Author Archives: rmcgovern

CPCS Editorial: Attacks on Bail Decisions Don’t Tell Full Story

Public officials have been chastising New Bedford judges for their bail decisions – using words like “liberal” and “limited” to describe their tendencies.

Committee for Public Counsel Services leadership felt the need to push back

Randy Gioia, Deputy Chief Counsel of the Public Defender Division for CPCS, wrote an editorial for the New Bedford Standard-Times indicating that public officials are not explaining what bail really is and, in doing so, are confusing the public:

Missing from this media campaign is a degree of nuance — one where trained attorneys explain to the public what bail is in the first place. Judges are forbidden from speaking to the press, and if law enforcement officials actually told the whole story, the public would know that terms like “lenient” and “liberal” are buzzwords used to pave over an otherwise productive conversation.

The purpose of bail is to ensure that a defendant comes to court after they’re released from jail.

Bail is not a form of punishment. It is not society’s way of exacting revenge for the alleged commission of a crime, and there is a very important reason for that — the Constitutional presumption of innocence.

Read the full column here.

John Lozada Receives Lifetime Achievement Award

John Lozada, Equity and Inclusion Director for CPCS.

John Lozada, the Equity and Inclusion Director for the Committee for Public Counsel Services, was named this year’s recipient of the Lucia Mayerson-David Lifetime Achievement Award at El Jolgorio Navideño, the largest Latino holiday gala in New England.

Lozada was given the award during a reception on Dec. 14.

“A trailblazer in Boston and throughout the commonwealth, John Lozada has been a tireless advocate for the Latino Community throughout his impressive career,” reads a statement, announcing the award. “A successful attorney, John has used his talents and knowledge to advocate for more Latino judges on the federal bench with the late Senator Ted Kennedy, to champion civil rights at MassDOT, and now ensuring that CPCS is an inclusive environment for its staff and clients.”

Money raised through El Jolgorio Navideño support the TAG Latino Program of UMass Boston, which has provided a culturally sustaining pipeline to college for Latino students since 1985. The event is put on by the TAG Association, Inc., nonprofit organization that serves the Latino community of Greater Boston.

CPCS Staffers ‘Adopt’ 35 Kids for Holidays

Staff at the Committee for Public Counsel Services “adopted” 35 kids in partnership with Massachusetts Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children. Each child will get a gift for the holiday season.

Staff from the Springfield office of the Committee for Public Counsel Services “adopted” 35 kids for the holidays in partnership with the Massachusetts Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children (MSPCC).

Each CPCS staffer received a holiday wish list from a child and then shopped for and wrapped the gifts. The gifts will be picked up by MSPCC and distributed by clinicians assigned to the children.

“The children involved in MSPCC’s programs deal with some of the most serious problems you can imagine. As public defenders, we are committed to supporting the most marginalized members of our community. We are grateful for this opportunity to let these kids know that our hearts are with them,” said Trevor Maloney, a staff attorney with the CPCS Springfield office, who helped organize the gift drive. “I’m proud to work with so many generous attorneys, investigators, social service advocates, and administrative support staff. We hope the clothes, toys, books, and other gifts bring some holiday cheer to these kids and their families.”

CPCS attorneys, investigators, social service advocates, and administrative assistants with the Youth Advocacy Division, the Children and Family Law Division and the Public Defender Division all participated.

The MSPCC is a nonprofit organization dedicated to protecting and promoting the rights and well-being of children and families.

Appeals Court: Hearsay Not Enough to Revoke Probation

A juvenile should not have had their probation revoked based entirely “on unreliable hearsay testimony from a Department of Children and Families case worker,” the Massachusetts Appeals Court has ruled. 

During an Oct. 2, 2017 probation revocation hearing, a DCF case worker testified that the juvenile was not cooperating with the department and “ha[d] broken all the rules,” according to the decision.

However, the case worker was not assigned to the juvenile’s case when the alleged violations occurred. The case worker also admitted that his testimony was entirely based on conversations with a third party and notes from the juvenile’s DCF case file.

“This case is a simple case of classic, multiple-level, hearsay,” said Benjamin L. Falkner, a Committee for Public Counsel Services bar advocate, during oral arguments in March. “It does not come close to meeting the requirements of being substantially reliable.”

The Appeals Court agreed, and on Tuesday reversed a lower court judge’s order revoking probation and imposing a sentence on the juvenile.

“We … conclude that the testimony from the case worker lacked the ‘indicia of reliability’ required to support finding that the juvenile violated his probation,” Appeals Court Justice Edward McDonough wrote. “Significantly, the case worker’s testimony lacked the requisite factual detail.”

CPCS, Prince Lobel Create Walter B. Prince Fellowship

Jessie Carredano, a 2019 graduate of Suffolk Law, is the first Walter B. Prince Fellowship recipient.

The Committee for Public Counsel Services and Boston law firm Prince Lobel have joined together to create 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.

“This fellowship has a tremendous amount of significance to me. It’s humbling, and I really appreciate what the law firm has done,” Walter Prince said. “It is providing needed funds to CPCS and it paves the way for a very bright and talented young lawyer to get a good start in the profession and in providing quality legal services to indigent clients.”

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

Jessie Carredano, a 2019 graduate of Suffolk University Law School, is the first-ever fellow and works for CPCS in Roxbury, West Roxbury and Dorchester.

“I am excited to work with the clients that CPCS serves. Everyone deserves to have their story told, and everyone deserves to have someone fight for them,” Carredano said. “I am also excited to be part of the Roxbury Defenders Unit. RDU is full of rich history, and I look forward to working alongside some great attorneys and learning from them.”

Carredano was a student attorney with Suffolk Defenders and represented clients charged with misdemeanors and felonies. She also was a student attorney with the Harvard Prison Legal Assistance Project where she interviewed inmates in preparation for their Massachusetts Department of Correction disciplinary hearings. She was also the Jack T. Litman Fellow of Harvard Defenders and helped develop defense strategies in representing indigent clients at criminal cause hearings.

Prince said young lawyers like Carredano are exactly what the firm is looking for in future fellows.

“We are looking for someone who is committed to providing quality legal services to indigent clients and someone who is passionate about the Constitution,” he said. “We want someone who is passionate about making sure that everyone has the right to a fair trial.”

Rodriguez Named to El Mundo Boston 30 under 30 List

Anna Shaddae Rodriguez, a staff attorney with the Committee for Public Counsel Services, was named one of El Mundo Boston’s Latino 30 under 30 recipients. (Photo Courtesy: El Mundo Boston)

Anna Shaddae Rodriguez, a staff attorney for the Committee for Public Counsel Services, has been named to the El Mundo Boston Latino 30 under 30 list.

El Mundo annually awards “young individuals making an impact on the Massachusetts Latino community in a variety of fields. … The list serves to highlight the growing and invaluable impact of the Latino community in Boston, the state and world.”

Rodriguez, 27, received the honor last week. Earlier this year, Rodriquez won the Massachusetts Bar Association’s 2019 Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr. Scholarship. She is a 2019 graduate of Northeastern University School of Law.

High Court Outlines New Showup Procedures

The John Adams Courthouse in Downtown Boston houses the Supreme Judicial Court.

Police officers are required to give specific instructions to witnesses before they attempt to identify a suspect during the immediate aftermath of an alleged crime, according to a high court decision outlining the new protocol.

The Supreme Judicial Court, siding with an argument made by Committee for Public Counsel Services attorneys, expanded a prior ruling that required officers to provide instructions to witnesses prior to using photographic arrays.

“We conclude that it is prudent, going forward, to require that police provide witnesses with an instruction prior to a showup identification,” wrote Justice Frank Gaziano, in the Nov. 13 unanimous decision.

The SJC now mandates that, before having a witness participate in a showup identification, police officers will now be required to give the following instructions:

You are going to be asked to view a person; the alleged wrongdoer may or may not be the person you are about to view; it is just as important to clear an innocent person from suspicion as it is to identify the wrongdoer; regardless of whether you identify someone, we will continue to investigate; if you identify someone, I will ask you to state, in your own words, how certain you are.

If an officer fails to give a witness the instructions prior to the showup identification, judges can render the identification inadmissible. If it is found to be admissible, if can affect what instructions the judge can give the jury about how they should evaluate the accuracy of the identification.

The reason for the instruction is that one-on-one showup identifications have been shown to be inherently suggestive. Patrick Levin, a staff attorney for CPCS, cited empirical research and precedent in his brief to the SJC.

“This Court has held that one-on-one showups, though suggestive, are not unnecessarily suggestive if police had good reason to use that procedure,” Levin wrote. “However, because of their inherent suggestiveness and unreliability, it is vital for police to follow best practices in conducting them.”

The New England Innocence Project, the Innocence Project and the Massachusetts Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers supported CPCS’s position in an amicus brief and argued against the issues with showup identifications.

“While the utility of showups is often described in terms of their immediacy – allowing police to obtain an identification while an event is still fresh in the mind of the witness – research shows
that identifications from showups typically are less reliable than lineups even when showups are conducted in the immediate aftermath of a crime and the lineup is conducted after a delay,” the amicus brief states.

While the SJC announced a new protocol, it declined to reverse the motion judge’s denial of a motion to dismiss based on the procedure used in the showup identification in this case.

Public Defenders Seek Fair Retirement Classification

From L-R: Ziyad Hopkins, a staff attorney for CPCS, Mark Larsen, director of CPCS’s Mental Health Division, Pasqua Scibelli, a CPCS staff attorney with the Alternative Commitment and Registration Support Unit, and Norma Wassel, director of the agency’s social service advocacy, testify at the State House on Nov. 12, 2019.

Prosecutors and public defenders have stressful jobs, and both are frequently placed face-to-face with the trauma that inevitably surfaces when working in the criminal justice system. 

But when it comes to retirement, assistant district attorneys and those who work for the Committee for Public Counsel Services are treated much differently. Prosecutors receive enhanced retirement benefits, while CPCS staffers are placed in the lowest retirement classification of anyone in the courtroom.

In response, CPCS representatives went to the State House on Nov. 12 to ask for equal treatment.

“Our attorneys have to be exposed to the same emotionally stressful and traumatic events as the district attorneys, and therefore it is only fair that they are given the same rates of compensation, which includes the same retirement,” said Pasqua Scibelli, a CPCS staff attorney with the Alternative Commitment and Registration Support Unit.

Norma Wassel, director of social service advocacy for CPCS. asks lawmakers to “balance the scales of justice” when it comes to the agency’s retirement classification.

CPCS staffers and leadership testified before the Joint Committee on Public Service and described the need for retirement parity with state prosecutors – arguing that CPCS’s retirement classification should be shifted from Group 1 to Group 4. 

“I feel strongly that the job we do provides real justice in our system, but we have jobs where inherently there is stress and some physical danger,” said Norma Wassel, director of social service advocacy for CPCS. “I hope you would balance the scales of justice the way that we do.”

In 1996, state law was amended to include district attorneys and assistant district attorneys with 10 years of service in the Group 4 retirement classification. For years, CPCS has filed bills petitioning the Legislature to equal treatment for its attorneys, investigators and social workers.

Mark Larsen, director of CPCS’s Mental Health Division, said his attorneys experience “vicarious trauma” through their interactions with clients who “are at their most vulnerable and agitated when we meet with them.”

“One of our attorneys got a call from a very distressed client from one of the hospitals, and they were threatening suicide. She went and met with him for several hours. One of his concerns was that he couldn’t trust the staff,” Larsen said. “After several hours of working with this suicidal patient, he was able to return to his unit and eventually engaged with the staff. He was eventually discharged.”

Ziyad Hopkins, a staff attorney who has worked for CPCS for more than 20 years, said he has also received a call from a suicidal client. 

“I drove to the client’s house, and tried to help them in this time of crisis,” Hopkins said. “Luckily, I was able to. I am proud that people can turn to me, and I am proud to be in that role, but it takes a toll.” 

CPCS staff attorney Ziyad Hopkins tells lawmakers that public defenders often carry the trauma of their clients.

He added that changing CPCS’s retirement classification would help him with his two passions – the law and his family. 

“I am loyal to the rule of law, and I am proud to work with my brothers and sisters at the Bar and upholding the rule of law,” Hopkins said. “I am also devoted to my family – my wife and my two daughters – and believe the passage of this bill will allow me to honor both: My loyalty to the rule of law and the devotion to my family.”

CPCS Leaders, International Guest Tour Child Welfare Center

From L-R: Mona Igram, the Attorney in Charge of the Committee for Public Counsel Services’ Youth Advocacy Division office in Lowell, Basel Abu Zayda, of the Ministry of Social Development in the West Bank, and Josh Dohan, Director of the Youth Advocacy Division, toured the Robert F. Kennedy Children’s Action Corps facility in Lancaster. Lauren Sousa, Director of Clinical Services at RFK and Phil Pichie, Residential Director, were on hand for the tour.

Committee for Public Counsel Services Youth Advocacy Division leaders toured a Bay State child welfare and juvenile justice center with an international guest and showcased some model residential and educational programming for children and youth.

Mona Igram, the attorney in charge of the Committee for Public Counsel Services’ Youth Advocacy Division office in Lowell, and Josh Dohan, director of the Youth Advocacy Division, toured the Robert F. Kennedy Children’s Action Corps facility in Lancaster with Basel Abu Zayda, of the Ministry of Social Development in the West Bank.

“As public defenders for children and youth, we were quite impressed with the residential and educational programs being run by the Robert F. Kennedy Children’s Action Corps,” Dohan said. “It was the perfect program to show a guest from another country looking for best practices to take home.”

Robert F. Kennedy Children’s Action Corps is a nonprofit child welfare organization providing community-based services, education, foster care and adoption, residential treatment, and juvenile justice programming to individuals and families in crisis.

Alan Klein, president of the Robert F. Kennedy Children’s Action Corps, guided the tour.

SJC: School Assembly Amendment Applies Retroactively

Legislation geared toward keeping kids out of the school-to-prison pipeline by prohibiting criminal proceedings against juvenile students for “disturbing a school assembly” based on in-school conduct must be applied retroactively to cases pending when the law was enacted, according to a recent high court decision.

The Supreme Judicial Court, siding with the position of the Committee for Public Counsel Services and others, found that it would be “repugnant to the purpose of the Legislature’s amendment of the school assembly statute” to have the law apply prospectively.

The student who was being prosecuted under the old version of the law was represented in his appeal to the SJC by Eva Jellison, a private attorney assigned to the case by CPCS.

“The disturbing a school assembly offense was a major factor in the school-to-prison pipeline. For example, in 2016, 250 children were charged solely with disturbing a school assembly,” Jellison said. “The children that this offense affected the most were black, brown, LGBTQ, poor, and disabled.”

The SJC vacated a lower court’s adjudication of delinquency against the juvenile and remanded the case for dismissal.

“The legislative intent was to reduce the number of kids involved in the juvenile justice system,” said Afton M. Templin, director of juvenile appeals for CPCS’s Youth Advocacy Division. “We are pleased with the decision, and we are hopeful that this reduces the number of kids in the school-to-prison pipeline.”

CPCS’s Youth Advocacy Division filed an amicus brief, which was written by private attorney Melissa Allen Celli. The brief urged the high court to apply the law retroactively. Citizens for Juvenile Justice, the Mental Health Legal Advisors Committee, Massachusetts Appleseed, the Charles Hamilton Houston Institute for Race and Justice at Harvard Law School, GLBTQ Legal Advocates & Defenders, the American Civil Liberties Union of Massachusetts, the Massachusetts Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, and the Anti-Defamation League all signed onto the brief.

This marks the second time the SJC sided with CPCS regarding the retroactivity of the Criminal Justice Reform Act. Earlier this year, the high court found that the Legislature’s revised definition of “delinquent child” in the Act must apply retroactively.

Press Contact:
Bob McGovern