smartphone with home screen showing various apps

Tools for Remote Communication

With the unprecedented crisis of COVID-19, more and more we are looking for ways to communicate remotely with clients, colleagues, family and friends.  Below is a list of free video conferencing options.  We are also sharing information for you and your clients about expanded internet service and no or low-cost smartphones for low-income persons.

There are many great free video-conferencing applications, but none of them work with each other. This means that both you and the person you are video-conferencing need to be using the same application. Most, however, work on any platform, Windows, Mac, iPhone or Android.

“Browser” means any supported web browser on a PC or Mac


A professional, full-featured product that allows unlimited 1-on-1 meetings. Meetings with more than 2 people carry a 40-minute time limit. Mobile Screen sharing is also available for Android and IOS. Also available on phone and tablet.

Key functions: video and screen sharing.
Pros: free
Cons: 40 minute limit if more than 2 people. No simple chat option.
Available: Browser, Windows, Mac, iPhone, Android



Allows unlimited free video calls to other Skype users. No download is required as it can also be used in your internet browser. A good choice for group videoconferencing as it allows up to 50 people on a single call. Also available on phone and tablet.

Key functions: video sharing
Pros: free
Cons: Complex. No simple chat option.
Available: Browser, Windows, Mac, iPhone, Android


Google Hangouts

This service boasts the most features and integrates directly with your Gmail and Google calendar for simple and easy use. Allows you to hold larger conferences (of more than 2 people), record meetings, and has no time limit. Sign up requires a Google account.

Key functions: video sharing, phone calls, chat, desktop sharing.
Pros: Free. Very functional. Designed for mobile.
Cons: Must have a gmail account.
Available: Browser, iPhone, Android



A popular application that comes pre-installed on all IPhones. It is only available to IPhone users. Allows group conferencing of up to 32 people. Contacts can be reached through their phone number or Apple ID.

Key functions: video sharing.
Pros: free
Cons: No simple chat. Only works on iPhones and modern Macs
Available: Mac, iPhone


Google Duo

Google’s version of FaceTime, that comes pre-installed on all Android devices. It is also available for Iphone. Duo’s controls are very simple and the streaming quality is terrific. Allows group calling of up to 8 people. Calls are always encrypted and secure.

Key functions: video sharing.
Pros: free
Cons: Not many users
Available: Browser, iPhone, Android


Facebook Messenger

Offers free video calls over wifi. It supports group chat and has simple, easy-to-use controls. Contacts can be reached through Facebook, so there is no need to exchange phone numbers.

Key functions: IM and video
Pros: free, simple, pervasive due to Facebook use
Cons: Facebook. Very simple. Must have a Facebook account.
Available: Browser, iPhone, Android



Owned by Facebook, this app allows you to send messages and make audio or video calls. It only requires a wifi connection and offers end-to-end encryption, meaning the information you share is safe. Also allows seamless document sharing.

Key functions: IM and video and phone calls
Pros: free, simple, pervasive globally
Cons: None
Available: Browser, iPhone, Android



Key functions: Video Calling, Text Messaging, Video Messaging
Pros: free, popular
Cons: None
Available: Browser, iPhone, Android



Most secure messaging app. More secure than any on this list.
Key functions: Texting, messaging, file sharing, voice notes
Pros: Very secure
Cons: Voice and videocalling is one-to one, only. No groups.
Available: Browser, iPhone, Android


FreeConference or FreeConferenceCall or FreeConferenceCalling

Conference calling services. Create the account online using an email address and use the service with a phone.

Key functions: Voice conference calling.
Pros: free, easy
Cons: Heavy traffic, as with the crises, has put many of them offline and inaccessible. Can be unpredictable in availability. Voice only. No video. If phone plan doesn’t include unlimited long distance calling will be charged a fee.

Expanded Internet Service Now Available from Many Carriers

Recently, many of the top telecommunications companies took measures to alleviate some of the burden of the current need for remote communication.  Though most aren’t going so far as to waive home Wi-Fi bills, depending on your provider you may be receiving added benefits to your existing plan. You don’t need to do anything special to receive these benefits; most were rolled out this past weekend.  These expanded services can be particularly helpful for our clients, who may have very limited phone/internet plans.

  • Comcast, AT&T, and Charter customers can receive free access to their many public wi-fi hotspots for the next two months. All you need is a valid account.
  • If you do not currently have a Charter subscription, they are offering free broadband to households with K-12 and college age children.
  • Comcast and AT&T are also lifting data caps for smartphone plans.
  • Verizon has announced a moratorium on late fees and disconnections.
  • T-Mobile and Sprint proving unlimited smart phone data to all current customers.
  • Cox is increasing speeds on low cost broadband plans.
  • Assurance Wireless by Virgin mobile offers a free phone and subscription plan to qualifying candidates. Enrollment is available to individuals who qualify based on federal or state-specific eligibility criteria, including those on certain public assistance programs, like MassHealth or Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). Individuals may also qualify based on household income.

For more information please follow any of the links below:









How to Send an Encrypted Attachment

We will need to email confidential information to clients and others more and more from now on.  It is best if you can send confidential documents as an encrypted, password-protected attachment. Microsoft Office allows you to send an encrypted, password-protected attachment to ensure an unwanted or inappropriate party can’t open it.

Remember: The receiving person must have the password to open the file.
However, never give them the password in the same email in which you attached the encrypted, password-protected file.

  • Send the password separately or phone the recipient to communicate the password.
  • Also, don’t make the password too easy to guess, and don’t continually reuse the password.

Here are instructions on how to password protect and encrypt a file:

For Office files (Word, Excel, PowerPoint), follow these instructions:

  1. Click the File
  2. Click Info
  3. Click Protect Document, and then click Encrypt with Password.
  4. In the Encrypt Document box, type a password, and then click OK.
  5. In the Confirm Password box, type the password again, and then click OK.
  6. Save the file.

For a PDF using Adobe, follow these instructions:

  1. Open a file in Acrobat and choose “Tools” > “Protect.”
  2. Select whether you want to restrict editing with a password or encrypt the file with a certificate or password.
  3. Set password or security method as desired.
  4. Click “OK” and then click “Save.”

For a PDF using PDF Pro, follow these instructions:

  1. Click View in the toolbar, then Organizer Panels and choose Security
  2. Security panel will open (typically to the right)
  3. Click Password Protect
  4. Enter the password you want and save the document.

CPCS Training & IT, 3/20/2020

CPCS CLE Requirement – Emergency Policy Change – Fiscal Year 2020 Only

Dear Private Attorneys,

We hope you and your families are well during this difficult time.  Due to exceptional circumstances brought about by the COVID-19 virus, CPCS is waiving the Continuing Legal Education hours requirement for all units for Fiscal Year 2020 (July 1, 2019-June 30, 2020.)

Although we have waived the CLE requirements, we encourage you to attend webinars that are relevant to your practice area to support your professional development.  The CPCS training unit will post offerings for webinars soon. Please see the CPCS Training Department Website.

You may still be paid for eight (8) hours of training if you meet the attendance and payment requirements.

Additionally, Panel Directors may offer credit for webinars that are not sponsored by CPCS.  Please contact the Panel Director for your practice area to determine whether you may get credit and bill for attendance at a webinar not sponsored by CPCS.

We hope that we will be returning to offering in-person training in the later part of the Spring (all in person CPCS training has been cancelled through April 30, 2020), and look forward to seeing you then.

The CPCS Training Department and Panel Directors


Notice to CPCS Staff Attorneys and Private Counsel

On Sunday evening, Governor Baker directed that all non-emergency state employees working in Executive Branch agencies should not report to their workplace on Monday, March 16 and Tuesday, March 17.

The Court, following the lead of the Governor, announced late this evening that the Trial Courts will be closed to the public on Monday and Tuesday. This means that Courts will be closed and there will be no access during the next two days.

Chief Justice Paula Carey has directed that judges will be available in each court by telephone conference to review bail determinations for any person held in custody for an arrest that occurred over the weekend and on Monday. All other emergency matters should be directed to a judge through the Judicial Response System.

The Judicial Response System handles requests for abuse prevention orders (c. 209A), harassment prevention orders, extreme risk protection orders, search warrants, mental health emergencies under c. 123, s. 18 (a), and medical emergencies. Details of the Courts announcement are available here.

Any attorney who has a duty day Monday or Tuesday should reach out to the clerk’s office as soon as possible to get a list of the people who are being held and who will have their bails reviewed via telephone. Attorneys should then try to contact the person being held through the police station, either in person preferably, or by telephone to obtain any mitigating information that can be used in the telephone review of the bail.

We are sending out this notice to provide as much information as we have at this point in time based on the information that the Court has provided. As soon as we have additional information, we will send it along.

Thank you for your continued vigilance in ensuring that our clients are afforded due process throughout this public safety crisis.

CPCS Statement on Coronavirus Pandemic


The Committee for Public Counsel Services today announced that it is taking aggressive actions in order to reduce the spread of COVID-19 among its employees and the public, and — with the dangers of the ongoing pandemic in mind — public defenders across the commonwealth will be heading to court next week to ask for the release of its most-vulnerable clients.

In order to provide as much social distancing as possible, the state public defender office is instituting a remote work policy. Starting on Monday, all employees across the state who can work remotely will do so.

All CPCS attorneys who are able to will continue to take cases, but they will not be required to return to their offices.

“As we continue to learn more about the Coronavirus pandemic, our agency will mandate remote working starting Monday in an effort to help flatten the curve of this deadly virus,” said CPCS Chief Counsel Anthony Benedetti. “We will continue to zealously represent our clients across the commonwealth, and we will work with our entire staff to ensure everyone stays safe.”

Starting next week, criminal defense attorneys across the state will be asking judges to release certain clients who are being held on bail prior to trial. Under state law, those accused of crimes who are in custody can seek to be released if they can show there is a change in circumstances.

The outbreak of COVID-19 – and Governor of Massachusetts’ declared a State of Emergency on March 10 — are significant changes in circumstances for many of CPCS’s clients. This virus is particularly dangerous to older people and people with pre-existing medical conditions including, but not limited to, high blood pressure, heart disease, lung disease, cancer, diabetes, HIV and/or other autoimmune diseases, such as rheumatoid arthritis. Many of our clients suffer from these ailments.

“As public defenders and citizens, we must take every necessary action to protect vulnerable populations and the community,” said Randy Gioia, deputy chief counsel for CPCS’s public defender division. “This pandemic has changed the circumstances that existed when many of our clients were held. We risk spreading the coronavirus within detention centers across the commonwealth every day vulnerable people are unnecessarily held, and that, in itself, is a public safety issue for all of us.”

Press Contact:
Bob McGovern

CPCS Committee Meeting Agenda – March 19, 2020 Meeting

As you are aware, recent events have raised serious public health concern.  As a result, Governor Baker has declared a State of Emergency in Massachusetts.  In light of these developments, the Committee has determined that they are taking all matters that need to be addressed by phone.

  1. Approval of minutes of the February 25, 2020 meeting
  2. Hourly Cap Increase
  3. Coronavirus – Sick Leave Bank Change
  4. Monthly Financial Overview Report
  5. Commitments $10,000 and Over Report
  6. Chief Counsel Report

CPCS Training Department Response to Public Health Concerns

Given new Executive Branch directives regarding meetings and events in light of COVID-19, the CPCS Training Department is cancelling all in-person training until April 30, 2020. As you know, the situation is fluid and we are continually assessing as we get more information from public health authorities.

At this point, we will still deliver some training via webinar. Please check the training calendar.

Certification trainings (including Zealous Advocacy) will not be delivered via webinar or in person. We will be updating the training calendar ASAP to reflect this decision. We are working to process refunds where applicable.

Additionally, in light of this emergent situation, CPCS is currently considering alternatives to the current CLE requirements for FY20. Please refer to our website for updates on policies and requirements.

Public Defender Added to Access to Justice Commission

The Supreme Judicial Court has added a public defender to the Massachusetts Access to Justice Commission.

Adrian Angus, a trial attorney in the Worcester Superior Court Office of the Committee for Public Counsel Services, was named to the Access to Justice Commission last week. The commission, created in 2005, seeks to improve access to justice for people who are unable to afford an attorney for essential civil legal needs, such as cases involving housing, consumer debt and family law.

Angus has also served as a member of the Access to Justice Council of the Massachusetts Bar Association and as a board member of the American Civil Liberties Union of Central Massachusetts.

She joins, Leemarie Mosca, president and executive director of Rosie’s Place, and Gladys Vega, executive director of the Chelsea Collaborative, as new members of the commission.

“We are delighted to welcome these new members to the Commission,” said Supreme Judicial Court Chief Justice Ralph D. Gants, who co-chairs the Commission, in a statement. “The new members include a public defender, the head of Boston’s pioneering provider of shelter and support services for women, and the leader of an innovative community organization known for helping children, immigrants, and refugees. Each of these new members is familiar with the barriers that too often block access to justice for the Commonwealth’s residents, and they will each bring an important perspective to the Commission’s ongoing efforts to remove those barriers.”

VIDEO: YAF Wins 2020 Reginald Heber Smith Award

The Youth Advocacy Foundation (YAF), the nonprofit arm of the Massachusetts juvenile public defender agency, is the 2020 winner of the Reginald Heber Smith Award for Excellence in Legal Services.

The award, presented by Massachusetts Lawyers Weekly, goes to an organization that has exhibited innovation and excellence in legal advocacy. YAF received the award at the Massachusetts Lawyers Weekly 2020 Leaders in the Law event on March 5.

Below is the video that was shown at the event:

“The work that we do at the EdLaw Project is transforming for the children and it is the same thing that many of you are trying to do for your own children, which is to make sure they have the best opportunity for educational success.  As you saw in the video, this work can have life-changing impact,” said Marlies Spanjaard, executive director of the Youth Advocacy Foundation, during her speech at the event. “Whether that means getting a child help in learning to read or clearing up a disciplinary incident or an unfair disciplinary practice, it is incredibly meaningful and gratifying to be a part of that change. It helps me—and all of us at the EdLaw Project—to feel good about the future and about the foundation we are laying for the next generation. Receiving this award tonight affirms that our work is important to all of you, too, and for that we are deeply grateful.”

Through zealous legal representation and community-based services, YAF fights to decrease the risk of chronic court involvement and to increase the chances that young people will grow into healthy, thriving adults.

YAF’s innovative EdLaw Project has been in existence since 2001 and has provided direct representation to nearly 2,000 children. Through the EdLaw Project, court-appointed attorneys across the state receive specialized training and support to help them incorporate education advocacy into their practice.

“I am grateful to be among so many leaders in the law. As I look around the room and see so many of my colleagues, it is truly gratifying to have an event that brings together such a cross-section of so many practice areas,”  Spanjaard said. “Though we may have diverse practice areas and interests we also have a lot in common.  This night showcases that we all share a commitment to excellence in our practice. We care about our work.  A big part of what makes me care about my work is the children we serve, and I imagine that this is something you can all relate to.”

Committee Meeting Agenda – February 25, 2020 Meeting

  1. Approval of minutes of the January 16, 2020 meeting
  2. Amicus Request(s)
    1. Commonwealth v. Harding, SJC-12875
    2. In Re:  Adoption of Jermani H., SJC-12880
    3. Commonwealth v. D.R., DAR-27318
    4. In Re:  J.P., SJC-12872
  3. Lease Approvals
    1. Malden Office
    2. Worcester Office
  4. Counsel Crisis Report and Update
  5. Souza-Baranowski Litigation Update
  6. Monthly Financial Overview Report
  7. Commitments $10,000 and Over Report
  8. Chief Counsel Report
  9. Executive Session

2020 Nominations for Annual Awards


Nomination Process

The Committee will present the awards at an Awards Ceremony on May 14, 2020 at 4:00 p.m. at the John Adams Courthouse in Boston.

All nominations should be submitted to Ms. Denise Simonini, Executive Assistant to the Chief Counsel, Committee for Public Counsel Services, 44 Bromfield Street, Boston, MA 02108, by fax to 617-988-8495, or by email to

Nominations must be submitted no later than March 3, 2020.  All nominations must include a written explanation of why the nominee should be honored. 

For a list of past award recipients, please check our website here.  Biographical sketches of those with an award named in their honor are also on our website 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.  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 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, and in the custody of the state.

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.

The Edward J. Duggan Award for Outstanding Service award is given to both a Public Defender and Private Counsel attorney 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 is presented each year to the public defender and private attorney who best represent zealous advocacy – the central principle governing the representation of indigents in Massachusetts.

The Paul J. Liacos Mental Health Advocacy Award recognizes a public defender or private attorney whose legal advocacy on behalf of persons involved in mental health civil commitment, guardianship of adults, or criminal mental health proceedings, best exemplifies zealous advocacy in furtherance of all clients’ legal interests and autonomy.

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.

The Teresa McParland Award for Operational Excellence is presented to a person who demonstrates dedication, creativity and passion to improving agency operations in service to our clients through enhancing agency performance and accountability.  These attributes were all hallmarks of Terry McParland during her CPCS career. The award honors Operations staff who exhibit extraordinary dedication, excellent performance, vision, and creativity in improving the services, systems, quality of life, efficiency, and environment provided to agency staff, clients, and private counsel.

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.

The Maria SoutoArmand Goyette Investigator 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.

The Margaret Winchester Award for Child Welfare Advocacy honors a staff member or a private attorney who, through their 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.