Committee for Public Counsel Services Annual Awards

Each year, the Committee for Public Counsel Services recognizes the work of individuals who dedicate their careers to overcoming injustice, and championing the cause of zealous representation and effective assistance of counsel.

Below are the awards CPCS presents to honor the outstanding work of our colleagues and biographical information on the incredible people the awards are named after. A listing of the past award recipients from 1998 through 2022 can be found here.

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 their advocacy, support, and dedication consistent with the CPCS core values of courage, accountability, respect, and excellence.  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 in establishing the field of social work and the first American woman to be awarded the Nobel Peace prize.

  • The first American woman to win the Nobel Peace Prize, Jane Addams was a trailblazer in the world of social work, civil rights, and women’s suffrage in the United States.   Addams successfully lobbied for the creation of a juvenile court system, factory laws, and protective labor legislation for women.  She was also a founding member of the National Child Labor Committee, which played a significant role in passage of a Federal Child Labor Law in 1916. Addams was an officer in the National American Women’s Suffrage Association, a pro-suffrage columnist, and she was also among the founders of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) and the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU).

The Jay D. Blitzman Award for Youth Advocacy is presented to a person who has demonstrated a commitment to courageously advocating for the rights of children and youth, which was the hallmark of Judge Blitzman’s long career.  The award honors an advocate who exemplifies the CPCS core values of courage, accountability, respect, and excellence and has exhibited extraordinary dedication, compassion and skill to assure that children accused of criminal conduct, or otherwise at risk, are treated fairly, equitably, and with dignity in the courtroom, in the community, and in the custody of the state.

  • With passion and perseverance, the Hon. Jay D. Blitzman (ret.), paved the way for the creation of the CPCS Youth Advocacy Division, a nationally recognized model for delinquency representation.  Judge Blitzman, who spent 20 years as a public defender before his appointment as a Justice of the Juvenile Court, was the first director of the Roxbury Youth Advocacy Project.  It was founded on the belief that zealous, client directed, developmentally appropriate, trauma-informed, and culturally humble legal advocacy is a necessary component of a fair, equitable, and just criminal legal system for adolescents.  Judge Blitzman also co-founded Citizens for Juvenile Justice, the only independent, nonprofit, statewide organization working exclusively to improve the juvenile justice system in Massachusetts.

The Willie J. Davis and Edward J. Duggan Award for Outstanding Criminal Defense Advocacy award is given to both a Public Defender Division and Private Counsel attorney and is named for two extraordinary leaders.  The awards are presented to criminal defense attorneys who demonstrate exceptional skill, determination, compassion, and courage while zealously representing indigent clients in the trial courts of the Massachusetts criminal legal system consistent with the CPCS core values of courage, accountability, respect, and excellence.

  • Willie J. Davis graduated from law school in 1963 during a time when Jim Crow was the law of the land and was an exceptional and fearless trial attorney for nearly 50 years. He was unrelenting in challenging the unofficial color barrier in Massachusetts courts through skilled client directed advocacy in service of a steely resolve that he would permit no person or court to treat one of his clients unfairly.  Davis was a trail blazing Black man who not only paved the way in the courtroom for many other attorneys of color, but devoted countless hours to serving all clients as the Chairperson of the Committee for Public Counsel Services for more than a decade.  He championed ever improving legal education, the incorporation of social workers into the legal team, the partnership between staff and private assigned counsel, and the fair resourcing of the defense function.  Davis personified the modern public defender as an active trial attorney and as a leader of systemic and institutional reform.
  • Edward J. Duggan will stand forever as a towering figure in the history of CPCS and its predecessor agencies. For 57 years, from 1940 to 1997, he played a continuous and major role in developing, strengthening, and preserving the right to counsel for poor people in Massachusetts.  Duggan never backed down from a fight during his career as a public defender.  He played an integral role in the founding and development of the Voluntary Defenders Committee, the Massachusetts Defenders Committee, and finally the Committee for Public Counsel Services.  He was the single person most responsible for the creation of the public defender system in Massachusetts.

The Carol A. Donovan Award for Exceptional Advocacy recognizes excellence in legal advocacy and is given to attorneys – public or private – whose zealous advocacy has had a lasting impact on the legal and/or life outcomes experienced by our clients.  Recipients will demonstrate the CPCS core values of courage, accountability, respect, and excellence through appellate or other strategic litigation while addressing systemic injustice affecting CPCS clients and the communities in which they live.

  • Carol A. Donovan was a fearless appellate litigator who spent more than two decades with CPCS fighting to change the law and how society viewed her clients.  Through her advocacy, Donovan had multiple murder convictions overturned and established a right to have counsel present during a presentence interview with a probation officer. Donovan’s painstaking litigation on behalf of clients listed on the state’s Sex Offender Registry prompted the state to institute individual hearings before a person was classified. She was a zealous advocate for children in state custody, and her work forced courts and lawmakers to pay closer attention to the due process rights of everyone – from children to those convicted of sex crimes.   Donovan passed away at the young age of 55 but left behind a legacy of excellence that lives on through precedent and those who were lucky enough to know her.

The Paul J. Liacos Mental Health Advocacy Award recognizes a staff or private attorney whose advocacy on behalf of persons involved in mental health litigation proceedings exemplifies client centered zealous advocacy consistent with the CPCS core values of courage, accountability, respect, and excellence. The award honors a person whose advocacy has made a meaningful impact in furtherance of our clients’ interest in due process of law, personal autonomy, and the ability to live an independent life.

  • The late Hon. Paul J. Liacos, former Chief Justice of the Supreme Judicial Court (SJC), was on the bench during a transformative time in Massachusetts law.  He was on the high court when it held the death penalty unconstitutional under the Massachusetts Declaration of Rights.  While he was on the bench, the SJC also broadened protection for access to abortion, and extended defendant protection in search and seizure cases. Justice Liacos authored several opinions which established the fundamental rights of mental health litigation clients.  His opinions reflect the dignity and autonomy which we strive to protect for our clients with lived experiences.  In Superintendent of Belchertown State School v. Saikewicz, he wrote: “To protect the incompetent person within its power, the state must recognize the dignity and worth of such a person and afford to that person the same panoply of rights and choices it recognizes in competent persons.”

The Thurgood Marshall Award honors those who champion the cause of zealous representation and the right to effective assistance of counsel on behalf of the poor, the oppressed, and the vulnerable and, in so doing, contribute to building a more equitable and healthy community for all.  This award is given to an individual or group who pushed for lasting, equitable changes in the legal system and/or the societal structures that affect CPCS clients and client communities. Recipients will embody the CPCS core values of courage, accountability, respect, and excellence.

  • Thurgood Marshall, the first African-American jurist on the United States Supreme Court, was a titan and champion for civil rights. Prior to his time on the Supreme Court, Justice Marshall founded and became the executive director of the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund.  While with the NAACP, he argued numerous cases before the Supreme Court – including Brown v. Board of Education, in which the high court ruled that U.S. state laws establishing racial segregation in public schools were unconstitutional. While on the Supreme Court, Justice Marshall was a strong advocate for equal protection of the law and consistently fought against the death penalty.

The Teresa McParland Award for Operational Excellence is presented to a person who has made an outstanding contribution to improving agency operations in service to our clients through enhancing agency performance consistent with the CPCS core values of courage, accountability, respect, and excellence.  These attributes were all hallmarks of Terry McParland during her CPCS career.  The award honors Operations staff who exhibit extraordinary dedication, action, vision, passion, and creativity in improving the services, systems, quality of life, efficiency, and environment provided to agency staff, clients, and private counsel.

  • Teresa McParland was an integral part of CPCS for nearly four decades.  McParland was hired by the agency in 1977, and during her successful career she worked in the Administration and Finance, Human Resources, and Information Technology Units. McParland was dedicated, loyal to the agency’s cause, and was creative in dealing with the many problems she was tasked with solving – from becoming an expert in the state’s payment and financial reporting systems to mastering purchasing and procurement rules and regulations.  During her final decade with the agency, McParland served as the point person responsible for agency facilities, overseeing a dramatic expansion of staff offices. McParland set the bar for CPCS operations staff.

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 consistent with the CPCS core values of courage, accountability, respect, and excellence.  The award recognizes that administrative staff members perform many critical roles in the provision of zealous representation to CPCS clients.

  • During more than two decades of work at CPCS, Maura Mellen was known as a knowledgeable and cooperative colleague who would take on any assignment that came her way.  She began as a secretary in 1975 and was later promoted to Assistant Supervisor in the Payments Department.  Mellen passed away suddenly at the young age of 47 and left behind scores of anecdotes and recollections among the many who were privileged to be her friend.

The Maria Souto – Armand Goyette Investigator Award honors a staff investigator for outstanding investigative work consistent with the CPCS core values of courage, accountability, respect, and excellence.  Maria Souto, an indefatigable CPCS investigator in the Boston Trial office, and Armand Goyette, the first investigator at the Massachusetts Defenders Committee, established a standard for zealous, insightful, and skilled investigation that is still the national gold standard.

  • While working as an investigator for CPCS, Maria Souto always went well beyond the call of duty and was passionate about her job.  She would often drop what she was doing in order to assist with a case, and if there was a witness who was “impossible” to find – Souto not only found them – she would persuade them to share their story.  She passed her passion on to future investigators and created her own one-day training program for her interns. Souto never took the easy way out, and her methods and tenacity were invaluable to every attorney she worked with.  Her work ethic, vision, and client-centeredness are steadfast and ongoing today.
  • For more than two decades, Armand Goyette was an investigator for CPCS in Bristol County, and during his time he earned the respect of public defenders, judges, court employees, prosecutors, and members of the Bar.  Goyette counseled, assisted, and nurtured generations of attorneys during his time with CPCS and maintained a keen eye for issues that could make or break a case.

The Margaret Winchester Award for Child Welfare Advocacy honors a person who has demonstrated an extraordinary commitment to the families of Massachusetts by protecting the rights of parents, children, and other parties in care and protection and other child welfare cases, consistent with the CPCS core values of courage, accountability, respect, and excellence. The recipient is someone who, much like Attorney Winchester, is a champion for children, parents, and others, assuring that they are treated equitably and with dignity in the courtroom, in the community, and in their dealings with the Department of Children and Families.

  • A tireless and courageous champion for children and parents for 26 years, Margaret Winchester was an early member of the trial and appellate panels for the Family Law Advocacy Project – the precursor to CPCS’s Children and Family Law Division. In 1999 she became Co-Director of FLAP, and in 2006 she launched CAFL’s Worcester trial office. In 2008, through her appellate advocacy, Winchester was able to establish a right to counsel for parents who were in jeopardy of losing their children to state custody in status offense cases (In the Matter of Hilary). She was always a supportive mentor to trial and appellate attorneys and was a driving force in raising the level of practice in family regulation cases.  Her depth of knowledge and unwavering dedication ensured that CAFL attorneys were well-trained and uniformly supported in facing some of our toughest and most heart-wrenching cases.

The CPCS Community Leadership Award will go to a person or organization dedicated to the work that we do and the communities that we serve.  The winner of this award will have undertaken a forward-looking campaign, or be committed to an ongoing mission, that directly benefits our clients and the communities in which they live and embodies the CPCS core values of courage, accountability, respect, and excellence.

The Emerging Defender Awards will be presented to one or more individuals committed to indigent defense who have gone above and beyond the call of duty, excelled when facing challenging situations, and shown they are highly motivated to continuously learn and improve.  Recipients of this award will have been employed with CPCS or worked with CPCS clients for five or fewer years and demonstrated a commitment to the CPCS core values of courage, accountability, respect, and excellence.