UPDATE: The following article on the Essex County Bar Advocate Program being named this year’s recipient of the American Bar Association’s Harrison Tweed Award appeared in The Salem News on June 28, 2017: http://www.salemnews.com/news/local_news/local-legal-assistance-program-receives-national-award/article_825265e8-c83e-5c41-9873-f47c655446ed.html
On May 4, 2017, Public Defender Division Staff Attorney Rebecca Jacobstein received the Massachusetts Bar Association’s 2017 Access to Justice Defender Award for her work on behalf of clients affected by the misconduct of a state drug lab chemist in Western Massachusetts.
Rebecca and her husband and mother were present at the MBA Annual Dinner to receive the Award.
Congratulations Rebecca. Thank you for the work you do for our clients.
You can listen to a podcast of Rebecca discussing her work on the fallout from the drug lab scandal HERE.
Here is a photograph of Rebecca receiving the award from MBA President Joseph Catalano.
Here is the text of the nominating letter.
We nominate Attorney Rebecca A. Jacobstein of the Committee for Public Counsel Services for 2016-2017 Massachusetts Bar Association Access to Justice Award – Defender Award.
Attorney Jacobstein is a CPCS staff attorney in the Appeals Unit of the Public Defender Division.
For the last three years, she has been relentless in the pursuit of justice for her clients and thousands of other people affected by the Sonja Farak Amherst Drug Lab scandal.
Sonja Farak was a chemist in the Department of Public Health’s State Laboratory in Amherst, Massachusetts. Ms. Farak apparently suffered from a drug addiction while employed as a drug analyst at the Amherst Lab. She was convicted of stealing and tampering with drugs at the lab. An investigation, conducted by the Massachusetts Attorney General, has revealed that Ms. Farak routinely was high on drugs during her working hours at the drug lab. As a result of Ms. Farak’s misconduct, many people have been convicted of crimes and sent to prison. Initially, it was believed that Sonja Farak’s misconduct only affected a small number of cases. Now, as a result of Rebecca Jacobstein’s work (together with Northampton attorney Luke Ryan), we know that it is likely that Ms. Farak’s misconduct occurred over the course of many years and affected thousands of people.
In 2014, Attorney Jacobstein had just begun working as a staff attorney in the CPCS Public Defender Division Appeals Unit. The Chief of the Appeals Unit assigned Attorney Jacobstein to represent, on direct appeal, two men who had been convicted of drug related crimes in which Sonja Farak conducted the chemical analysis: Erick Cotto and Jermaine Watt. In the Cotto case, Attorney Jacobstein obtained direct appellate review in the Supreme Judicial Court. The Cotto case turned out to be a watershed in the litigation involving the Amherst Drug Lab. On April 8, 2015, the Supreme Judicial Court issued an opinion calling for a full investigation into the scope and timing of Farak’s misconduct. Commonwealth v. Cotto, 471 Mass. 97 (2015). After the decision in Cotto, the Attorney General’s Office appointed former Superior Court Judge Peter Velis as a Special Assistant Attorney General to conduct the investigation.
Meanwhile, in the Watt case, in which direct appellate review was denied, Attorney Jacobstein stayed the appeal and brought a series of motion in the Superior Court seeking to document the timing and scope of Farak’s misconduct. The efforts of Attorneys Jacobstein and Ryan were described in Slate:
Two defense attorneys, Luke Ryan and Rebecca Jacobstein, subpoenaed
Farak’s medical records to see if their clients had been affected, and found
that her drug use and theft had extended all the way back to 2004, eight
full years before the state claimed it began. They contend that this new
evidence warrants a review of all 29,000 samples Farak claimed to have
tested during her career. They also claim the government concealed this
“smoking gun” evidence from defense attorneys.
Dahlia Lithwick, Crime Lab Scandals Just Keep Getting Worse, Slate (Oct. 29, 2015).
On April 1, 2016, the Attorney General’s Office released its report on the scope and timing of Farak’s misconduct. The report described serious and significant misconduct on the part of Farak, beginning in late 2004 or early 2005 and lasting until Farak’s arrest in January, 2013.
At a hearing in Hampden Superior Court on June 6, 2016, Berkshire District Attorney David Capeless, the President of the Massachusetts District Attorneys Association, stated that all eleven District Attorneys agreed that Farak defendants were entitled to the same conclusive presumption of misconduct furnished to defendants affected by Annie Dookhan’s misconduct in the case of Commonwealth v. Scott, 467 Mass. 336 (2014).
A second report, conducted by retired Judge Velis concluded that there was “no evidence of prosecutorial misconduct or obstruction of justice” in matters related to the Farak case. Attorney Jacobstein and her colleagues have submitted documents and affidavits that challenge that conclusion. They have filed motions to dismiss Farak convictions based on prosecutorial misconduct. Evidentiary hearings into the allegations of prosecutorial misconduct and the scope and effect of Farak’s wrongdoing on thousands of tainted convictions will begin on December 12, 2016, in Hampden Superior Court. These hearings have the potential to reveal prosecutorial misconduct and lead to the reversal of thousands of tainted drug convictions. These hearings are happening, in large part, because of the outstanding legal work of Attorney Jacobstein, who took her early assignment to two direct appeals and turned it into a zealous pursuit of justice for thousands of people.
On Tuesday, April 25, CPCS had the pleasure of honoring exceptional members of our community – attorneys from the public and private counsel divisions, as well as a social worker, investigator and administrative professional – who work tirelessly to insure that CPCS meets our mission: to fight for equal justice and human dignity by supporting our clients in achieving their legal and life goals; to zealously advocate for the rights of individuals; and to promote just public policy to protect the rights of all.
Gathered at the John Adams Courthouse were honorees, members of the staff and private bar, friends, family and clients of the honorees, as well as many Committee members. The evening was aptly described by Committee Member Arnold Rosenfeld, “an outstanding demonstration of the spirit, diversity, and extraordinary competence of the full time staff and the members of the private bar who carry out the responsibilities of CPCS. Those who received awards … all demonstrated an exceptional commitment to justice. They all had remarkable stories to tell.”
The 2017 CPCS Award Recipients:
DEREGE B. DEMISSIE, Thurgood Marshall Award. The Thurgood Marshall Award honors a person or persons who champion the cause of zealous representation for the poor, and the right to effective assistance of counsel for all.
Derege Demissie began his law career at the firm of Grayer & Dilday, where he concen-trated in immigration, civil rights and other civil litigation. Derege joined CPCS in 1998 as (continue reading here)
SARAH E. SCHOOLEY, Margaret Winchester Child Welfare Award. The Margaret Winchester Child Welfare Advocacy Award honors a staff member or a private attorney who, through his or her zealous advocacy and extraordinary commitment to children and parents in care and protection and other Massachusetts child welfare cases, is a model for other advocates seeking to protect the rights of children and parents.
Since 1990, Sarah Schooley has been providing high-quality representation to parents and (continue reading here)
LISA M. KAVANAUGH, Carol Donovan Exceptional Advocacy Award. The Carol A. Donovan Award for Exceptional Advocacy is presented to the lawyer, public or private, whose representation of poor people facing the awesome power of the state is most reminiscent of Carol’s fierce commitment to their vigorous and effective representation, and the cause of equal justice for all.
After a stellar academic career (Yale, summa cum laude; Harvard Law School, cum laude) (continue reading here)
ANDREW S. CROUCH, Edward J. Duggan Award For Outstanding Service – Private Counsel. The Edward J. Duggan Award for Outstanding Service, Private Counsel is given to an Assigned Private Counsel and is named for Edward J. Duggan, who served continuously from 1940 to 1997 as a member of the Voluntary Defenders Committee, the Massachusetts Defenders Committee, and the Committee for Public Counsel Services. The award has been presented each year (continue reading here)
ANGEL RODRIGUEZ, Maria Souto-Armand Goyette Investigator Award. The Maria Souto-Armand Goyette Award honors a staff investigator for outstanding investigative work. Maria Souto was an indefatigable CPCS investigator in the Boston office. Armand Goyette, the first investigator at the Massachusetts Defenders Committee, was recognized as a consummate criminal defense investigator who provided outstanding service for over 25 years. (continue reading here)
JESSIE ALTAGRACIA BRITO, Maura Mellen Administrative Professional Award. The Maura Mellen Administrative Professional Award honors an administrative staff member who has made an outstanding contribution to the delivery of zealous and effective advocacy for CPCS clients. The award recognizes that administrative staff members perform many critical roles in the provision of zealous representation to CPCS clients.
Jessie Brito, the consummate dedicated, intelligent, hardworking, collaborative colleague, (continue reading here)
BRANDON L. CAMPBELL, Paul J. Liacos Mental Health Advocacy Award. The Paul J. Liacos Mental Health Advocacy Award recognizes a public defender or private attorney whose legal advocacy on behalf of persons involved in civil and/or criminal mental health proceedings best exemplifies zealous advocacy in furtherance of all clients’ legal interests.
Brandon Campbell has all the qualities of a stellar legal advocate. Dogged determination (continue reading here)
CYNTHIA NICHOLLS, Jane Addams Award For Outstanding Social Service Accomplishments. The Jane Addams Award for Outstanding Social Service Accomplishments honors a staff social worker or social service advocate who exemplifies a commitment to clients through his or her advocacy, support, and dedication. The Addams Award recognizes the profound impact of social workers and social service advocates serving as members of a legal team. It is named for Jane Addams, a pioneer (continue reading here)
LAURA CHRISMER EDMONDS, Jay D. Blitzman Youth Advocacy Award. The Jay D. Blitzman Award for Youth Advocacy is presented to a person who has demonstrated a commitment to juvenile rights, which is the hallmark of Judge Blitzman’s long career as an advocate. The award honors an advocate who has exhibited both extraordinary dedication and excellent performance to assure that children accused of criminal conduct, or otherwise at risk, are treated fairly and with dignity in the courtroom, in the community, (continue reading here)
JOANNE DALEY, Edward J. Duggan Award For Outstanding Service – Public Defender. The Edward J. Duggan Award for Outstanding Service, Public Defender is given to a Public Defender and is named for Edward J. Duggan, who served continuously from 1940 to 1997 as a member of the Voluntary Defenders Committee, the Massachusetts Defenders Committee, and the Committee for Public Counsel Services. The award has been presented each year since 1988 to the public defender who best represents zealous advocacy — the central principle governing the representation of indigents in Massachusetts. (continue reading here)
SAVE THE DATE: The CPCS Annual Training Conference will be held on Tuesday, May 16, 2017, 8:00-5:00 at the DCU Center, 50 Foster Street, Worcester. Advance Registration is Required.
On June 14, 2016, the Massachusetts Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers (MACDL) presented our colleague, Atty. Anne C. Goldbach, with the Clarence Gideon Award, an honor not awarded every year, but presented to only those worthy to be recognized as champions of the noblest principle that all persons shall stand equal before the law. Continue reading
To register click here.
Congratulations to Ben Evans, a public defender who inspires his colleagues to put their hearts and souls into the important work of representing poor people accused of crimes.
Here is the write-up that appeared in the MBA Annual Dinner program:
The prevalence of mental illness is significant. Well over 50% of state prison and jail inmates report having mental health problems. For women the number is even higher. The report highlights the fact that mentally ill prisoners tend to have higher recidivism rates than those without mental health problems. This is concerning not only because it indicates that people who suffer from mental illness may have trouble establishing a self-sustaining and law-abiding life after release from prison, but also because it has a direct impact on economic and societal costs. On the economic side, these include criminal justice costs (such as those incurred by the police, courts, jails, parole, probation, and prisons). Societal costs include things like victimization and reduced educational or employment opportunities. Read the report.
The report issued this week, details incidents in which correctional staff have deluged prisoners with painful chemical sprays, shocked them with powerful electric stun weapons, and strapped them for days in restraining chairs or beds. Staff have broken prisoners’ jaws, noses, ribs; left them with lacerations requiring stitches, second-degree burns, deep bruises, and damaged internal organs. In some cases, the force used has led to their death. Read HRW press release and entire report.
For a look at a what can happen in Massachusetts, WGBH had a segment about the Joshua Messier case this past week on Greater Boston.
Globe columnist Adrian Walker calls for transfer of BSH from DOC to DMH. Read column