Author Archives: rmcgovern

Future Roxbury Defender Wins MBA Scholarship

Hakeem Muhammad

Hakeem Muhammad, a future Committee for Public Counsel Services public defender, has been selected as the 2020 recipient of the Massachusetts Bar Association’s Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr. Scholarship.

The $10,000 scholarship is awarded annually to a graduating law student who is committed to providing legal assistance to underrepresented individuals and communities in Massachusetts upon graduation.

“The Massachusetts Bar Association is very pleased to present this scholarship to Hakeem, who has already demonstrated an impressive dedication to protecting the rights of others through his past public interest experiences,” said attorney Francis C. Morrissey, chair of the MBA’s Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr. Scholarship Committee. “We look forward to welcoming him as a member of the Massachusetts Bar, and we wish him well as he gets ready to begin his career as a public defender in Boston.”

Muhammad, a Northeastern University School of Law Public Interest Law Scholar, was an intern at CPCS’ Roxbury office last summer. He will begin his legal career as a Roxbury Defender.

“We are excited to have Hakeem join our team of dedicated, hardworking Roxbury Defenders,” said Allison Cartwright, Attorney-in-Charge at the Roxbury CPCS office. “This is especially so as Hakeem interned at our office last summer and is familiar with the communities we serve.”

While interning with CPCS, Muhammad helped argue that a defendant charged with attempted murder had been unlawfully arrested based on false statements attributed to him by police. He also helped file a successful motion to suppress evidence that was seized without probable cause from a homeless African American teenager’s car.

“Agents of the State are more likely to trample upon the constitutional rights of defendants from inner-city neighborhoods that have been impacted by poverty and institutional racism. Such defendants are more likely not to receive the same level of quality representation that the Harvey Weinsteins, O.J. Simpsons and Lori Loughlins of the world acquire. This is very unjust. I look forward to contributing to the zealous representation of the indigent as a future trial attorney in Roxbury,” Muhammad said.

Muhammad is also the recipient of the Walter B. Prince Fellowship – a one-year program that provides financial and training support to an outstanding attorney at the beginning of their career.

The fellowship was created this year to honor the legacy of firm co-founder Walter Prince, whose early career included work with the Roxbury Defenders. The recipient of the fellowship will spend a year working and training as a public defender while being compensated by Prince Lobel.

Prince was a Roxbury Defender from 1974 to 1976, and he was the chairman of the Committee from January 1992 through November 1993.

CPCS Statement on Coronavirus Pandemic

PRESS RELEASE

The Committee for Public Counsel Services today announced that it is taking aggressive actions in order to reduce the spread of COVID-19 among its employees and the public, and — with the dangers of the ongoing pandemic in mind — public defenders across the commonwealth will be heading to court next week to ask for the release of its most-vulnerable clients.

In order to provide as much social distancing as possible, the state public defender office is instituting a remote work policy. Starting on Monday, all employees across the state who can work remotely will do so. Continue reading

Public Defender Added to Access to Justice Commission

The Supreme Judicial Court has added a public defender to the Massachusetts Access to Justice Commission.

Adrian Angus, a trial attorney in the Worcester Superior Court Office of the Committee for Public Counsel Services, was named to the Access to Justice Commission last week. The commission, created in 2005, seeks to improve access to justice for people who are unable to afford an attorney for essential civil legal needs, such as cases involving housing, consumer debt and family law.

Angus has also served as a member of the Access to Justice Council of the Massachusetts Bar Association and as a board member of the American Civil Liberties Union of Central Massachusetts.

She joins, Leemarie Mosca, president and executive director of Rosie’s Place, and Gladys Vega, executive director of the Chelsea Collaborative, as new members of the commission.

“We are delighted to welcome these new members to the Commission,” said Supreme Judicial Court Chief Justice Ralph D. Gants, who co-chairs the Commission, in a statement. “The new members include a public defender, the head of Boston’s pioneering provider of shelter and support services for women, and the leader of an innovative community organization known for helping children, immigrants, and refugees. Each of these new members is familiar with the barriers that too often block access to justice for the Commonwealth’s residents, and they will each bring an important perspective to the Commission’s ongoing efforts to remove those barriers.”

VIDEO: YAF Wins 2020 Reginald Heber Smith Award

The Youth Advocacy Foundation (YAF), the nonprofit arm of the Massachusetts juvenile public defender agency, is the 2020 winner of the Reginald Heber Smith Award for Excellence in Legal Services.

The award, presented by Massachusetts Lawyers Weekly, goes to an organization that has exhibited innovation and excellence in legal advocacy. YAF received the award at the Massachusetts Lawyers Weekly 2020 Leaders in the Law event on March 5.

Below is the video that was shown at the event:

“The work that we do at the EdLaw Project is transforming for the children and it is the same thing that many of you are trying to do for your own children, which is to make sure they have the best opportunity for educational success.  As you saw in the video, this work can have life-changing impact,” said Marlies Spanjaard, executive director of the Youth Advocacy Foundation, during her speech at the event. “Whether that means getting a child help in learning to read or clearing up a disciplinary incident or an unfair disciplinary practice, it is incredibly meaningful and gratifying to be a part of that change. It helps me—and all of us at the EdLaw Project—to feel good about the future and about the foundation we are laying for the next generation. Receiving this award tonight affirms that our work is important to all of you, too, and for that we are deeply grateful.”

Through zealous legal representation and community-based services, YAF fights to decrease the risk of chronic court involvement and to increase the chances that young people will grow into healthy, thriving adults.

YAF’s innovative EdLaw Project has been in existence since 2001 and has provided direct representation to nearly 2,000 children. Through the EdLaw Project, court-appointed attorneys across the state receive specialized training and support to help them incorporate education advocacy into their practice.

“I am grateful to be among so many leaders in the law. As I look around the room and see so many of my colleagues, it is truly gratifying to have an event that brings together such a cross-section of so many practice areas,”  Spanjaard said. “Though we may have diverse practice areas and interests we also have a lot in common.  This night showcases that we all share a commitment to excellence in our practice. We care about our work.  A big part of what makes me care about my work is the children we serve, and I imagine that this is something you can all relate to.”

SJC: Ask if Passenger Can Drive Before Impoundment

Police must ask an arrested driver whether they want a passenger to drive their vehicle to a safe location before authorities can decide whether it’s “reasonably necessary” to impound and conduct an inventory search, according to the Supreme Judicial Court. 

“We conclude that, where officers are aware that a passenger lawfully could assume custody of a vehicle, it is improper to impound the vehicle without first offering this option to the driver,” Justice Barbara A. Lenk wrote in a decision issued Monday. “Absent such an inquiry, the police cannot conclude that impoundment is ‘reasonably necessary.’”

Committee for Public Counsel Services appellate attorney Patrick Levin argued that the requirement for police to honor a practical alternative to impounding a vehicle “would be rendered meaningless if police were permitted simply to impound the vehicle without inquiring into an obvious, readily available alternative.”

Levin added that the police should have the burden to “make a reasonable inquiry” to the arrested individual’s wishes when there are alternatives to impoundment “readily apparent at the scene.”

Lawyers for the ACLU of Massachusetts and the Massachusetts Association of Criminal Defense Attorneys wrote an amicus brief siding with CPCS.

Randy Gioia Outlines Concerns about Videoconferencing

Randy Gioia

Defense attorneys across the Commonwealth have voiced concerns about the prospect of expanding the use of videoconferencing in criminal proceedings.

District Court Chief Justice Paul C. Dawley has been accepting comments on a draft standing order outlining the use of videoconferencing.

Randy Gioia, deputy chief counsel for the Committee for Public Counsel Services, explained his reservations about expanding the practice to Mass Lawyers Weekly for a recent article on the ongoing controversy:

Gioia said he appreciated Dawley’s willingness to listen to the bar’s concerns but fears the expansion of videoconferencing will be a “step backward” after great progress on criminal justice issues.

Gioia said he does not understand why judges look so favorably on a process that “detracts from the dignity of the court and dehumanizes the person on the other end of the screen.” …

Gioia noted that it is fairly common for a defendant in the courtroom to whisper to his attorney: “What the prosecutor said isn’t right. Here’s what really happened.”

But that conversation cannot happen with videoconferencing, at least not without a significant interruption of the proceedings, he said.

Theoretically, a judge could tell a defendant, “If at any time you need to say something to your lawyer, just let me know and I’ll stop the proceedings,” Gioia said. But he said he has never seen or heard of that happening.

YAF Wins 2020 Excellence in Legal Services Award

The Youth Advocacy Foundation (YAF), the nonprofit arm of the Massachusetts juvenile public defender agency, has been named the 2020 winner of the Reginald Heber Smith Award for Excellence in Legal Services.

The award, presented by Massachusetts Lawyers Weekly, goes to an organization that has exhibited innovation and excellence in legal advocacy. YAF will receive the award at the Massachusetts Lawyers Weekly 2020 Leaders in the Law event on March 5.

“We are incredibly honored to be recognized by Mass Lawyers Weekly for the work that we do to ensure that Massachusetts’ most vulnerable kids have access to representation when they are being excluded from school and/or not receiving the special education services they need in order to succeed,” said Marlies Spanjaard, executive director of the Youth Advocacy Foundation. “We hope that this award will provide us the opportunity to raise awareness to the educational inequities that exist in our schools and the huge societal benefit of shutting down the school to prison pipeline.”

Through zealous legal representation and community-based services, YAF fights to decrease the risk of chronic court involvement and to increase the chances that young people will grow into healthy, thriving adults.

YAF’s innovative EdLaw Project has been in existence since 2001 and has provided direct representation to nearly 2,000 children. Through the EdLaw Project, court-appointed attorneys across the state receive specialized training and support to help them incorporate education advocacy into their practice.

EdLaw attorneys are organized by region and support the 1,000-person statewide juvenile bar, which represents kids involved in child welfare cases and the juvenile justice system. As a result of the EdLaw Project and its attorneys, children across the state have received advocacy that has allowed them to remain in school and receive the services they need.

CPCS Testifies in Favor of Safe Communities Act

Wendy Wayne, director of the Immigration Impact Unit at the Committee for Public Counsel Services, testified in favor of the Safe Communities Act on Friday.

Wendy Wayne, director of the Immigration Impact Unit at the Committee for Public Counsel Services, testified in favor of the Safe Communities Act – a bill designed to protect the civil rights of all Massachusetts residents. 

Wayne, speaking before the Joint Committee on Public Safety and Homeland Security on Friday, said the bill “prioritizes the needs of the Massachusetts criminal justice system over the civil immigration needs of ICE” by allowing state authorities to notify federal immigration officials about the release of individuals only after they have completed their criminal sentences. 

“When defendants are arrested by ICE while their cases are still pending, they rarely return to court to resolve those open criminal cases,” Wayne said. “That leaves defendants unable to assert their rights or to be held accountable, and leaves victims without closure.”

The bill bars law enforcement and court officials from asking people about their immigration status, unless otherwise required by law. It would also prevent police, court officers and jail officials from notifying ICE that someone is about to be released during a pending case.

“While ICE has arrest powers, those powers are only to take people into custody to facilitate their deportations, not to punish people, rehabilitate them or protect the public,” Wayne said. “That is the responsibility of our criminal justice system, and ICE’s arrests of people with open cases interferes with that responsibility.”

The bill would also put an end to 287(g) agreements, which allow state officials to maintain contracts with ICE.

The CPCS Immigration Impact Unit helps defense attorneys fulfill their constitutional duty to advise their clients about immigration consequences of their criminal cases. The unit also provides training throughout Massachusetts on the immigration consequences of criminal conduct, distributes written training materials and updates on significant legal issues, and provide post-conviction litigation support.

Press Contact:
Bob McGovern
rmcgovern@publiccounsel.net
617-910-5758

Roxbury Defender Receives Community Leadership Award

Roxbury Defender Kristyn Henry received an award from the North Shore Black Women’s Association for being a community leader.

Kristyn Henry, a trial attorney with the Roxbury Defenders Unit, was honored by the North Shore Black Women’s Association for being a community leader who exemplifies Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s “ideals, passion and commitment to service.”

Henry received the award during the NSBWA’s 27th Annual Martin Luther King, Jr. Luncheon on Saturday afternoon in Malden.

“My clients are poor, marginalized, unfairly targeted, and live in areas that are significantly over policed,” Henry said during her acceptance speech. “But my clients are also strong men and women, hard workers, immigrants, influencers, mothers, fathers, and so much more than the statistics and categories where they are regularly placed.”

Since becoming a public defender, Henry has dedicated her practice to representing people of color, immigrants, and young people who otherwise cannot afford counsel.

“As an attorney, I know that there are much higher paying and more prestigious jobs that I could have,” she said. “But I chose to be a public defender and I love what I do. I chose to exclusively represent the indigent population in the neighborhoods of Dorchester, Roxbury and Mattapan.”

Outside of court, Henry has been a mentor to young people within her community; including high school students, college students, paralegals, and law students; through various internships, mentorship programs, and work-study programs. Additionally, she is an adjunct professor at Northshore Community College where she teaches various courses in its Paralegal Studies program.

“As a professor I have been blessed to have the opportunity to meet so many young people who are interested in some aspect of the legal field,” she said. “I challenge them to do better than me, do better than the attorneys before me. Because I truly believe that we all have the capacity to change the world: One small step at a time.”

Henry said she is proud of her Guyanese heritage and culture, and understands how being a young woman of color from a family of immigrants puts her in a unique position to connect with many of her clients on a meaningful level.

“Years ago, there is no way that I would be standing here before you today as a young black woman attorney and professor,” she said. “But the progress we have made is not enough. There is still so much racism, prejudice, inequality, and injustice in our communities and I believe that it is our duty, my duty, to continue to put forth my greatest effort to make change, no matter how small.”

Henry is an active member of the Massachusetts Black Lawyer’s Association, the Boston Bar Association, the Massachusetts Bar Association and the National Legal Aid and Defender Association. She holds a Juris Doctor from Florida Coastal School of Law in Jacksonville, FL where she received a Governor’s scholarship.