Posts Categorized: Public Service

The Ins and Outs of Serving on a Charitable Board

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The BBA Tax Exempt Organizations Section’s annual Charitable Board Service Workshop always draws a crowd, and this year was no exception.

The day was broken into two panels, the first of which discussed different types of board membership and traits that are desirable in a board member. The heads of three local nonprofits shared insights about the importance of an organization’s mission, how various boards are composed and what the role of a charitable board typically entails.

After lunch, attorneys who serve on boards of local charitable organizations spoke about their responsibilities. Nora Mann, Deputy Division Chief of the Non-Profit Organizations/Public Charities Division of the Attorney General’s Office, spoke about compliance issues, including appropriate documentation and filing tax forms.

Attendees were urged to check out the 17th Annual Board Connection hosted by the United Way on May 12 from 5 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. Click here for more information.

BBA Volunteers Clean That Dirty Water

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The BBA is all about giving members an opportunity to give back to the community as attorneys, using their expertise in the legal profession to benefit those who need it. But we also love to see them give back simply as Bostonians, like this group of attorneys did at the Annual Charles River Cleanup.

Kate Swartz, Co-Chair of the New Lawyer’s Section Public Service Committee, said the turnout was great and all of the attorneys had a great time clearing trash and debris from the banks of the Charles.

Volunteers from the BBA New Lawyers Section and Environmental Law Section, as well as the South Asian Bar Association of Greater Boston made up the team. Over 3,000 volunteers participated in all, from organizations based all over the city.

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If you are interested in upcoming volunteer opportunities, check out these events:

Volunteer on the Farm: The Food Project Serve & Grow
Saturday, May 7, 2016 9:30 AM to 12:30 PM

 Spring Woodland Restoration Event at Roslindale Urban Wild
Friday, May 13, 2016 9:30 AM to 12:00 PM

Governor’s Chief Legal Counsel and Executive Director of JNC Speak to Public Interest Leadership Program

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On April 13th, Lon Povich, Governor Baker’s Chief Legal Counsel, and Sharon Shelfer Casey, Executive Director and Deputy Legal Counsel of the Judicial Nominating Commission (JNC) addressed the BBA’s Public Interest Leadership Program. The JNC is a non-partisan, non-political Commission composed of volunteers from across the Massachusetts that have been appointed by the Governor. Historically, the JNC established through executive order, and the present JNC was established though Governor Baker’s Executive Order No. 558.

Mr. Povich and Ms. Shelfer Casey provided an in-depth description of the history of the JNC though various administrations, the minimum qualifications for various judgeships, and the application process for a judgeship. A key point that Mr. Povich made throughout the meeting was that of the immense amount of time and effort it takes on the part of the JNC to review applications. While nominated by the Governor, the JNC is a volunteer commission, and Ms. Shelfer Casey noted it is not unusual for the time commitment to be upward of ten hours per week. They ended the discussion with some insights to the nominating process in the upcoming months with the unprecedented number of vacancies expected in the Supreme Judicial Court.

The BBA would like to sincerely thank Lon Povich and Sharon Shelfer Casey for taking the time to speak to our PILP class!

When Justice Has Not Been Done: Post-Conviction Relief for Noncitizens

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To best serve clients that are noncitizens seeking post-conviction relief, lawyers need to combine skills typically associated with different kinds of practice. There’s dealing with evidence – a skill crafted by going to trial – as well as an in-depth knowledge of the appeals process and how it might work in a client’s favor.

At a recent program, CPCS’s Benjamin Selman and Laura Mannion, from Banwarth & Associates, spoke to a room full of attorneys about common issues faced by noncitizens with criminal convictions, and the unique paths lawyers take to post-conviction relief in such cases. They focused on seeking a new trial for the convicted individual. Mannion cited lack of knowledge about the American judicial system and inadequate access to legal counsel as factors that work against noncitizens in court.

Mannion and Selman spoke about proving that “justice may not have been done” during the original trial, which is the language used in Massachusetts Criminal Procedure Rule 30(b). They  went over strategies to prove that the client did not receive justice, such as arguing that certain pieces of evidence should not have been admitted, or that the outcome of the trial would almost certainly have been different if the attorneys involved had not made errors.

Are you interested in other programs related to immigration? Check out these upcoming programs below:

The Treacherous Road to a Global Workforce: The Intersection of Export Controls, Employment, Immigration and Data Privacy Laws (CLE)
Wednesday, May 18 from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m.

Family-Based Immigration Basics
Friday, June 3 from 12:30 p.m. to 2 p.m.

BBA Volunteers at Greater Boston Food Bank

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Last week, eight BBA members joined a group of other volunteers at the Greater Boston Food Bank (GBFB) to pitch in sorting and packaging food.

The Greater Boston Food Bank (GBFB) is the largest hunger-relief organization in New England, and among the largest food banks in the country. Last year, they distributed more than 54 million pounds of food, enough to provide healthy meals to over 500,000 people

The GBFB also sees over 25,000 volunteers annually. Some help sort the food, like the BBA group did, while others help distribute the food to agencies and individuals and families who need it.

We are grateful to the GBFB for having us! Our volunteers had an amazing experience. If you are interested in more volunteer opportunities with the BBA, here is what we have coming up:

Annual Charles River Clean Up
Saturday, April 30, 2016 9:00 AM to 12:00 PM

Volunteer on the Farm: The Food Project Serve & Grow
Saturday, May 7, 2016 9:30 AM to 12:30 PM

Spring Woodland Restoration Event at Roslindale Urban Wild
Friday, May 13, 2016 9:30 AM to 12:00 PM

Retired, Esq: Access to Justice Fellows Offer Vital Pro Bono Expertise

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Legal Services organizations need attorneys. Attorneys looking for pro bono work need the time and resources to complete it. One way to bridge that gap is to recruit retired lawyers into partnering with legal services organizations on important projects related to improving access to justice.

That’s how the Access to Justice Fellows Program was born.

A program run by the Lawyers Clearinghouse in collaboration with the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court Access to Justice Commission, the Access to Justice Fellows Program pairs attorneys who have retired or are approaching retirement with organizations who need their services.

Here’s a snapshot of their five years of pro bono work, which Program Director Mia Friedman presented at a panel on the program hosted by the BBA’s Delivery of Legal Services section this week:

  • 7 fellows participated during the program’s first year
  • 19 fellows are now active in the Access to Justice Fellows program
  • 55 fellows have participated in the program over five years
  • They have completed at least 40,000 hours of legal work

Program Director Mia Friedman said most of the attorneys who participate choose to stay with their project for longer than the mandatory commitment of one year. The work done by attorneys in the program varies greatly, from immigration and tax-related matters to probate and family cases. They work for 10-20 hours per week with the organization to which they volunteer their services.

“One of the important aspects of the program is the monthly lunches” where attorneys in the program get together, Friedman said. “It has developed into this wonderful exchange of ideas and a real sense of community between the fellows.”

To learn how you can get involved with the Access to Justice Fellows program, please visit http://www.lawyersclearinghouse.org/access-to-justice-fellows/.

Chief Justice Ordoñez Weighs in on Importance of LAR at Probate & Family Court Training

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On Tuesday, Probate and Family Court Chief Justice Angela Ordoñez greeted attendees at a Limited Assistance Representation (LAR) workshop aimed at preparing attorneys to represent clients on a limited basis in a probate or family law case.

LAR is a useful tool for clients who might not otherwise have access to legal representation. Rather than paying a large sum as a retainer, they can hire an attorney for one particular motion or hearing, after which the parties can choose to go their separate ways or draft another agreement concerning the next steps.

The only problem with LAR, Chief Justice Ordoñez said, is that not enough people know they have access to it.

“Let people spread the word to their friends, their cousins, their family and all of that. If you spread the word about LAR, you’ll help the court, you’ll help the client and you’ll help yourselves. I see people every day who have no idea what LAR is,” she said.

Panelists Ilene Mitchell (Probate and Family Court Administrative Office) and Laura Unflat (The Law Office of Laura M. Unflat) spoke to attendees about their experience practicing LAR and answered questions about cases that the attorneys in the audience were already working on.

If you’re interested in learning more about LAR, including how to get certified to practice, our next training on April 28 will focus on LAR in the Boston Municipal and District Courts.  Click here to learn more.

Representing Low-Income Taxpayers: A Recap

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Last week, we wrapped up a three-part series of pro bono trainings geared toward helping to build the first ever low-income taxpayer pro bono panel of the Legal Services Center of Harvard Law School and Greater Boston Legal Services (GBLS).

Over the course of the series, attorneys learned about the IRS collections timeline, a client’s right to due process, and the best tactics for removing levies and liens. They also learned about working out payment agreements and other alternatives to full collection of back taxes, and how to best resolve a dispute stemming from an audit.

Expert attorneys as well as IRS representatives made up the panels for these trainings. Over the course of three programs, over 35 attorneys and tax professionals signed on to work with the low-income taxpayer pro bono panel.

We reached out to Keith Fogg, the Director of the Federal Tax Clinic at the Legal Services Center of Harvard Law School, and Luz Arevalo, a senior attorney at GBLS, to ask about the major takeaways of the program.

“Legal representation for all taxpayers most obviously helps the taxpayer represented, but it also serves as a check that improves our system of taxation. Working families will avoid much frustration and heartache if they respond promptly and correctly to a tax audit notice. Having an advocate involved early in the process will often translate into quick resolutions of the case.

I believe a paramount principle in taxation is Fairness. This principle is preserved by insuring access to legal representation.”

–Luz Arevalo

“An important takeaway from the most recent training is that the failure to respond to notices from the IRS or the MA Department of Revenue leads to dire consequences including not only a debt but also the loss of a driver’s license or a passport.  The government has created a process of auditing that is very automated and efficient for them.  Low income taxpayers, who will frequently shrink from responding out of fear of the unknown, need resources to assist them in responding and working with the system.  The National Taxpayer Advocate for the IRS has developed statistics showing much higher rates of success by represented taxpayers in the audit process.  The program sought to encourage and enable representatives provide much needed pro bono assistance.

As a new clinic and as a clinic partnering with GBLS, it is important for Harvard to co-host this program in order to help build a cadre of representatives willing and prepared to assist our clients when we reach capacity to assist them with the resources available in our clinic.”

–Keith Fogg

VLP Announces December, January, and February Honor Roll

Volunteers are crucial to many of VLP's programs, including the Lawyer for the Day in the Boston Housing Court Program pictured above.

Volunteers are crucial to many of VLP’s programs, including the Lawyer for the Day in the Boston Housing Court Program pictured above.

Volunteer Lawyers Project of the Boston Bar Association thanks the following attorneys who accepted cases or provided consultation December, January, and February:

Samuel Ames
Steven Ballard
Hans Banitt
Thomas Beauvais
Elaine Benkoski
Stephanie Biggs
Sarah Boonin
Maja Bozic
Alissa Brill
Rob Buchholz
Robert Burdick
Edward Burns
Jerald Burwick
Lisa Callahan
Vikas Dhar
Jessica Doucette
Meredith R. Douglas
James Downes
Jasmine Elatab
Peter Fellman
Dahlia Fetouh
Julie Franklin
Brendan Furey
Andres Garron
Nashwa Gewaily
Michael Giarrusso
David Goldman
Richard Goulding
Taurean Green
Steven Greenzang
David Haffner
Craig Herman
Karen Hoffman
Sharon Jones
Noor Kazmi
Susan Khurshudyan
Jeff Kiesling
Ilene Klein
Daniel Koh
Candace Labbe
Esther Laine
Maude Laroche-St. Fleur
Gregory Lee
Jacqueline Levy
Michelle Lewis
Amy Lipman-White
Corrine Lusic
Michael MacDonald
Cameron McGinn
Rosanna Molinaro
William Moore
Evelyn Venables Moreno
Madelyn Morris
Kristofer Munroe
Justin Murphy
Katherine Newman
Kate Nicholson
Judy O’Neil
Walter Oney
Seth Orkand
Allison Orpilla
William Patton
Nicholas Planty
Thomas Polito
John Polley
Camala Richardson
Patricia Ridge
Timothy Robertson
David Rome
Rebecca Royer
Lou Saban
Robert Sable
Ryan Takeo Sakoda
Evan Segal
Elizabeth Julia Smith
Danielle Spang
Kerry Spindler
Marsha Springette
Kathryn Terrell
Sharon Toffler
Jeffri Uber
William Valletta
Judith Vassilovski
Adrienne Walker
Brendan Ward
Heather Ward
Neil Warrenbrand
Amanda Whelan
Ajay Zutshi

LAR Series Continues With Housing Court Training

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BBA member Christopher Saccardi and First Justice of the Boston Housing Court Hon. Jeffrey Winik go way back. They go back to Saccardi’s days in law school, volunteering at the Lawyer for a Day program in Boston Housing Court.

Through that program, Saccardi took on his first Limited Assistance Representation (LAR) cases. He helped clients through a specific piece of their case, such as an individual motion or filing.

“LAR is a wonderful training ground for new lawyers who want courtroom experience,” Saccardi told attendees at a recent training on representing litigants in Housing Court.

Not only is LAR beneficial to new attorneys looking for experience, it can be a vital service to litigants who can’t afford legal representation. The vast majority of people who come before Judge Winik are unrepresented, he said. This is a huge disadvantage to the litigant, who may not have the knowledge to represent their own interest effectively. It also ties up the court system, as an attorney helps to move a case more efficiently forward.
During the training, the two panelists explained how to become certified online to practice LAR. They also gave tips on common obstacles in LAR cases, including how to facilitate communication with non-native English speakers, to drafting clear, specific fee agreements.

“The bedrock of LAR is informed consent,” Judge Winik said. “You, the lawyer, must understand what you have agreed to do, and most importantly, the client must understand what you’ve agreed to do – or not to do.”

Of the importance of LAR in his court, Judge Winik said, “It is always better to have a litigant represented than not.”

Don’t miss the rest of the LAR Practical Skills series. Sign up for one of the upcoming sessions on how to use LAR in particular courts:

LAR Practical Skills: Probate & Family Court
March 22nd 12-1:30 pm

LAR Practical Skills: Boston Municipal Court & District Court
April 28th 12-1:30 pm

LAR Practical Skills: Land Court
May 24th 12-1:30 pm