Posts Categorized: Public Interest Leadership Program

Suffolk Law’s Housing Discrimination Testing Program Explained to PILP

Last month, the Public Interest Leadership Program (PILP) heard from James Matthews and Catherine LaRaia, Clinical Fellows in Suffolk University Law School’s Housing Discrimination Testing Program (HDTP).  The HDTP studies trends in discrimination, provides training on rights and responsibilities in rental housing, and participates in the enforcement of fair housing laws.

Matthews and LaRaia began by giving the class an overview of the Fair Housing Act and the housing-related protections afforded under Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 151B. They identified and explained the various protected classes under both Federal and Massachusetts law, as well as the scope of a landlord’s obligation to make reasonable accommodations for renters with disabilities.  They discussed the impact of the Massachusetts Lead Law, which requires landlords to remove lead paint in units with children under the age 6, as landlords sometimes try to avoid the expense of de-leading (which can be substantial) by steering families with young children away from their units.  The expense of de-leading does not, however, excuse a landlord from complying with its legal obligation not to discriminate on the basis of familial status.  Relatedly, Matthews and LaRaia discussed trends in housing discrimination, such as the use of coded language, which may make unlawful practices more difficult to spot.  For example, advertisements targeting “graduate students or young professionals,” while seemingly innocuous on their face, may signal an intent to discriminate on the basis of familial status, age, or other protected classes.

One tool for flushing out discriminatory intent is testing, which involves sending trained individuals into the community to pose as renters in order to collect information on whether housing discrimination is occurring.  HDTP researches rental advertisements and, after identifying potential violators, arranges for both “protected” and “control” testers to inquire about renting the advertised unit.  The testers then report their experiences, which HDTP staff evaluates to determine whether the landlord may be discriminating among rental applicants based on protected characteristics.  Matthews and LaRaia concluded the class with a robust question-and-answer session, ranging on topics from enforcement options to problems arising from roommate situations.

More information on Suffolk’s Housing Discrimination Testing Program may be found at http://www.suffolk.edu/law/academics/59759.php

Meeting recap provided by PILP Member Justin Kesselman (Posternak Blankstein & Lund LLP).

Now Accepting Applications for the Public Interest Leadership Program

The Boston Bar Association is pleased to announce that it is now accepting applications for its 2018-2019 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 the program, we invite you to join us on Tuesday, March 13th from 5:30 PM – 7:00 PM at the BBA to learn more. 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 30, 2018  to Cassandra Shavney, [email protected].

This past fall, the 14th Public Interest Leadership Program (PILP) started their term. Twenty attorneys were selected for the program based on their experience and dedication to public service and civic engagement. The program now includes over 160 alumni who’ve gone on to serve the BBA in other capacities and carry their passion for serving the public interest into the community.

Section 35 Explained to Public Interest Leadership Program

Last month, the Public Interest Leadership Program (PILP) heard from Professor Leo Beletsky (Northeastern University School of Law and Bouvé College of Health Sciences) on the public health and civil rights implications of Massachusetts’ involuntary commitment law for individuals with substance use disorder (M.G.L. ch. 123 § 35, or more commonly “Section 35”).

Dealing with the Opioid Crisis, one way that Massachusetts has looked to handle the epidemic is to expand Section 35, which allows blood relatives, court officers, spouses, and medical professionals to petition a judge to “section” an individual into involuntary commitment for 30 to 90 days. But Beletsky offered another perspective, calling into question the efficacy of forced treatment, and especially the Massachusetts system. Beletsky explained that the current evidence-based medical practice to treat individuals with substance use disorder is by using “medication-assisted treatment” (a category of drugs that includes buprenorphine or methadone) which scientific studies show as the “gold standard” for treatment. He explained that multiple scientific studies show that treating substance use with medication improves outcomes, and reduces overdoses by 50 to 80 percent. But he countered that, despite these scientific studies, most individuals who are involuntary committed in Massachusetts are treated with abstinence-based methods, which, not only have less effective outcomes, and in some situations could increase the likelihood of future overdose. He then went on to discuss how studies show that forced-treatment like Section 35 does not work for everyone.

Beletsky highlighted that for some families, Section 35 is being billed as the only option, and that a desperate parent or spouse will rely on it, hoping that their child or partner will finally receive treatment. But he painted a stark picture of what that treatment actually entails, as he discussed the need for reform.

For a deeper look into Section 35, read the BBA’s Issue Spot Blog post regarding the issue here.

Meeting recap provided by PILP Member Gregory Dorchak (Office of the Massachusetts Attorney General).

Blake Liggio Discusses Being Transgender in the Workplace with Public Interest Leadership Program

In November, the Public Interest Leadership Program (“PILP”) continued its programming relating to transgender rights. The PILP class heard from Blake Liggio, a partner in the Real Estate Industry Group at Goodwin Procter LLP. He is one of the first transgender partners in the Am Law 100.

Liggio spoke to the PILP class about his experience being transgender in the private law firm setting. Specifically, he discussed how he had worked at Goodwin as a summer associate in 2008 before returning two years later as a first-year associate. Before his return to Goodwin, he began the process of transitioning.

Liggio described his interactions with his clients and coworkers, including how he communicated his transition to his coworkers at the firm. He detailed how Goodwin developed a policy to support transgender employees, and how Goodwin worked closely with him to create a specific plan that reflected his transition. Goodwin’s policy has since served as a model for other law firms. Liggio also discussed the role he plays as a mentor to transgender law students, and the importance of allies in achieving transgender equality. Finally, Liggio highlighted the importance of speaking up and how taking an active approach is key to ensuring that employers adopt transgender inclusive policies.

More information on Blake Liggio can be found here: https://www.goodwinlaw.com/professionals/l/liggio-blake

Meeting recap provided by PILP Members Joshua M. Daniels (Solo Practice) and Mark Zglobicki (Massachusetts Inspector General’s Office).

A Year in Photos – Public Service in 2017

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.

The 2017 Public Service Award presented at the Boston Bar Foundation’s annual John & Abigail Adams Benefit Ball honored Chief Justice Margaret H. Marshall in January. Chief Justice Marshall addresses the crowd at the Museum of Fine Arts, reminding every one of the importance of being good and just in their work.

MIT Bhangra, an award-winning dance group, entertained the crowd at the Adams Benefit. 2017’s Ball raised over $650,000 in support for local legal services organizations providing civil legal services to those in need. In June, the Foundation granted $960,000 to 20 such organizations.

Each January, hundreds of attorneys travel to the State House to Walk to the Hill for Civil Legal Aid. The Equal Justice Coalition coordinates this annual event to call on our legislators to adequately fund the Massachusetts Legal Assistance Corporation through the state budget. Carol Starkey, 2016-2017 BBA President, highlights the importance of civil legal aid as noted in the BBA’s Investing in Justice report, which details that 2 out of 3 income eligible clients are turned away from legal services due to a lack of resources.

In response to President Trump’s Executive Order Protecting the Nation From Foreign Terrorist Entry Into the United States, then BBA President Carol Starkey reaffirmed the BBA’s aim to “support the rule of law, as well as the core values of access to justice and diversity and inclusion, which help keep the fundamental promise that all of us will enjoy due process and equal protection under the law.” Over the course of the year, the BBA worked with many legal services organizations to connect attorneys to volunteer opportunities. Political Asylum/Immigration Representation (PAIR) Project presented a number of Know Your Rights trainings for attorneys wishing to present to community groups about their immigration rights. Here, attorneys William Graves (Graves & Doyle) and Seth Purcell (PAIR Project) welcome over 60 attorneys to the first training at the BBA.

Paulette Brown (left, Locke Lord) accepts the Beacon Award for Diversity and Inclusion for her work as president of the American Bar Association convening the Diversity and Inclusion 360 Commission. One result of the Commission’s work was the passage at the ABA of Resolution 113, an initiative designed to increase diversity in the legal profession. In November of 2016, the BBA announced its strong support for the Resolution and is working with other partners in Boston on its implementation.

Raquel Webster (right, National Grid) introduces presenter Brian McLaughlin (McLaughlin Law) to a group of probationers at the U.S. District Court for the District of Massachusetts. The BBA’s Reentry Education Program, which was developed by the Public Interest Leadership Program, engages with dozens of probationers annually on useful topics related to community reentry, including family law, reinstating a driver’s license, public benefits, and more.

Secretary Francisco A. Ureña (Massachusetts Department of Veterans’ Services) addresses the crowd at a Memorial Day reception hosted by the BBA’s Active Duty Military & Veterans Forum. The reception was held after the annual pro bono training for attorneys representing veterans in discharge upgrade cases. Since 2015, the BBA has worked with the Veterans Legal Clinic at the Legal Services Center of Harvard Law School to hose these trainings to support their Veterans Legal Clinic.

One night a year, the BBA is transformed from a meeting space to a casino floor. Seventeen organizations sponsored this year’s Casino Night for Summer Jobs, the proceeds of which support the Summer Jobs Program and support internships for high school students at legal services organizations, government agencies, and courts. Attendees at Casino Night celebrate beating the house and eagerly await the mystifying reveal of a magic trick.

Law Day in the Schools, one of the BBA’s most popular volunteer opportunities, introduces Boston Public School students to the legal profession and particular areas of the law. This year, volunteers including Jill Brenner Meixel (left) and Allison Belanger (right) of Krokidas & Bluestein introduced students to due process and the importance of having fair rules and laws for all. There were a record 15 schools and over 1700 students in the program this year.

Throughout the year, the New Lawyers Section’s Public Service Committee coordinates volunteer events with organizations throughout the city. In addition to serving food at the Pine Street Inn, attorneys also helped sort donations at Cradles to Crayons, keep the esplanade clear at the Charles River Clean-up, and other important volunteer initiatives in the area.

High school students convene with Chief Justice Melvin S. Hoffman (U.S. Bankruptcy Court) after listing to a mock hearing in bankruptcy court. This session, which teaches students about the consequences of filing for bankruptcy is part of the M. Ellen Carpenter Financial Literacy Program, which began in 2005. Since it began, over 5800 students statewide have been introduced to the importance of budgeting, understanding credit, and financing a large purchase.

Over 1,000 attorneys came together for this year’s Law Day Dinner in Back Bay. Congressman Seth Moulton provided keynote remarks and highlighted the importance of lawyers and upholding the rule of law now more than ever.

This year’s Thurgood Marshall Award, honoring an attorney in private practice in Greater Boston for their extraordinary efforts in enhancing the human dignity of others by providing legal services to Massachusetts’ low income population, went to Elaine Blais (Goodwin). Blais volunteers with both the Political Asylum/Immigration Representation (PAIR) Project and Kids in Need of Defense (KIND) representing both children and adults in various immigration cases.

Anne Mackin (Greater Boston Legal Services) accepts the John G. Brooks Legal Services Award, an award presented to professional legal services attorneys for their outstanding work on behalf of indigent people in the Boston area. Mackin has worked in legal services for nearly 30 years, and joined GBLS’s Immigration Unit in 2013. Since then, she has helped people from all over the world who have witnessed or experienced unspeakable tragedies and faced severe persecutions. Her efforts have ensured that many who are fleeing extreme discrimination and danger are able to seek justice and safe harbor.

Members of the Society of Fellows experience a tour of the Museum of Fine Arts’ summer exhibit, Matisse in the Studio. Each Fellows pledge supports the work of the Boston Bar Foundation’s many public service initiatives. The growing number of Fellows, now over 400, learn about the work their gifts support, including programs supporting Boston’s youth and grants to legal services organizations, at events throughout the year.

Boston Public High School students stand with Natashia Tidwell (center left, Collora) and Mark Smith (center right, BBA President, Laredo & Smith) on the morning of the first day of work with the Summer Jobs Program. The program, a partnership with the City of Boston and the Boston Private Industry Council, employs students in internships at legal offices across the city. In 2017, 52 students gained valuable office experience and were given insight into the legal profession.

Attorneys network surrounding the chocolate fountain, a staple at this year’s Boston Bar Foundation Summer Fundraiser. Guests at the event are treated to delicious dishes from area restaurants while learning about the public service programs their contribution supports.

The Public Interest Leadership Program’s class of 2016-2017 hosted their symposium, Constitutional Battlegrounds: Civil Rights in a Changing Landscape, earlier this year. The event’s speakers addressed a number of issues recently in the national spotlight, both in the media and the courts. Nearly 100 attorneys and interested members of the community packed the BBA to hear insights from the panels of experts.

This fall, the 14th Public Interest Leadership Program (PILP) started their term. Twenty attorneys were selected for the program based on their experience and dedication to public service and civic engagement. The program now includes nearly 200 alumni who’ve gone on to serve the BBA in other capacities and carry their passion for serving the public interest into the community.

Piper Kerman, author of Orange is the New Black, addressed the audience at the BBA’s Annual Meeting. Kerman, a former prisoner, discussed her work bringing prison issues to the forefront of national conversation. She also acknowledged the BBA’s report No Time to Wait: Recommendations for a Fair and Effective Criminal Justice System, which was released this fall. The report commends the reforms proposed earlier this year by Massachusetts leaders based on research by the Council of State Governments (CSG), but strongly urges lawmakers to enact broader reforms designed to further reduce recidivism, and make the criminal justice system fairer and more cost-efficient.

Lawyer Referral Service (LRS) staff attend the Massachusetts Conference for Women to introduce the public to the services it offers. Thousands of requests come through each year and referrals are made out to experienced attorneys practicing nearly 350 areas of law. The LRS also houses a dedicated Military Legal Help Line, which connects veterans, military personnel, and their families with lawyers and other legal resources appropriate to their needs.

The three award recipients at November’s Beacon Award for Diversity & Inclusion stand with members of the Beacon Award Selection Committee. Brent Henry received the Voice of Change Award for his work recruiting and retaining diverse legal talent while at Partners Healthcare. The Empowerment Award went to Iván Espinoza-Madrigal for his work on civil rights issues, including racial justice, immigrant rights, and LGBT/HIV equality, as the Executive Director of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights and Economic Justice. Susan Alexander accepted the Corporate Champion Award on behalf of Biogen. Biogen’s legal department has developed a system of diversity metrics which the legal team uses when choosing outside counsel.
Above, left to right: Brent Henry (Mintz Levin), Iván Espinoza-Madrigal (Lawyers’ Committee), Susan Alexander (Biogen), Sarah Kim (Treasurer and Receiver General of Massachusetts), Kate Cook (Sugarman Rogers), Stephen Hall (Holland & Knight), and Damon Hart (Liberty Mutual).

Hosted at Suffolk University Law School, the annual Pro Bono Recruitment Fair and Open House connects law students and attorneys to volunteer opportunities across the state. Over 25 organizations recruited at the fair this year.

BBA President Mark Smith (right) met with Principal Danladi Bobbitt of the John D. Philbrick Elementary School in Roslindale. As a participant in the Principal Partners event, hosted by Boston Public Schools, Boston Plan for Excellence, and Bank of America, the BBA President has the opportunity to visit a school and engage in meaningful conversations about the role of education in our society.

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.