On Monday, June 24th, the Delivery of Legal Services Section and Law Student Forum hosted a Summer Kickoff Breakfast for Law Students and New Lawyers Exploring Public Interest Careers and Pro Bono Opportunities. Over 80 people attended the networking breakfast, which offered an opportunity for new lawyers and law students to talk with attorneys from non-profit organizations that provide legal services, as well as attorneys who work in government agencies and those who coordinate pro bono efforts at law firms. Whether the law students and new lawyers were considering careers in the public interest, or seeking pro bono opportunities, it was a great chance to connect with attorneys experienced in those areas. Thanks to all who attended!
Posts Categorized: Boston Bar Foundation
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.
Two law students who were selected for the BBA’s Diversity & Inclusion Summer Fellowship Program began working at their respective offices this month. Anna Cardoso, a rising 2L at Boston University School of Law, is working at the Office of the Massachusetts Attorney General, and Emaan Syed, a rising 3L at Suffolk Law School, is working at the U.S. Bankruptcy Court, District of Massachusetts, under Justice Melvin S. Hoffman. Both of these students have outstanding records of academic and professional accomplishments, and have demonstrated a strong commitment to advancing diversity and inclusion within the legal profession. To learn more about the 2019 Fellows and the program, please click here.
Each year, thanks to generous donations to the Boston Bar Foundation’s M. Ellen Carpenter Fund, high school students are provided with the opportunity to work in local legal services organizations, courts, and government offices through the BBA’s Summer Jobs Program. This summer, six Boston Public School students will have the opportunity to earn a paycheck through Boston Bar Foundation funding while developing critical professional skills and providing support to a legal office in the city. The following organizations will be hosting BBF-sponsored interns:
• Executive Office of Health and Human Services
• Massachusetts Legal Assistance Corporation
• Suffolk County District Attorney’s Office
• U.S. Bankruptcy Court, District of Massachusetts, Clerk’s Office
• U.S. District Court, District of Massachusetts, Ward Fellowship
• Volunteer Lawyers Project
We’re also grateful to the 22 law firms and government agencies that are directly hiring students this summer.
The Summer Jobs Program will kick off its 26th year on July 8. In addition to working at the employer offices, the students will participate in special enrichment programming at the BBA each week to learn about the legal field and gain professional skills. Stay tuned for updates on the students’ activities throughout the summer!
On May 17, the Boston Bar convened attorneys for the next step in the pilot phase of its Service Innovation Project, which will focus on engaging the legal community in disrupting the school-to-prison pipeline. At an issue briefing panel, a distinguished group of experts provided a comprehensive overview of the issue to attendees, and challenged them to think about actionable next steps to work toward solutions.
The panel, moderated by Northeastern University Law School’s Susan Maze-Rothstein, consisted of:
- Jessica Berry – Deputy Director, Children’s Law Center of Massachusetts
- Jay D. Blitzman – First Justice for the Middlesex Juvenile Court and Presiding Justice, Lowell
- Matt Cregor – Education Project Director, the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights and Economic Justice
- Janelle Ridley – District Coordinator for System-Involved Youth, Boston Public Schools
- Marlies Spanjaard – Director of Education Advocacy, the EdLaw Project
The goal of the panel was to give attendees a deeper understanding of the many complicated and intersecting issues that perpetuate the school-to-prison pipeline, facilitating economically disadvantaged youth slipping into the justice system in Boston and all over the United States. From their unique professional vantage points, each panelist was able to share examples of glaring inequities which are, unfortunately, commonplace.
In summing up the structure of the school-to-prison pipeline, panelists explained that communities with high poverty rates and larger-than-average incarcerated populations also tend to have the most overcrowded, underfunded schools. Though staying in school has proven to be a deterrent from getting involved in the justice system, the increase in policing on school campuses in the past 20 years has led to more arrests on school grounds than ever before. In addition, students who are suspended or expelled from school, often for minor non-violent infractions, are at higher risk to drop out of school and thus more likely to enter into the criminal justice system.
These factors disproportionately impact black and Hispanic students, as well as students with disabilities, and the panelists cited multiple sources of data on the devastating impact that disparity is having in majority-minority communities.
“There is no such thing as race-neutral, zero-tolerance (policies),” Judge Blitzman said, adding that well-intended legislation meant to bolster school safety has led to the “criminalization of adolescence” for at-risk youth.
Ridley said one of the most important parts of her job is simply to listen to students, something the students may not feel they are getting from other adults at school or at home.
“We have a lot of quantitative data, but what we’re missing is the qualitative data: the stories, the reasoning, and what got these kids to where they are,” she said.
Following the panel, attendees formed small breakout groups to discuss what they had learned and think about next steps. Throughout the room, attorneys thought about various ways to offer pro bono assistance directly to affected children and families. But other, multidisciplinary approaches were also a focus of the discussion – such as public information campaigns targeted to schools, parents and the general public. Many attendees expressed their enthusiasm for restorative-justice-style programs in schools, giving students the chance to express their feelings and hopefully avoid suspension or expulsion.
The Boston Bar would like to thank everyone who participated, and we look forward to working together with the Service Innovation Project Advisory Committee to take these ideas and incorporate them into our work going forward.
Special thanks to the Boston Bar Foundation Burnes Innovation in Service Fund, made possible by a generous gift from Richard and Nonnie Burnes. This fund provides critical support for the Service Innovation Project. For more information on the Burnes Innovation in Service Fund or the Boston Bar Foundation, contact Megan Leppert at 617.778.1924 or [email protected].
In less than a month, we are bringing back the BBF’s annual Casino Night fundraiser! With table games, a magician, gourmet food and our first top-shelf scotch tasting, this event transforms 16 Beacon Street. It’s sure to bring a crowd!
Casino Night raises money to support the M. Ellen Carpenter fund, which is used to fund programs and projects that help provide opportunities to young people in Boston. We heard from this year’s event co-chairs, Michael McDermott of Dain, Torpy, Le Ray, Wiest & Garner and Nikki Marie Oliveira of Bass, Doherty & Finks, about what they are looking forward to and why the BBF’s work matters to them.
Michael McDermott is a litigation associate at Dain, Torpy, Le Ray, Wiest & Garner, P.C., a commercial real estate boutique law firm. He assists developers, landlords, and commercial owners to resolve disputes concerning land use, environmental, condominium, agricultural, insurance, and consumer credit issues and provides due diligence, permitting, and regulatory compliance services. In addition to his work on Casino Night, Michael serves as a public service co-chair for the BBA’s Senior Associate Forum, as a board member for the Friends of the Blackstone Innovation School, and as an Emerging Leader with A Better City.
“As a resident of Boston, who plans to raise a family in the city, I am personally and professionally committed to making the city a healthier and more supportive environment for working families of all economic backgrounds. I am excited to co-chair this year’s event and work on initiatives that are important to the continued developmentof Boston as a family-friendly city,” he said.
Nikki Marie Oliveira earned her LL.M. in Taxation from the Graduate Tax Program at Boston University School of Law, her J.D. from New England School of Law and her B.S. in Mathematics, magna cum laude, from Roger Williams University. She is admitted to the Massachusetts and Florida Bars. Nikki’s practice focuses on sophisticated tax and estate planning, trust and probate administration, long-term care planning, special needs planning, as well as delicate situations requiring guardianships and conservatorships. She is a Supporting Fellow of the Boston Bar Foundation and has served on multiple committee’s in the BBA’s Trusts & Estates Section.
“I am really excited to be involved with the BBF’s Casino Night this year and am most looking forward to having fun with my colleagues, friends and loved ones at the event! It is really inspiring that so many companies and individuals are willing to support the event and help make a big difference for Boston youth,” she said.
Get your tickets now and take a chance for a good cause!
From teaching a record 1,700 students through Law Day in the Schools to releasing a compelling report on criminal justice reform, 2017 was a successful year at the BBA. For highlights and our favorite photos from the year, read on to see how you and your colleagues contributed to our public service initiatives over the past year.
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.
From teaching over 1,500 students their Miranda Rights to instituting a Bar Exam Coaching Program, 2016 was a successful year at the BBA. For highlights and our favorite photos from the year, read on to see how you and your colleagues contributed to our public services initiatives in 2016.
Thank you for a wonderful year, we can’t wait to kickoff 2017 with you!
Last week the Boston Bar Foundation’s Society of Fellows came together for its annual Fall Open House at 16 Beacon Street to learn more aboutthe work that the Society supports and look forward to the important work that the group will help the BBF accomplish in the year ahead.
The Fellows enjoyed hors d’oeuvres and a seasonal apple cider cocktail while celebrating the Society’s pivotal role in the BBF’s exciting plans for the coming year with colleagues and friends. The BBF is poised to grant $1 million to more than 20 local legal services organizations, fund summer jobs for urban teens, teach hundreds of public school students about their rights and responsibilities under the law, and engage volunteers to help serve people in our community in ways that only lawyers can. Furthermore, because of the fundamental support that the Society provides to the BBF, last year the Foundation was able to direct the donations of three generous supporters towards the establishment of dedicated funds to help further the bar’s work in the essential areas of diversity and inclusion, leadership development, and public policy.
BBF President and Leadership Fellow Tony Froio gave a few inspiring remarks to the group about just how fundamental the support of the Society of Fellows is to all of the work of the BBF.
“I am proud to be a member of this vibrant community of more than 400 Boston leaders who support, at such a high level, the work of the BBF in expanding access to justice,” said Tony. “The Society leverages the power of lawyers to improve our community in so many different ways.”
Joining the Fellows for the evening was Mass Legal Answers Online Director Rochelle Hahn, an attorney with more than 25 years of experience in legal services. Mass Legal Answers, a project of the Massachusetts Law Reform Institute, is part of a national initiative of the American Bar Association. Rochelle shared with the Fellows why her innovative work – which the BBF helps to support – is so vital to our community and to the future sustainability of legal services. For more photos of the event, please click here.
To learn more about how you can become a part of this enthusiastic group of BBF supporters, please contact Tara Trask at [email protected] or (617) 778-1984.