Established in 2015, the Veterans Justice Pro Bono Partnership at the Veterans Legal Clinic at the Legal Services Center of Harvard Law School assists veterans seeking discharge upgrades. The partnership connects veterans to private attorneys and provides ongoing support and expert resources to those attorneys throughout the case. For the past four years, the BBA has hosted an annual training to introduce interested attorneys to this opportunity and bolster the skillset and knowledge of existing pro bono volunteers. The next training will provide attendees the chance to hear perspectives from the military board of directors for the Air Force, Army, and Navy. They will discuss how the boards operate and how pro bono attorneys can best advocate for their veteran clients. The pro bono training will also include an update about recent changes in the law. You’re invited to attend on Thursday, April 25th from 2:30 – 5:00 PM at the BBA. A networking reception with the Active Duty Military and Veterans Forum will immediately follow the training. Read more and register to attend here.
Note that this training will build on those from 2015-2018. Convenient videos and materials from past trainings are available through our Learn Online library’s dedicated pro bono and public interest page. Easily watch the videos and review the materials whenever your schedule permits and wherever works for you, whether at your office or on the go!
Ahead of the Boston Bar Association’s first CORI Sealing Clinic over 50 attorneys and law students attended a training to learn about the sealing process. As many of the potential volunteers were new to this topic, Agapi Koulouris (Department of Criminal Justice Information Services) opened by reviewing precisely what information is kept on a CORI (Criminal Offender Record Information) and the visibility of that information to potential employers or housing providers. Following Koulouris, Sarah Joss (Office of the Commissioner of Probation) reviewed the administrative sealing process, which individuals can pursue when they have met the sealing waiting periods. These waiting periods were recently decreased (from 5 years to 3 years for a misdemeanor and from 10 years to 7 years for a felony) with the passage of the Criminal Justice Reform Bill last year. To start, the BBA’s clinic will primarily assist clients with obtaining their CORI and administrative sealing, and then it will transition into assisting clients with sealing prior to hitting their waiting period benchmark. Pauline Quirion and Vanessa Dennis (Greater Boston Legal Services) reviewed that process and also touched on the new expungement laws related to juvenile and certain adult criminal records. David Siegel (New England Law | Boston) moderated the panel and encouraged attendees to volunteer for the clinic.
At the first clinic on February 6th, five clients were assisted by our volunteers. These individuals were seeking help requesting their CORI and navigating the administrative sealing process. We anticipate that a few of those individuals will return to the clinic for follow-up and that we’ll see more clients visit in the coming months.
The clinic will take place every first Wednesday of the month from 9:00 AM – 1:00 PM at the Edward Brooke Courthouse. If you or your firm is interested in becoming involved, contact Cassandra Shavney at [email protected]
Recent comments by Attorney General Maura Healey on Boston Public Radio demonstrate the extent of human trafficking in the Commonwealth. Often unseen, the AG’s Office reports that 1 in 5 men in the state have tried buying sex online. Cities Empowered Against Sexual Exploitation (CEASE) Boston, a network of organizations devoted to ending human trafficking, is trying to stop the demand by targeting buyers. Through their strategy, they hope to hold sex buyers accountable and provide educational insight into the additional effects of human trafficking. On Monday, January 23rd at 12:30 PM, the BBA will host a program with speakers from CEASE Boston to further discuss the program’s objectives and strategies. We hope you’ll join us to hear more on this pervasive issue.
Click here to read more on the reports from the AG’s Office. To RSVP for the BBA program, No Buyers, No Business. Combatting Human Trafficking by Targeting the Demand, please click here or email Cassandra Shavney at [email protected].
This week, the BBA held its last pro bono training for the program year, which focused on trials in Housing Court. The goal of the training was to recruit volunteers for the BBA Lawyer for the Day in the Boston Housing Court program, where attorneys help landlords and tenants who would otherwise be unrepresented resolve disputes.
First Justice of the Housing Court Hon. Jeffrey Winik had many helpful tips that were practical in nature. “Never lose sight of the fact that you are looking to resolve a problem,” he advised.
He went on to say that a resolution that is mutually satisfying to both the landlord and the tenant may not be a “winning” verdict, so to speak. He also elaborated on the key to successfully arguing a case in Housing Court.
“A good trial lawyer has to be as familiar with the other side’s case as they are with their own,” he said.
Judge Winik also advised attorneys to vet information given to them by their clients by seeking out documents from other sources, such as city inspection offices.
We would like to thank those who led and those who participated in Pro Bono Trainings at the BBA this year, with special thanks to those who went on to volunteer their time after the training session.
We’ve talked about the over-abundance of pro se litigants in housing court, probate and family court. What happens when those cases go on appeal?
Unsurprisingly, many litigants continue to represent their own interests on appeal, contributing to further backup of the court system. That’s why the Volunteer Lawyer’s Project, in partnership with the Appeals Court, nine different law firms and six different legal services organizations, has launched the Pro Bono Appellate Pilot Program in Massachusetts.
The program hosts a weekly Clinic at which volunteer attorneys are available to provide legal assistance to eligible litigants, with the potential for further representation on appeal. The Clinic is currently housed at the Appeals Court Clerk’s Office and operates every Wednesday from 12:30p.m. to 4 p.m.
At a recent training, a panel made up of attorneys, court personnel and Appeals Court Chief Justice Scott Kafker spoke about the benefits of the program.
“As all of you know, there’s nothing more frightening and confusing than being a party in a lawsuit. That fear and confusion is compounded many times when you are without counsel,” Kafker said. “You are going to make the appeals court more fair, more accessible and more efficient. We are incredibly grateful for that.”
Panelists also shared best practices for helping low-income clients and some basic tips for navigating the appeals process.
If you are interested in Pro Bono opportunities, don’t miss out on these upcoming trainings:
“They made a choice – they said, ‘I know that this might happen to me.’ What we really hope is that you will help us to help these people when they get home.”
So said Anna Schleelein Richardson of veterans and the sacrifice they make by enlisting in the armed services, knowing the risk of physical injury or emotional distress. At a brown bag program last week aimed at training attorneys on providing legal assistance to veterans in family law cases, Richardson reminded attendees that this is the longest period of time in history that the U.S. has been at war.
Some of the clients she has seen at Veterans Legal Services never expected to go to war at all when they signed up to join the Coast Guard, or they planned to commit to just one tour in Iraq when they ended up serving two or three. Many of these soldiers come back with issues that lead to a need for legal assistance in family law cases, she said.
Later on in the week, veterans and lawyers who have represented veterans came to discuss their experience firsthand. The BBA hosted its second Meet and Greet Luncheon for veterans in the legal community and their families.
Several branches of the military were represented, and attendees had the chance to talk about their shared experiences. Attorneys who frequently represent veterans were also in attendance.
If you are interested in representing veterans, we are holding a Pro Bono training on discharge upgrades on May 18.