Transitions in Youth Advocacy Division Appeals

The phrases most likely to come out of Barbara Kaban’s mouth: “I can do that.”  “I will do that.” And most likely: “I already did that.”

Barbara embodies all the characteristics of a great public defender: outstanding legal acumen, a never say die attitude, extraordinary energy, unending generosity, and a willingness to speak her mind.  Barbara came to the Committee for the Public Counsel Services in 2012, as the first Director of Juvenile Appeals for the Youth Advocacy Division.  At CPCS, Barbara teamed up with Ben Keehn and a host of other lawyers and social workers to seek justice and freedom for the dozens of adolescents who had been condemned to die in Massachusetts prisons.  Together they litigated the implementation of the 2012 Supreme Court decisions, Miller v. Alabama, which which prohibited imposition of mandatory sentences of life without parole for juveniles.  This resulted in the SJC decisions banning life without the possibility of parole in any juvenile case (retroactively) and creating a right to counsel and access to funds for experts in juvenile lifer parole hearings.  It also resulted (so far) in nearly a dozen positive parole votes and several former juveniles already back in the community as free men.  She has been instrumental in establishing a specialized appellate panel whose mission is to enforce and enhance the constitutional and statutory rights of Massachusetts’ juveniles.

Barbara is retiring from CPCS, but only to free her up to pursue even more litigation, writing, and teaching as a private practitioner.  She will continue to combine her expertise in education advocacy and adolescent brain development with a comprehensive understanding of the state criminal justice system to provide exceptional training and support to the cases before the state juvenile defense bar.  She has authored or co-authored countless amicus briefs and, as an expert at litigating major cases before the Supreme Judaical Court in Massachusetts, we are counting on her continuing this practice.  She will continue to be sought-after for advice regarding challenging cases and implementing innovative strategies to bend the law in the direction of justice.  Barbara is a born risk-taker and trailblazer.  We have no doubt that she will continue to push the law in a direction that most benefits juveniles and their unique legal and life needs.  She inspires (and entertains) her fellow attorneys with her quick wit and her penchant for pushing boundaries and will be deeply missed in the office.  She was never afraid to challenge conventions in her zealous advocacy for her clients.  Generations of youth in Massachusetts will reap the rewards of her efforts.  We believe we speak for all of us when we say Barbara will be sorely missed (and we certainly will keep her cell number on speed dial).

As difficult as it is to lose Barbara, we are very fortunate to be introducing the next Director of Juvenile Appeals: Ryan Schiff.  Ryan is a worth successor to Barbara.  I know this because Barbara said so.  And so did Beth.  During his tenure in the CPCS Special Litigation Unit from 2010-2015, Ryan litigated numerous successful, important appeals in the Supreme Judicial Court.  Within a month of joining the SLU, Ryan argued and won the case of Coffin v. Superintendent of the Mass. Treatment Center, in which he persuaded a majority of the SJC justices that an illegal sentence could not provide the custodial predicate for an SDP commitment.  The following year, Ryan prevailed in Doe v. Police Commissioner of Boston,  in which the SJC held unconstitutional a statutory provision of the Sex Offender Registry Law as applied to an elderly man in a rest home.  In 2013, Ryan won Comm. v Hanson H., in which the SJC held that juveniles adjudicated delinquent are not subject to mandatory GPS monitoring, and in 2014, Ryan won Moe v. Sex Offender Registry Board, a class action in which the SJC held that new registry dissemination laws for level 2 offenders could not be applied retroactively.  Prior to joining CPCS, Ryan was an Associate with Salsberg & Schneider providing representation at all stages of federal and state criminal and civil cases.  Ryan received his J.D. from Northeastern and also has an M.A. in English from UMass Boston.

As with Barbara a simple recitation of his credentials and some of his cases does not begin to do him justice.  Like Barbara, Ryan is a strategic legal thinker who excels at spotting issues and developing strategies for effecting systemic change through litigation.  He is also committed to devoting himself to providing leadership and support to all juvenile practitioners.  As he remarked in the hiring process, he is much more interested in working closely with the many strong juvenile defenders around the state to support their advocacy efforts than in playing a “Lone Ranger” role, riding to the rescue a few times a year.  Please join us in welcoming Ryan to YAD.