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.
To wrap-up their meetings on domestic violence, PILP met last week with Carrie Spiros (Assistant District Attorney at the Middlesex County’s DA’s Office) and Jennifer Bolton (Senior Manager of Prevention & Education at Domestic Violence Ended). Spiros reviewed the laws guiding her office’s prosecution of domestic violence. Chapter 209A legally defines domestic violence in Massachusetts and was expanded in 2014 by Chapter 260 to include strangulation and suffocation as indicators that the abuser has a higher risk of homicide. Both Spiros and Bolton noted that if an abuser strangles their victim, they are more likely to fatally harm the victim at a later time.
Describing the work of Domestic Violence Ended (DOVE), Bolton noted that her organization and most other domestic violence organizations in the state belong to the Jane Doe Inc. coalition. The coalition works toward providing services for domestic violence victims. DOVE specifically provides shelter services, legal advocacy, counseling, community educational trainings and more. If you’re interest in the work of DOVE, you can find more information on their website: http://dovema.org/
PILP’s back-to-back sessions focusing on domestic violence fell shortly before White Ribbon Day, an initiative of Jane Doe, Inc. which encouraged men and boys to become an active part of the effort to end domestic violence. Governor Charlie Baker joined 115 communities and organizations around Massachusetts in recognizing White Ribbon Day on March 1.
The Boston Bar Association is pleased to announce that it is now accepting applications for its 2017-2018 class of Public Interest Leaders. The BBA’s Public Interest Leadership Program (PILP) is a unique leadership program for new lawyers which promotes civic engagement and public service by advancing the leadership role of lawyers in service to their community, the profession and the Commonwealth. Over the past few months, Beyond the Billable has been recapping PILP’s monthly meetings. If you’d like a refresher on what they’ve been up to this year, find their stories here.
If you’re interested in the program, we invite you to join us on Monday, March 6, 2017 from 5:30 PM – 7:00 PM to learn more. PILP 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.
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 on Monday, please sign up here.
Last week, the Public Interest Leadership Program (PILP) heard from Mithra Merryman (Greater Boston Legal Services) and Margo Lindauer (Northeastern University School of Law) on how the legal system works to help victims of domestic violence (DV) . After reviewing the legal definitions of violence and abuse, the presenters moved to cover more specific components faced when assisting a victim of domestic violence.
Victims may request a restraining order against their abuser, which can be applied either where the victim is living or where the majority of abuse occurred. Merryman and Lindauer shared the benefits and drawbacks of both jurisdictions and discussed instances when a restraining order may not benefit the victim. Additionally, PILP heard how domestic violence cases are impacted when the victim is an immigrant. The speakers described that many DV victims are less likely to come forward if they fear deportation and that abusers will use the threat of deportation against their victims. While the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) of 1994 allows married Green Card holders to file immigrant visa petitions, unmarried immigrants are not covered by the act. The co-presenters also stressed throughout the meeting that the prevalence of domestic violence is the same across all demographics: race, age, socioeconomic status, sexual & gender orientation, etc.
If you’re interested in pro bono projects related to domestic violence, the presenters suggest looking into the below organizations*:
Rounding out the Public Interest Leadership Program’s month discussing juvenile justice, the class heard from Michael Gilraine, a juvenile probation officer at Suffolk Juvenile Court. Gilraine opened by describing the basic difference between child delinquency cases, when a juvenile is charged with a crime, and Child Requiring Assistance (CRA) cases, ones in which a child’s guardian or school files with the court on behalf of a child requiring assistance. A child may be referred to the court for a number of reasons (stubbornness, truancy, etc.) which are outlined in the Suffolk Juvenile Court’s Handbook. The Handbook also describes the various courses of action a juvenile may take after their initial meeting with a probation officer. The severity of a child’s situation generally determines the child’s plan.
Gilraine’s work is rewarding, he says. Friday is his favorite day of the week, when he visits area schools to check in with students and their teachers. He said it’s great to see when students are in school and are proud of the work they’re accomplishing.
If you’d like to work on family law issues, the Volunteer Lawyers Project of the Boston Bar Association* hosts both a Family Law Clinic and Guardianship Clinics. You can find more information on their website.
*The Volunteer Lawyers Project of the Boston Bar Association is a 2016 grantee of the Boston Bar Foundation.
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.
Over 1,000 guests attended the 2016 John and Abigail Adams Benefit at the Museum of Fine Arts. Each year, our premier fundraiser provides support for the legal services organizations in our community. We’re grateful for the over $600,000 raised in 2016.
Molly Baldwin, Executive Director of Roca, accepts the 2016 Public Service Award on behalf of the organization. Roca was recognized for their work reducing recidivism and improving employment rates for young men in Massachusetts.
Chief Justice Ralph D. Gants, Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court, addresses the crowd at Walk to the Hill for Civil Legal Aid. Each year, hundreds of private attorneys and civil legal aid advocates converge on the Massachusetts State House to demonstrate their support for state funding of civil legal aid.
Anuj Kheterpal, Massachusetts Attorney General’s Office, leads a session of the Reentry Education Program at the U.S. District Court of Massachusetts. Presenting on topics ranging from family law, affordable housing, and CORI sealing, the Reentry Education Program provides useful information and resources to probationers in our community.
The BBA’s Military and Veterans Committee works throughout the year to both address the legal needs of our veterans community and also provide a space for attorneys who have served or are serving in the military the chance to connect. Luncheons held throughout the year provide an informal, conversational means for veteran attorneys to connect.
One of the most anticipated events of the year is always the BBA’s Casino Night for Summer Jobs. Inside the BBA, the rooms are transformed into a functioning casino spaces for guests to enjoy throughout the building. All proceeds from the event support our Summer Jobs program. Specifically, donations allow high school students the opportunity to work at legal services organizations, courts, and government agencies that may not otherwise have the resources to hire a student.
For over ten years, the M. Ellen Carpenter Financial Literacy program has taught high school students financial responsibility. Above, students from Peabody Veterans Memorial High School visit Judge Joan N. Feeney’s courtroom to learn the consequences of filing for bankruptcy.
Members of the Boston Bar Foundation’s Society of Fellows gaze at an exhibit at the Museum of Fine Arts last spring. The Society of Fellows is a group of over 400 attorneys who’ve pledged their support for the BBA’s public service initiatives.
An active group within the BBA, the New Lawyers Public Service Committee plans nearly monthly volunteer events for attorneys to give back to their community through direct service. Here, BBA volunteers are working with the Charles River Watershed Association to clean-up the banks of the Charles River.
As part of the annual Law Day activities each spring, the BBA hosts its Law Day in the Schools program through which attorney volunteers introduce students in kindergarten to 12th grade to the legal profession and legal issues. In 2016, Law Day in the Schools focused on Miranda Rights, which seemed especially to resonate with students during a year marked by discussion of the balance of power between law enforcement and citizens.
At the 2016 Law Day Dinner, former BBA President Jack Regan, WilmerHale, was presented the Thurgood Marshall Award for his commitment to public service. Regan has tirelessly worked to support pro bono services for military personnel, veterans, and their families.
The John G. Brooks Legal Services Award was presented at Law Day Dinner to Daniel Nagin, founder of the Veterans Legal Clinic at the Legal Services Center of Harvard Law School. Nagin also helped start the Low Income Tax Clinic at the Legal Services Center of Harvard Law School.
Pairings: A Gourmet Evening for Public Service supports all of the public service programs of the BBA. Guests of the event are treated to delicious dishes from area restaurants while learning about the programs their contribution supports.
Throughout the year, the BBA hosts numerous pro bono trainings on a range of practice areas. We partner with many legal services organizations to connect our members to their pro bono opportunities. Above, attorneys lead a training on how to volunteer for the Family Law Court Clinic at the Court Service Center.
Massachusetts State Senator Jamie Eldridge addresses the audience at the BBA’s Juvenile Restorative Justice Program. The symposium focused on restorative justice initiatives in the Commonwealth as particularly related to the state’s youth. This event was the culmination of the 12th Public Interest Leadership Program (PILP) class’ 14-month program. PILP promotes civic engagement and public service by advancing the leadership roles of new lawyers. Throughout the program, the class examines various issues facing our community and concludes with a symposium of entirely their design.
Summer is a beloved time at the BBA because it means that law firms, courts, government agencies, and legal services organizations across the city will host high school student interns as part of our Summer Jobs Program. Students gain valuable insight into the legal profession and office work experience as they intern during their summer break. Students are also provided Enrichment Seminars, which enhance their experience and provide exposure to various legal careers, the workings of the Supreme Judicial Court, and more.
Janet Bostwick, Janet E. Bostwick, PC, was acknowledged this past year for her devotion to the M. Ellen Carpenter Financial Literacy Program. Bostwick was appointed head of the Financial Literacy Committee by her dear and late friend, M. Ellen Carpenter in 2004 and has since grown the program to teach over 500 students a year. Bostwick stepped down from the Committee after 12 years and we’re thankful for her service.
Law students and attorneys met with various legal services organizations and government agencies as they browsed the Pro Bono Fair & Open House in October. The event draws scores of people each year and provides organizations the chance to attract new volunteers.
BBA President Carol Starkey, Conn Kavanaugh Rosenthal Peisch & Ford, LLP, meets with Katy Buckland, principal of UP Academy Boston. The BBA President participates in Principal for a Day each year to gain insight into the day-to-day activities of the students many of our public service programs impact.
Thank you for a wonderful year, we can’t wait to kickoff 2017 with you!
Veterans Treatment Court Judge Eleanor Sinnott during a session.
Coinciding with Veterans Day in November, the Public Interest Leadership Program (PILP) heard from two prominent veterans’ advocates in the Commonwealth. First, the group met with Judge Eleanor C. Sinnott who presides over Boston’s Veterans Treatment Court. The court, which began in 2014 under her guidance, is one of five in the state and like the others, seeks to help veterans who’ve found themselves in the court system. Through the voluntary program, which accepts 15-20 cases at a time, veterans are matched with a volunteer peer veteran mentor that helps guide them through the 12-24 months. Those mentors support the veteran as they complete extensive counseling, drug and alcohol treatment, needs assessments, court hearings, and more. At this time, none of the participants have been court-involved since graduating the program. Judge Sinnott, a veteran herself, is very aware of the special needs of our veterans community. She noted the difference between military and civilian culture and the strong support system that exists amongst veterans. The mentorship component of Veterans Treatment Court is perhaps its biggest key to success. For those interested in learning more about the Veterans Treatment Court or who would like to refer a case to the court, please click here.
PILP also heard from Francisco A. Ureña, Secretary of the Massachusetts Department of Veterans Services. Secretary Ureña discussed their programs related to financial assistance, Soldiers’ Homes and state cemeteries, and advocacy and outreach. The department works closely with Veterans Legal Services and the Legal Services Center of Harvard Law School, connecting veterans to their pro bono services. Additionally, Secretary Ureña identified homelessness as one of the department’s top focus areas, as well as general outreach to the veterans population of Massachusetts to alert them of their services. The Secretary urged PILP to learn more about how they can assist veterans through pro bono work.
If you would like information on how to perform veterans pro bono work, please email Cassandra Shavney at email@example.com.
During the month of October, PILP 13 engaged in many informative discussions regarding affordable housing issues in the Boston area. Most recently, this year’s PILP class heard from Professor William Berman, Clinical Professor of Law at Suffolk University Law School, Managing Attorney of Suffolk’s Accelerator Practice, and Director of Suffolk’s Housing Discrimination Testing Program.
Professor Berman discussed the history of fair housing issues in the United States, tracing housing and race discrimination back to the abolishment of slavery. It was not until 1968 with Jones v. Alfred H. Mayer Co. that the United States Supreme Court ruled that racial discrimination related to the sale of private property violates the 13th Amendment. In the same year, the Fair Housing Act was implemented, instituting protection against housing discrimination based on race, color, national origin, religion, sex, familial status, and disability.
Professor Berman also spoke about Suffolk’s Housing Discrimination Testing Program’s (HDTP), which works to identify housing discrimination in the Commonwealth. For example, the Program recently issued a press release detailing their discovery of landlords refusing to rent to families with small children due to the presence of lead paint within the unit.
In accordance with the Massachusetts Lead Poisoning Prevention Act, landlords must remove lead paint if a child younger than six resides in the unit. However, HDTP’s test results revealed the widespread issue of landlords discriminating against families with small children, rather than making the necessary repairs to the unit.
By reporting landlords and realtors to the Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination, Professor Berman hopes the research of HDTP continues to counter housing discrimination in Massachusetts.
Each month, members of the Public Interest Leadership Program (PILP) chair two meetings on a specific community need. This October, PILP focused on housing discrimination issues and brought in speakers uniquely knowledgeable on the subject. Last week, the group welcomed Aaron Gornstein, President and CEO of Preservation of Affordable Housing (POAH) and former undersecretary for the Massachusetts Department of Housing and Community Development. Gornstein first spoke to the group on the work of POAH, describing their focus on providing affordable housing across the U.S. through owning and managing over 9000 homes, as well as various neighborhood transformation projects. POAH acknowledges that affordable housing alone is not the solution, only the foundation, to helping people and families succeed in their community. Through POAH’s various community services at their properties, including job training, childcare services, financial literacy trainings, etc., they hope to provide their tenants the tools to thrive.
Gornstein also explained the history of affordable housing in the U.S. and current trends toward public housing redevelopment and mixed-income housing. Finally, he noted that incentives work far better than penalties to encourage people to save and eventually own their own home.
Look for next week’s PILP meeting recap after the group hears from Professor William Berman from Suffolk University Law School on his insights into affordable housing issues.