Posts Categorized: Public Interest Leadership Program

The Legal Ramifications of COVID-19: Access to Justice

When the 2019-2020 PILP class began their journey as the BBA’s most recent class of leaders, the vision for the program seemed clear and routine. Due to the challenges of this year, however, it became a class unlike any other before it–switching to a virtual format due to the declaration of a state of emergency, adjusting to working from home overnight, welcoming multiple PILP babies, and having to change their service project deep into the class. To their great credit, the class rose to the occasion. 

The BBA is proud to present the PILP 2019-2020 project: The Legal Ramifications of COVID-19, a series of reports that surveyed various legal landscapes and provides reflections on the impact of COVID-19 in each space. Each report will be published through Beyond the Billable. This is the fourth in the series, focused on access to justice.

This piece was written by Associate Counsel, Assistant Vice President at State Street Corporation Naitasia V. Hensey. Her piece provides a detailed analysis of the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the ability of marginalized groups to access the justice system in Massachusetts. To read Naitasia’s piece, please click here.

Naitasia V. Hensey is Assistant Vice President, Associate Counsel at State Street Corporation. Naitasia is a graduate of Stetson University where she studied psychology and communications, and then went on to receive an MBA from the University of Phoenix while working full time. After relocating to Massachusetts for the love of seasons, Naitasia pursued a J.D. with a concentration in Intellectual Property law from New England Law | Boston as a Charles Hamilton Houston Scholarship recipient and graduated receiving the President Anna E. Hirsch Award for “dedicated service to fellow students, the law school, and the legal profession.”

The Legal Ramifications of COVID-19: Racial & Ethnic Disparities

When the 2019-2020 PILP class began their journey as the BBA’s most recent class of leaders, the vision for the program seemed clear and routine. Due to the challenges of this year, however, it became a class unlike any other before it–switching to a virtual format due to the declaration of a state of emergency, adjusting to working from home overnight, welcoming multiple PILP babies, and having to change their service project deep into the class. To their great credit, the class rose to the occasion. 

The BBA is proud to present the PILP 2019-2020 project: The Legal Ramifications of COVID-19, a series of reports that surveyed various legal landscapes and provides reflections on the impact of COVID-19 in each space. Each report will be published through Beyond the Billable. This is the third in the series, focused on racial & ethnic disparities.

This piece was written by Equal Opportunity Specialist at the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development Sajid Shahriar. His piece takes a detailed look at the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on racial & ethnic disparities in criminal justice, labor & employment, child care, housing, and more. To read Sajid’s piece, please click here.

Sajid Shahriar is an Equal Opportunity Specialist at the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) in the Office of Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity, where he enforces the Fair Housing Act and related federal civil rights laws in the New England region. He graduated from Boston College Law School in 2016.

The Legal Ramifications of COVID-19: Labor & Employment

When the 2019-2020 PILP class began their journey as the BBA’s most recent class of leaders, the vision for the program seemed clear and routine. Due to the challenges of this year, however, it became a class unlike any other before it–switching to a virtual format due to the declaration of a state of emergency, adjusting to working from home overnight, welcoming multiple PILP babies, and having to change their service project deep into the class. To their great credit, the class rose to the occasion. 

The BBA is proud to present the PILP 2019-2020 project: The Legal Ramifications of COVID-19, a series of reports that surveyed various legal landscapes and provides reflections on the impact of COVID-19 in each space. Each report will be published through Beyond the Billable. This is the second in the series, focused on Labor & Employment. You can view the first in the series focused on decarceration here.

This piece was written by Volunteer Lawyers Project Staff Attorney Tallulah Knopp and Assistant Attorney General with the Massachusetts Attorney General’s Office Meryum Khan. Their piece takes a detailed look at the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on workers across our Commonwealth.

To read Tallulah & Meryum’s piece, please click here.

The Legal Ramifications of COVID-19: Decarceration

When the 2019-2020 PILP class began their journey as the BBA’s most recent class of leaders, the vision for the program seemed clear and routine. Due to the challenges of this year, however, it became a class unlike any other before it–switching to a virtual format due to the declaration of a state of emergency, adjusting to working from home overnight, welcoming multiple PILP babies, and having to change their service project deep into the class. To their great credit, the class rose to the occasion. 

The BBA is proud to present the PILP 2019-2020 project: The Legal Ramifications of COVID-19, a series of reports that surveyed various legal landscapes and provides reflections on the impact of COVID-19 in each space. Each report will be published through Beyond the Billable–beginning with today’s first article: Decarceration. 

This piece was written by Committee for Public Counsel Services Staff Attorney David Rangaviz. In addition to working as an appellate attorney for CPCS, David is also a member of the BBA’s Criminal Law Section and co-chair of the amicus committee of the Massachusetts Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers. David’s piece takes a compelling look at decarceration efforts from the onset of the pandemic, of which he has firsthand knowledge as a result of having helped in the litigation efforts, as well as through the multiple interviews he conducted for this report. 

To view David’s article please click here

The Leadership Development Fund of the Boston Bar Foundation provides critical support for the Public Interest Leadership Program. For more information on the BBF or this fund, please contact Erica Southerland at esoutherland@bostonbar.org or (617) 778-1930.

David Rangaviz joined the Appeals Unit of CPCS in 2017.  He is a graduate of Harvard Law School and Brown University.

PILP Program Explores What Makes for an Effective Diversity & Inclusion Organizational Strategy

On Feb. 6, the current Public Interest Leadership Program (PILP) class discussed the importance of diversity and inclusion (D&I) for organizations and how to support successful D&I programs in the workplace with two guest experts, Audrey Grace (Northeastern University) and Patricia Hennessy (Burns & Levinson).

Effective D&I strategies start at the individual level, Attorney Grace and Attorney Hennessy told the PILP class. To help propel D&I strategies, you have to “walk the walk.”

During the session, the experts and PILP class engaged in a meaningful discussion about the importance of D&I (“when individuals are lifted up and celebrated, their workplace is also elevated”) and how to operationalize an effective D&I strategy (“buy-in from leadership is key”).

Although the scope and substance of what organizations consider to be included in D&I efforts has evolved over time, Attorney Grace and Attorney Hennessy agreed that institutional change takes time, and being intentional and thoughtful about D&I strategies is a must from the start.

When implementing a D&I strategy, you must consider your communities, your stakeholders, and of course your own biases, Attorney Grace said.  

It’s also important to remember your positions of power and privilege in your own organization and your community, Attorney Hennessy said.

These insights greatly resonated with the PILP class, as class members asked thoughtful and engaging questions about how to implement effective D&I strategies in their own organizations and with their own stakeholders.

Meeting recap provided by PILP members Cory Lamz (Buoy Health) and Jessica Powell (The Davis Companies).

BBA Seeking Applicants for PILP 2020-21 Class!

The BBA is excited to announce that applications are now open for our 2020-21 class of the Public Interest Leadership Program (PILP)!

In 2002, Chief Judge Mark Wolf and then-BBA President Michael Keating began discussing the need for younger lawyers to become more engaged as community leaders earlier in their careers. One year later, PILP was launched to help new lawyers understand the meaning of community leadership and develop lasting connections beyond their existing legal networks.

This selective program attracts a diverse group of talented, motivated attorneys who have:

  • Graduated law school within the last 10 years
  • Demonstrated a commitment to pro bono and public service
  • Have a history of organizing bar action

The 2020-21 PILP class will meet roughly twice per month, typically on the first Thursday and third Wednesday of each month. PILP participants connect with prominent community leaders at meetings and events, learn about the challenges confronting local organizations and take part in efforts to address specific community needs. PILP participants work together to create and execute a public service project focused on advancing the BBA’s goals related to access to justice, diversity & inclusion, and serving the community at large.

If you have any questions about PILP, please contact Doug Newton at dnewton@bostonbar.org or 617-778-1918. To apply for the PILP 2020-2021 program, please download the application here and return it to Doug Newton by Friday, March 27, 2020.

PILP Class Discusses Housing Crisis

On January 15th, the Public Interest Leadership Program (PILP) learned from experts about the housing crisis in Massachusetts. As part of this program, PILP heard from Eric Shupin, the Director of Public Policy for the Citizens Housing and Planning Association (CHAPA), and Brad Kramer, the Director of Public Policy for One Family. CHAPA is a public policy oriented organization whose goal is to encourage the production and preservation of housing that is affordable to low and moderate income families and individuals and to foster diverse and sustainable communities through planning and community development. One Family is a service provider aiming to prevent family homelessness by promoting pathways to economic independence through advocacy, education, and innovation.

Eric gave an overview of the state of the housing crisis in Massachusetts and explained the dire need for action to counteract it. CHAPA focuses on solving the housing crisis through production of more homes that are affordable, preserving existing affordable housing and the ability of residents to stay in their communities, planning for more diversity in the state’s housing stock, and policies that provide everyone with opportunities to prosper. Eric also discussed emerging housing policy issues in the state, including zoning reform, new revenue for housing, and anti-displacement and tenant protections.

Brad discussed One Family’s approach to preventing family homelessness, which includes the One Family Scholars program as well as career coaching. One Family Scholars receive coaching and financial assistance to help them earn a higher education degree, which in turn makes it possible for them to become financially independent and more likely to be able to afford housing. 91% of the program’s alumni are stably housed. One Family also engages in public policy work to further the goal of preventing family homelessness through economic opportunity.

For more information on CHAPA’s public policy work, please click here. For more information on One Family’s programs, please click here.

Meeting recap provided by PILP member Charlie Ahern (Massachusetts State Senate)

Eric Shupin and Brad Kramer present to the 2019-20 PILP Class

PILP Hears from Speakers on Reproductive Rights and Justice

On Thursday, November 7th, the Public Interest Leadership Committee heard from two distinguished speakers on the topic of reproductive justice. First, Jamie Sabino, attorney at the Massachusetts Law Reform Institute and the co-chair of the Steering Committee of the Judicial Consent for Minors Lawyer Referral Panel spoke about women’s reproductive health in Massachusetts with a focus on the current landscape nationwide and in Massachusetts.   

She shared that currently in Massachusetts, under the judicial bypass process, minors must petition the court to obtain an abortion if a parent or guardian is not present to grant permission.  A concern with the requirement of the judicial bypass process is that physicians are mandated reporters, but judges are not.  Such a requirement creates an additional hurdle for minors, including a fear of loss of confidentiality.  The judicial bypass law disproportionately impacts young people of color and young people with low incomes.

Attorney Sabino also discussed the history of reproductive health laws and the changing landscape that has resulted from changes in the makeup of the United States Supreme Court.   

Since 1981, Jamie has chaired or co-chaired the Judicial Consent For Minor Lawyer Referral Panel, a group of attorneys who represent minors seeking judicial authorization for abortion.  Working with the ACLU Reproductive Freedom Project and Planned Parenthood Federation of America, Jamie has also trained lawyers in a number of states facing implementation of a parental involvement/judicial bypass statute, testified in many state legislatures on the burdens brought by such laws and served as an expert witness on the implementation of such laws in court challenges.

Mehreen Butt, Associate Director of Policy and Government Affairs at Planned Parenthood League of Massachusetts, discussed her current focus on lobbying for the passage of The Roe Act, S. 1209, H. 3320.  Amongst several other components, the bill would eliminate the judicial bypass process, expand access to abortion after 24 weeks of pregnancy in cases of fatal fetal anomalies, and abolish medically unnecessary abortion restrictions.  In June 2019, the bill went to the Joint Committee on the Judiciary in the Massachusetts Legislature.

Ms. Butt has over 15 years of experience working in the social justice and public policy fields and on local, state, and federal campaigns.  She has worked at Rosie’s Place, Tufts Health Plan and Health Care for All.  In each of these positions, Ms. Butt was responsible for overseeing the organization’s policy and legislative agenda.

For more information regarding Planned Parenthood League of Massachusetts priorities visit https://www.plannedparenthoodaction.org/planned-parenthood-advocacy-fund-massachusetts-inc/issues

Meeting Recap provided by PILP Members Andrea Carrillo (Greater Boston Legal Services) and Sharona Sternberg (Sunstein Kann)

PILP Explores Climate Change and Environmental Justice

On Wednesday, October 16th, the Public Interest Leadership Program (PILP) class heard from the Conservation Law Foundation (CLF) and Lawyers for Civil Rights (LCR) about the intersection of environmental justice and climate change.  The presentations focused on how to use the traditional tools of environmental law, like the Clean Air Act and planning and zoning laws, to address climate change while meeting the needs of underrepresented groups.

The first speaker, Staci Rubin, is a senior staff attorney at CLF where she focuses on transportation issues.  Rubin informed the class that in Massachusetts, transportation is the single largest source of greenhouse gas emissions—the key driver of climate change. The Commonwealth is one of the leading states in adopting policies to curb emissions, including a pending bill to achieve net zero emissions by 2050.  However, it is crucial that the transition to cleaner transportation is equitable and just.  Latinx and Black Americans are exposed at least 50% more pollution than they produce, compared to non-Hispanic white Americans, who are exposed to 17% less pollution than they produce.  Rubin also noted that public transit service tends to be less available and reliable in communities of color.  For example, the Fairmont commuter-rail line used to pass through Dorchester, a predominantly Black neighborhood, to Hyde Park, a mainly white neighborhood.  The Dorchester community absorbed the pollution from the train but did not have access to the transportation benefits until recently, when the Blue Hills Avenue station opened.  Through examples like these, Rubin illustrated that equitable access to transportation is not just an economic issue—it is also a climate change issue.

Ivan Espinoza-Madrigal (Executive Director) and Lauren Sampson (Civil Rights Fellow) from LCR then discussed their organization’s launch of a new practice area focused on climate resilience and environmental justice in low-income communities of color.  The new initiative was sparked in part by the realization that much of the organization’s current work, such as immigration advocacy, overlaps with climate change.  For example, many immigrants arrive in the United States due to natural disasters and food shortages aggravated by climate change, but asylum law does not recognize claims based on environmental conditions.  LCR also has litigated successfully against the Trump administration’s attempts to rollback Temporary Protected Status (TPS), which might protect these climate migrants.  LCR also already advocates for increasing transportation equity for low-income communities of color and immigrant communities, opposing the MBTA’s cancellation of late-night service and cashless fares.  As it develops this new practice area, LCR plans to partner with other organizations like CLF and community groups to further its civil rights mission. 

The meeting ended with a conversation about the importance of viewing our clients’ challenges through a climate change lens.

For more information on Conservation Law Foundation’s transportation work, visit: https://www.clf.org/strategies/modernizing-transportation/

For more information on the Lawyers for Civil Rights’ new race and climate justice program, visit: http://lawyersforcivilrights.org/what-we-do/race-and-climate-justice/

Meeting recap provided by PILP Members Katie Stock (Miyares and Harrington LLP) and David Lyons (Anderson & Kreiger)

Public Interest Leadership Program Learns About the Suffolk County District Attorney’s Approach to Criminal Justice Reform


Donna Patalano, General Counsel for Suffolk County District Attorney Rachael Rollins’s Office, recently spoke to the Public Interest Leadership Program (PILP) about what criminal justice reform looks like on the ground in Suffolk County. Specifically, Ms. Patalano discussed recent steps the Suffolk County District Attorney’s Office has taken to implement reform-minded policies and procedures that aim to protect the community, while simultaneously addressing the underlying issues that often lead to recidivism.

Ms. Patalano explained that many of these policies have been codified in The Rollins Memo. The memo, released in March 2019, outlines the office-wide goals of minimizing the impact of the criminal justice system and reducing racial and socioeconomic disparities. Additionally, the memo presents specific guidelines for the prosecution of some of the most common- but least serious- criminal offenses in Suffolk County’s district and municipal courts. One of the guidelines contained within the memo is “The List of 15,” which is a list of low-level offenses where the presumption is that those charges should be declined or dismissed by prosecutors pre-arraignment and without conditions. The declination and diversion guidelines also provide for prosecutors to exercise their discretion and continue arraignment of charges for diversion or conditional dismissal. Furthermore, prosecutors may still arraign a defendant for a charge on “The List of 15” due to an aggravating factor or an identifiable exception to the presumption of dismissal.

With respect to cash bail, Ms. Patalano explained that the Suffolk County District Attorney’s Office has adopted a presumptive recommendation of release on personal recognizance for all individuals who are not charged with an offense that is eligible for detention under M.G.L. c. 276, §58A. For those defendants who are charged with Section 58A eligible offenses, there is still a presumption of release on personal recognizance unless prosecutors feel there are no conditions of release that would ensure the safety of an individual or the community.

Finally, Ms. Patalano discussed upcoming initiatives within District Attorney Rollins’s office. The first of those initiatives is the Project for Unsolved Suffolk Homicides. This was created to offer a fresh set of eyes and renewed interest on unsolved homicide cases in Suffolk County, as well as to express the office’s deep commitment to residents who have lost a loved one to violence. Additionally, Ms. Patalano passionately described the creation of a new Conviction Integrity Bureau within the Suffolk County District Attorney’s Office. This bureau is designed to review the integrity of prior convictions, pending criminal cases, sentencing, and law enforcement involvement.

To learn more about District Attorney Rollins’s office, visit https://www.suffolkdistrictattorney.com/

Meeting Recap provided by PILP Member Julianne Campbell.