service to their community, the profession, and the Commonwealth.

If you’re interested in learning more the program, we invite you to join us on Tuesday, March 12th from 5:30 PM – 7:00 PM at the BBA. 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, please register here.

Eligible applicants are BBA Members who have graduated law school within the past 10 years and demonstrate a commitment to public service and their community. The Program 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.

To download the application, please click here. Applications are due March 29, 2019  to Francine Alexandre at [email protected]

The current PILP class consists of 23 accomplished attorneys selected due to their commitment to pro bono and community service. Each accomplished in their field, they’re joining a network of nearly 200 PILP alumni who’ve gone on to serve the BBA in other capacities and carry their passion for serving the public interest into the community.

PILP Hears from ACLU’s Racial Justice Program Director

Guest Post: Janette Ekanem (Greater Boston Legal Services) is a member of the BBA’s 2018-2019 Public Interest Leadership Program.

This past fall, Rahsaan Hall, Director of the Racial Justice Program for the American Civil Liberties Union of Massachusetts, spoke to the Public Interest Leadership Program (PILP) about the history of the criminal legal system, (a term he prefers to criminal justice system) and efforts to reform the system within Massachusetts.

In Massachusetts last year, five out of eleven races for district attorney were contested and as a result, reform of the criminal legal system has been at the forefront of voters’ minds.  Attorney Hall noted that although police have power, district attorneys are the most powerful people in the criminal legal system because they decide who gets charged with a crime, and they determine how most criminal cases are resolved.  

Attorney Hall’s remarks challenged PILP participants to deeply examine the historical roots of the criminal legal system and how the history of the system has continued to further racial disparities.  PILP members learned that despite being branded as a liberal state, Massachusetts has some of the worst racial disparities in the criminal legal system when compared to other states in the country.     

The need to address these troubling disparities guided the Boston Bar’s own report on criminal justice reform released in the lead-up to the reforms made last session. You can learn more about that report, titled, No Time to Wait, here.  

Due to the renewed attention on criminal justice reform in Massachusetts, Attorney Hall urges voters to reframe how they think about the criminal legal system and use their voice for the change that they want to see within the system.

For more information on the ACLU’s Racial Justice Program, visit https://www.aclum.org/en/rahsaan-d-hall-director-racial-justice-program.

The Role of the Executive Branch in Setting Immigration Policy

Last month, the Public Interest Leadership Program (PILP) heard from Stephen Roth of Project Citizenship, concluding the month-long examination of immigration policies today. Stephen has extensive experience representing detained and non-detained immigrants undergoing removal proceedings and in family-based petitions in both New England and greater New York City. Project Citizenship* is a nonprofit agency that seeks to increase the naturalization rate in Massachusetts and beyond through free workshops and legal counseling.

Stephen offered a first-hand look at how immigration policy has changed from the Obama Administration to the Trump Administration. Specifically, under a regulation rarely invoked in the past, the U.S. Attorney General has the singular authority to refer immigration cases to himself and to then re-adjudicate them autonomously.

Upon becoming Attorney General, Jeff Sessions self-referred several cases involving previously settled law, Stephen explained. The most notorious of his decisions was Matter of A-B-, in which Sessions overturned Board of Immigration Appeals precedent, finding that “being a victim of private criminal activity” did not constitute a cognizable “particular social group” for purposes of asylum, though domestic-violence-based claims had been recognized as grounds for asylum for decades.

Stephen encouraged the PILP class to volunteer with Project Citizenship and other nonprofit organizations providing free or low-cost legal services to low-income immigrants and refugees.  Stephen further encouraged everyone to participate in notice-and-comment procedures on proposed changes to federal regulations governing asylum and other immigration procedures.

Meeting recap provided by PILP Member Genevieve Aguilar (Choate).

*Project Citizenship is a 2018 Boston Bar Foundation Grant Recipient.

PILP Learns About Employment-Based Immigration Policy and Recent Legislative Reform

In October, the Public Interest Leadership Program (PILP) heard from George Lester, Partner at Fragomen, Del Rey, Bernsen & Loewry, LLP.  George has 25 years of experience practicing in the field of U.S. immigration and nationality law, and he advises diverse U.S. and multinational companies seeking to hire foreign professionals, scientists, business persons, and artists and represents them in all procedures to obtain temporary or permanent immigration status before relevant U.S. government agencies.

With immigration playing a major role in the 2016 presidential campaign and 2018 mid-term elections, changes to U.S. immigration law and policy impact not only refugee admissions and humanitarian issues, but have significant business consequences as well.  George focused his remarks on how the federal government’s changing immigration priorities have had immediate effects on corporations dependent on high-skilled immigrant labor.

George discussed various legislative proposals to overhaul the current immigration system, their projected efficacy in addressing the current system’s shortcomings, as well as obstacles to their implementation. George also examined executive actions and reform initiatives that the Trump administration has taken or is expected to take, which do not require action from Congress.

The PILP class welcomed the opportunity to learn about an often overlooked piece of the immigration system and the impacts of recent policy changes on businesses in the U.S. George encouraged lawyers to submit public comments to proposed regulation changes which, he said, would likely have an overall detrimental effect on the U.S. economy.

Meeting recap provided by PILP Member Genevieve Aguilar (Choate).

PILP Hears from Women’s Rights Experts

In July, the PILP class heard from speakers about issues concerning women’s rights.

First, PILP met with Lauren Stiller Rikleen, founder and president of the Rikleen Institute for Strategic Leadership.  Ms. Rikleen spoke to the PILP class about the Survey of Workplace Conduct and Behavior in Law Firms, which the Rikleen Institute for Strategic Leadership developed and distributed this year in partnership with the Women’s Bar Association of Massachusetts.  Ms. Rikleen discussed the results of the survey and trends identified in participants’ responses, and the manner in which the data collected from the survey will be used to increase awareness of the range of behaviors that have negatively impacted the workplace experience of individuals working in Massachusetts law firms.  Ms. Rikleen also discussed recommendations for addressing inappropriate conduct in the workplace, and strategies for engaging people in positions of leadership and developing systems of accountability within law firms.

Next, Jamie Sabino spoke to the PILP class about reproductive justice and access to abortion for women. As an active member of Planned Parenthood since 1981, serving as Board Chair for both PPLM and the Planned Parenthood Advocacy Fund of Massachusetts, and chair for the Judicial Consent for Minors Lawyer Referral Panel, representing minors forced to seek judicial authorization for abortion, Ms. Sabino brought a wealth of experience and knowledge to the discussion around reproductive justice.  In particular, Ms. Sabino explained the legal and social history of abortion issues in Massachusetts, looking through both state and federal lenses. Ms. Sabino also discussed the current battles being fought in the reproductive justice sphere, including the threat of defunding planned parenthood through Title X and Medicaid cut-backs. Ms. Sabino encouraged PILP members to learn about and support current legislation such as the Healthy Youth Act, which would ensure that public schools in Massachusetts provide medically-accurate, age-appropriate, and LGBTQ-inclusive sex education curriculum to students.

Public Interest Leadership Program Learns about Trauma-Informed Legal Advocacy

In March, the Public Interest Leadership Program (PILP) heard from Erin Miller, Manager of the Domestic Violence/Sexual Assault Program at Newton-Wellesley Hospital. Erin Miller presented on understanding the dynamics of trauma and trauma-informed legal advocacy.

Miller addressed the neurobiology of trauma and how trauma and particularly long-term chronic trauma, can affect the brain and subsequently our clients’ behavior and presentation in court and meetings. Although Miller works specifically with survivors of domestic violence and sexual assault, her presentation was relevant to working with survivors of trauma in many different contexts.

Below are some tips and tricks Miller shared for working with clients experiencing trauma:

  • Let the client know up front how you are going to approach the meeting. Explain why you are going to ask him or her certain questions and how long the meeting will be. This way, your client can prepare for what is ahead and any triggering or personal questions you may have to ask.
  • Let the client have control of the meeting as much as possible. Let him or her decide where to sit, whether you can take notes, how the temperature in the room is, etc. Letting the client know that he or she has agency in the attorney-client relationship can go a long way in building trust.
  • Validate the client’s feelings and experiences and make sure his or she knows you are listening. Thank your client for sharing his or her experience and acknowledge that it is not an easy thing to do. Make sure that your client feels heard and understood.

Miller also addressed secondary trauma and vicarious trauma and the emotional toll that working with survivors of trauma can have on attorneys. She stressed how important it is for attorneys to practice the same self-care that they would encourage their clients to practice.

For more information on Erin Miller’s program, visit: https://www.nwh.org/classes-and-resources/community-services/domestic-sexual-violence/domestic-and-sexual-violence-services

Meeting recap provided by PILP Member Anne Sheldon (DOVE, Inc.)

Massachusetts’ Housing Trends and Needs Presented to PILP

Last month, the Public Interest Leadership Program (PILP) heard a presentation from Judith Jacobson, Calandra Clark, and Tom Hopper of Massachusetts Housing Partnership (“MHP”), where Jacobson is the Deputy Director and General Counsel, and Clark and Hopper are the Co-Directors of MHP’s Center for Housing Data. MHP is a statewide public non-profit that works in concert with the Governor and the state Department of Housing and Community Development to increase the supply of affordable housing in Massachusetts.

Jacobson began by providing an overview of MHP, its history, and the reach of its projects. MHP was established in 1985 to increase the Commonwealth’s overall rate of housing production and to work with municipalities to meet the growing need for affordable housing. In 1990, the Massachusetts legislature passed legislation that requires companies acquiring Massachusetts banks to make funds available to MHP for affordable housing. Since its creation, MHP has provided assistance for affordable housing in over 330 Massachusetts communities. That includes more than $1.1 billion in loans and commitments for the financing of over 23,000 units of rental housing. Those financial resources have gone toward new construction as well as renovations of existing properties.

Clark and Hopper then discussed the affordable housing problem in Massachusetts in more detail, noting that annual production of housing has been in decline in Massachusetts since the 1960s. Housing prices have surged, resulting in Massachusetts having the 7th highest rents in the country and the Metro Boston area having the 4th highest rents after San Francisco, San Jose, and New York. Vacancy rates are incredibly low statewide, not just in the more densely populated counties like Suffolk and Middlesex, but also in western counties with smaller populations, like Hampshire and Franklin, both of which have rental vacancies below 2% and homeownership vacancies of less than 1%. MHP estimates that Massachusetts needs 38,000 housing units to meet current statewide demand.

One of the issues preventing the construction of that housing is restrictive zoning laws, according to Clark and Hooper. Many communities in Massachusetts have enacted zoning laws that make it difficult if not impossible for developers to build affordable housing. On a related topic, many zoning ordinances require new housing that looks little like the current housing in those municipalities. For example, only 22 residential buildings in Somerville meet the current zoning code. The others are too dense, too close to the road, too tall, etc. The meeting ended with a question and answer session, as Jacobson, Clark, and Hooper discussed how to get involved locally and what statewide measures were under consideration within the legislature to address affordable housing.

More information on Massachusetts Housing Partnership may be found at https://www.mhp.net/about-us. More information on the Center for Housing Data may be found at https://www.mhp.net/about-us/data.

Meeting recap provided by PILP Member John Weaver (McLane Middleton).