Seeking Counsel for Child Welfare Appeals

The Committee for Public Counsel Services (CPCS) is seeking private attorneys to join the Children and Family Law (CAFL) Division appellate panel.  CAFL appeals are appeals of final judgments in care and protection, termination of parental rights, guardianship of a minor, contested adoption, and other child welfare proceedings.  Most cases concern intervention by the Massachusetts Department of Children and Families in family life.  The work of the CAFL appellate panel attorneys includes interviewing and visiting clients, conducting legal research, writing motions and briefs, and arguing cases before the Massachusetts Appeals Court and Supreme Judicial Court.  All CAFL appeals get oral argument.  Private panel attorneys handle the vast majority of CAFL appeals; other CAFL appeals are handled by the CAFL Appellate (staff) Unit.  This posting is not for a staff position; it is for private attorneys to obtain certification to receive, and be compensated for, CAFL appellate appointments.  Compensation is $55/hour.  New CAFL appellate attorneys receive free mentoring for several years.  Private panel attorneys submit bills to CPCS and must agree to follow all billing and other requirements set forth in the CPCS Assigned Counsel Manual, available at:

https://www.publiccounsel.net/assigned-counsel-manual/

Applicants must be admitted to the Massachusetts bar or be eligible for admission by June 30, 2020. Admission into the training is competitive and not all applicants will be admitted.  All admitted applicants must attend the three-day CAFL appellate training program scheduled for May 5, May 6, and May 7, 2020, at the office of Community Legal Aid, 405 Main Street, Worcester, Massachusetts.  The agency actively seeks to diversify its private attorney panel membership. Qualifications can be found here.

Applications are due on March 31, 2020, but will be accepted on a rolling basis until the training is filled.  Applications are available here: CAFL Appellate Panel Application – May 2020

Kindly direct any questions to Andrew Cohen, CPCS/CAFL Director of Appellate Panel, at: acohen@publiccounsel.net.

 

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.

Committee Meeting Agenda – November 20, 2019 Meeting

AGENDA

Executive Session:
 *FY 2020 Compensation Proposal – Discussion of Chief Counsel and Manager Salaries

Open Session:

  1. FY 2020 Compensation Proposal – Committee Vote on Chief Counsel and Manager Salaries Pursuant to Line Item 0321-1500 in Section 2 of Chapter 41 of the Acts of 2019 (FY 2020 General Appropriation Law)
  2. Approval of minutes of the October 17, 2019 meeting
  3. Approval of minutes of the October 28, 2019 special meeting
  4. Amicus Request(s)
    • Doe No. 36870 SORB, FAR No. 27130 (report only)
    • Dept. of Revenue v. Joshua Grullon, SJC-12784
    • Commonwealth Tykorie Evely, SJC-12808
    • Commonwealth Lewis, 18-P-765
    • Impounded Case, SJC-12827
  5. FY 2021 Budget Proposal – Maintenance Only
  6. Staff Attrition Report
  7. Calendar Year 2020 Meeting Dates
  8. Monthly Financial Overview Report
  9. Commitments $10,000 and Over Report
  10. Chief Counsel Report
    *Counsel Shortage Report

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
rmcgovern@publiccounsel.net
617-910-5758

Boston Globe Shines Light on Impact of DCF Office Moves

The Department of Children and Families has recently moved some of its field offices from city centers to areas that are not as accessible to parents who have lost custody of their children and are attempting to participate in visits with their children.

The Boston Globe’s Kay Lazar chronicled this concerning trend in a recent article, and Michael Dsida, deputy chief counsel for Committee for Public Counsel Services provided insight.

“Our clients are … poor and disproportionately dependent on public transit or the kindness of friends,” Dsida said. “When [public transit] is taken away or significantly scaled back, it makes it harder for them to see their children and their children to see them.”

A letter sent by CPCS attorney Catherine Sinnott to DCF was also quoted in Lazar’s article.

In a blunt letter to DCF, the state public defender’s agency said the Lowell relocation to Chelmsford “has been a disastrous move for the families that DCF serves.” The letter describes significant gaps in the schedule for the single bus line that stops close to the new office park in Chelmsford. And parents are expected to play with their children in grim, windowless rooms.

“Visits are bleak at the DCF facility,” it says. “There is nothing to engage a family near the Chelmsford office, no outdoor playground, no local fast food chain, no urban street to stroll along and window shop.”


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