Thoughts on Losing Two Legal Legends

The following was sent by CPCS Chief Counsel Anthony Benedetti to the entire agency regarding the passing of Supreme Judicial Court Chief Justice Ralph Gants and Supreme Court Associate Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg:

This past week brought devastating news to the legal system, the commonwealth and the nation. We lost two legal legends with the passing of Supreme Judicial Court Chief Justice Ralph Gants and Supreme Court Associate Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. Their tireless, standard-setting work changed the trajectory of the law for years to come.

Ginsburg ensured that so many received equal protection under the law, believing that “We, the People” in the Constitution should be as all-encompassing as possible, and include all those left out when it was first written. She was a trailblazer specifically in moving the law dramatically toward recognizing gender equality. Ginsburg became a cultural icon and a role model later in life, in large part due to her blistering dissents in numerous cases in which she was on the losing end but knew that she was on the right side of history. Her career has launched thousands of legal careers. Many of those who she inspired show up in our courts every single day and fight for the rights of those who have the least. Her spirit lives on through your advocacy and empathy, and I am proud to call you colleagues.

More locally, Ralph Gants fought tirelessly to allow everyone to have access to the courts, and he forced the legal system to take a long, hard look at the inequities that persist today. He was a champion of civil legal aid and supported our mission to provide top-level representation to the people of this commonwealth. Along the way, he managed to find the time to connect with many of us personally. The bipartisan tributes to the Chief Justice say it all. He was fair, fearless and left the SJC in a better place than where he found it.

Losing both of these legal giants this week is painful and has understandably left many feeling sad, lost and discouraged. But the legacies of Ginsburg and Gants will not and cannot simply be left to history. Neither of them would have accomplished what they did if they succumbed to feelings of hopelessness. Their legacies will continue on through us – and not just public defenders and lawyers. They will carry on through every person who continues to believe that the law is for the many, not the few. We will continue our fight with their legacies, and that guiding principle, in mind. As RBG said: “If you want to be a true professional, you will do something outside yourself… something that makes life a little better for people less fortunate than you.”

Committee Meeting Agenda – September 17, 2020 Meeting

Due to social distancing, the Committee will be conducting all matters virtually

  1. Approval of minutes of the July 15, 2020 meeting
  2. Amicus Request(s)
    1. Commonwealth v. T.J., A Juvenile, SJC-12986
    2. Commonwealth v. Keith Winfield, 2019-P-871 (Reporting Only)
  3. Monthly Financial Overview Report
  4. Commitments $10,000 and Over Report
  5. COVID-19 Status Update
  6. Litigation Update:
    1. Carasquillo
    2. DOC
    3. City of Springfield
  7. Chief Counsel Report

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CPCS Chief Counsel Discusses Civil Rights and Criminal Justice at Boston College Law Rappaport Center Event

Committee for Public Counsel Services Chief Counsel Anthony Benedetti joined Hon. Geraldine Hines, former Associate Justice of the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court; Iván Espinoza-Madrigal, Executive Director of Lawyers for Civil Rights; and Carol Rose, Executive Director of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Massachusetts for a discussion about civil rights and criminal justice on Sept. 3.

The discussion was hosted by Boston College Law’s Rappaport Center.

Tribute to Attorney Ed Barshak, Early Pioneer in Massachusetts Indigent Defense

Edward J. Barshak, a titan in the Massachusetts legal industry and a trailblazer in the fight for the right to counsel, passed away last month. He was 96 years old.

Barshak spent his career pushing to create a better legal system for all people. He is an important figure in the history of indigent defense in Massachusetts, serving as the main litigator in Brown v. Commonwealth, the landmark Supreme Judicial Court decision that created a right to counsel for criminal defendants under the Massachusetts constitution. Six years later, the United States Supreme Court found that the federal Constitution bestowed the same rights in Gideon v. Wainwright.

Attorney Barshak served as the chair of the Massachusetts Defenders Committee, the precursor to the Committee for Public Counsel Services, for several years in the mid-1970’s.  He forcefully fought for federal funds for the MDC, demanding that public defenders receive the same level of funding as prosecutors.  He was a leader in establishing the Committee policy that staff attorneys would not represent co-defendants and obtained the backing of the SJC in support of that policy.  Finally, he also was instrumental in the establishment of the Roxbury Defenders Committee.

His career is filled with examples of stepping up to represent those who needed an attorney to fight for them against the power of the state.   When attorneys were accused of associating with communist activities during the Red Scare, Barshak rose to the occasion and represented them.  When a person was federally charged after advocating resistance to the Vietnam War draft, Barshak represented him – advocacy that led to the conviction being vacated by the First Circuit.

Barshak served as president of the Boston Bar Association from 1974 to 1976 and was honored with the BBA’s Lifetime Achievement Award in 2014. While heading the BBA, he helped create the Legal Advocacy and Resource Center, which continues to connect low-income individuals with free legal advice and referrals. He was also instrumental in the creation of the Judicial Nominating Committee.

“1970’s Boston was a time of upheaval and controversy. The city’s future stood on a knife edge, with communities torn apart by the contentious desegregation of Boston Public Schools and resulting busing crisis,” the BBA wrote, when giving Barshak the Lifetime Achievement Award. “At the time, the BBA was not known for weighing in on community issues. Ed, with a steadfast belief in the nobility of the legal profession, believed that lawyers could help guide progress and make a difference.”

Barshak also served as a Director for the Lawyers for Civil Rights, Chair of the Massachusetts Board of Bar Examiners and also Chair of the Joint Bar Committee on Judicial Appointments

In 2016, the Edward J. Barshak Fund for Justice was established to provide litigation resources for anti-discrimination cases brought by the Lawyers for Civil Rights.

Barshak was the recipient of the NAACP Boston Branch Special Award for Legal Assistance on a Continuing Basis. He also won the Anti-Defamation League’s William O. Douglas First Amendment Freedom Award.

Anthony J. Benedetti
Chief Counsel
Committee for Public Counsel Services
44 Bromfield Street
Boston, MA 02108

Dsida Wins NACC Outstanding Legal Advocate Award

Michael Dsida, Deputy Chief Counsel of the Committee of Public Counsel Services’ Children and Family Division

Michael Dsida, Deputy Chief Counsel of the Committee of Public Counsel Services’ Children and Family Law Division, has been named the winner of the National Association of Counsel for Children’s Outstanding Legal Advocate Award.

The award is presented to individuals who demonstrate “excellence in legal or policy advocacy throughout their career in child welfare.” Dsida will be presented with the award on August 28 at NACC’s 43rd National Child Welfare Law Virtual Conference.

“I am deeply honored by this award. I’m also proud of what it says about the outstanding advocacy provided by our private attorneys and our staff,” Dsida said. “Their work in protecting the rights and advancing the interests of children and indigent parents who are involved in Juvenile Court cases brought by the Department of Children and Families is as challenging and as important as any legal work can be.”

Dsida has been with CPCS since 2006, and has made it his mission to provide top-tier legal services to the children and parents the agency serves. He is responsible for overseeing staff in trial, appellate, and administrative offices and the nearly 900 privately assigned counsel who take CAFL cases through CPCS.

“Mike has been a tireless advocate for assuring that the lawyers handling these cases receive the training and support they need to develop and maintain their expertise,” wrote a team of CPCS attorneys and administrators in their letter nominating Dsida for the award. “Mike may be the most client-centered lawyer in the state. His first and last consideration to any decision is: ‘What is best for the client?’”

Dsida has been charged with overseeing CAFL’s rapid expansion during the past two decades and – through calm, confident leadership – led an effort to add offices and attorneys while not sacrificing quality representation.

“This is well-deserved recognition for Mike Dsida. He has been invaluable to the growth of CAFL and the success of the division in zealously representing individual clients and aggressively advocating for policy and legal changes that would make the system fairer,” said Anthony Benedetti, Chief Counsel for CPCS.

Prior to his time at CPCS, Dsida founded and directing the Civitas Child Law Clinic at Loyola University Chicago School of Law, where he was also a faculty member. Shortly after his graduation from Harvard Law School, he served as an Assistant Public Guardian in Cook County, Ill. and represented children in child welfare cases while training and supervising staff attorneys to do the same.

As a litigator, Dsida argued a number of significant cases before both the Illinois Appeals Court and the US Supreme Court that focused on the rights of children. He has argued cases regarding the state’s requirement to make reasonable efforts prior to removal of a child, ensuring siblings remain placed in foster care together, and the need for mandatory permanency hearing for children.

“Mike has a very obvious respect for the population that CAFL serves and goes to great lengths to ensure their rights are protected,” Dsida’s nominators wrote. “Mike’s devotion to his work has earned him the respect of the entire CPCS community.”

Do you want to protect the civil rights of people with psychiatric challenges and hone or develop valuable trial skills? The CPCS Mental Health Litigation Division is now accepting applications for our Fall 2020 Civil Commitment Certification Training!

In Massachusetts, people experiencing psychiatric distress can be involuntarily detained at psychiatric facilities, committed for up to six months or a year, and treated with anti-psychotic medications against their wishes. This substantial deprivation of liberty entitles people to court-appointed counsel to ensure that all their rights under the law are protected. Civil commitment cases offer frequent litigation experience, client contact, and the satisfaction of providing zealous client-centered advocacy to some of the most vulnerable clients in the Commonwealth.

During the COVID-19 pandemic civil commitment petitions and petitions to treat are still being filed and trials are still being held, although telephonically or by videoconference for now as courts slowly re-open for in-person hearings.

Because we cannot meet in person during the pandemic, we have developed an online certification course. This course features new and improved content including asynchronous readings, videos, and short assignments which you do on your own at your own pace, combined with live Zoom sessions including Q & A, discussions, and small group skills exercises. The course concludes with a mock trial on Zoom where you will be able to practice what you learned in the first part of the course and get constructive feedback from experienced mental health attorneys before taking your first commitment case.

Program Details and Time Commitment

This first part of the certification course will begin with a live opening plenary session on Friday October 16, 2020 and conclude on November 6, 2020. The second part of the course is half-day mock trials, to be scheduled during the week of November 16-20.

The breakdown of the expected time commitment is as follows:

  • Viewing online lectures, readings, short videos, and other materials, and completing short assignments: approximately eight hours/week for the full weeks
  • Participation in seven live Zoom lectures/small group discussions/skills breakout sessions for 90 minutes each on Fridays (morning/mid-day) and Tuesdays (afternoon) (10/16; 10/20; 10/23; 10/27; 10/30; 11/3; and 11/6) (exact times TBD)
  • One session of half-day mock trials, to be scheduled as outlined above

You must complete the entire course and attend all live Zoom sessions to be certified to the Mental Health Litigation Division panel.

The deadline for applications is September 14, 2020. The cost of the training is $150 upon registration if you are accepted. In addition to the online course you will receive a copy of the newly revised 7th edition of the MCLE Mental Health Proceedings in Massachusetts: A Manual for Defense Counsel (2020). We will notify everyone of acceptance status after September 14th; please allow up to ten (10) days after the application deadline before inquiring about status.

PLEASE CLICK HERE TO APPLY (no fee to apply)

Note: to submit your application, you must press Submit at the bottom left hand side, below the signature. If you are not able to complete the application in one sitting you may press the Save button, on the bottom right hand side, and you will receive a link to use when you are ready to complete the application.

For more information about the Mental Health Litigation Division Civil Commitment Online Certification Training or for questions about the application, please contact Beau Kealy at akealy@publiccounsel.net or 617-910-5714

Committee Meeting Agenda – July 15, 2020 Meeting

Due to social distancing, the Committee will be conducting all matters by phone.

  1. Approval of minutes of the June 18, 2020 meeting
  2. Amicus Request(s):
    Commonwealth v. Josiah Zacher, SJC-12952
    Commonwealth v. Caliz, SJC-12932
    Commonwealth v. Delgado-Rivera, SJC-12929
  3. Contract Approval – 100 Cambridge Street, Boston
  4. Monthly Financial Overview Report
  5. CPCS Steps to Combat Racial & Ethnic Disparities
  6. Election of Officers
  7. Chief Counsel Report

Meeting ID: 876 6259 3378
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CPCS Statement on Pride Month

It is incredibly fortuitous that I am able to share some thoughts in honor of LGBTQ Pride Month  so soon after the U.S. Supreme Court, in an historic 6-3 decision, definitively ruled in the Bostock v. Clayton County, Georgia case that employment discrimination toward LGBTQ individuals violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (“Title VII”). In Bostock, the Court considered the definition of sex under the Title VII law against employment discrimination. The Court found that even if Congress had chosen not to apply this law to LGBTQ individuals, the “necessary consequence” of the term sex and how is has been construed over decades of jurisprudence means that “an employer who fires an individual merely for being gay or transgender defies the law.” This is a major pronouncement ensuring the most basic and critical of equal employment rights, and I am excited and delighted to share in this moment with our LGBTQ CPCS colleagues as we celebrate Pride Month.

Due to the pandemic, June 2020 will be the first time that Pride Month across the United States will not be celebrated in the open, loving and vibrant way lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer people have known for 50 years. Pride month is seen by most for celebrating being able to be out and open as LGBTQ people, but this month also serves to support people who cannot safely or comfortably come out in all or part of their lives, and those who are questioning their sexual orientation or gender identity.

As we celebrate Pride month, I ask that everyone think about how we can support our LGBTQ colleagues, clients and community, whether they are out to us or not. Tragically, this time is roiled by the racially motivated murders of George Floyd in Minnesota and Ahmaud Arbury in Georgia and Breonna Taylor in Kentucky, along with countless prior killings and daily acts of bias and hate rained upon Black people across the United States. Even as we embrace the history leading to increased rights within the LGBTQ community, we cannot ignore the connection of race-based hatred, violence and killings to this movement, or to the onslaught of outrage, pain and injustice Black and Brown people continue to experience every day.

The first Pride event celebrated a clarion demand for equal rights and freedom that exploded from the 1969 Stonewall Riots in New York City. Stonewall was a frustrated, angry and determined community response to brutal police and political reproaches toward people seeking only the free expression of their humanity and sexuality. The Stonewall activists were led by many would-be CPCS clients – poor, homeless, young, Black and Brown people, as well as others across the LGBTQ community.

The history and key players around the Stonewall riots provide an instructive moment on injustice, responsive advocacy and cross-cultural challenge. Members of the LGBTQ community could dance and engage at the Stonewall Inn, a Mob run bar near NYU and local parks where community members hung out, slept and shared company. Stonewall was rundown and subject to recurring, orchestrated police raids where payoffs gained advance warnings, even as the Mob blackmailed more affluent patrons on threat of exposing their sexuality. Transgender individuals and others openly reflecting their pride were subject to arrest and abuse, in some instances, for not wearing three pieces of “gender appropriate” clothing consistent with birth gender.

On June 28, 1969, yet another early morning raid, without warning because the police went unpaid, triggered the Stonewall Riots. This time, customers and local neighbors rebelled against the unjust harassment, beatings and arrests. Demonstrators chanted, overturned cars and set them on fire, threw items at the police, and set the Stonewall Inn on fire, after the cops retreated into the building. Two transgender women of color, Marsha P. Johnson and Sylvia Rivera, were advocates for homeless gay, lesbian and transgender people of color, and helped inspire and leverage the outrage that became six nights of street protest. This incident turned the tide on LGBTQ oppression in the United States and around the world. Sadly, however, many in the white, middle-class LGBTQ liberation movement that benefitted from Stonewall showed Johnson and Rivera scorn, because of an unwillingness to accept transgender people as part of the movement. Their advocacy and organizing for homeless transgender youth of color and broader leadership are now recognized across the LGBTQ community, though neither woman survived to fully relish this embrace – Marsha P. Johnson died in a reported 1992 suicide suspected to have been murder, and Sylvia Rivera died of liver cancer in 2002.

Today, the seeds planted by the Stonewall Riots of 1969 have blossomed into rights that prior generations could only dream of, including marriage equality, state and local LGBTQ rights legislation, LGBTQ leadership in government and federal hate crimes laws. Nonetheless, unequal treatment persists, including the lack of broader federal legal protection, repressive state and local law and policy and unrelenting hate crimes.

We celebrate the fight Marsha P. Johnson and Sylvia Rivera waged to gain rights denied for so long, and the achievement of equality that has made a difference for many, but fails to reach our clients. This recognition must be in the face of the ignorance and hatred that still impact LGBTQ people, and that has been thrust into our awareness as Black people are killed, in the case of Breonna Taylor in Louisville, as she slept in her bed. Our advocacy mission challenges each of us to understand and leverage the complex mix and meaning between and among poverty, race, sexual preference, gender identity, age and disability, along with the goals and wishes of our clients, to embrace their humanity on behalf of justice rightfully deserved. Later this month, we will share information and data on the work of CPCS on behalf of LGBTQ individuals across our divisions, as well as the challenges we face in our advocacy on behalf of these clients.

As we praise the leaders of the LGBTQ community and celebrate great achievement, including our LGBTQ coworkers, family and friends, we must dedicate unwavering support, advocacy and achievement behalf of the struggles that continue in this community. Sylvia, Marsha and their children would expect nothing less of us. Happy Pride Month!

Anthony J. Benedetti,
Chief Counsel

Public Defender Appointed to BPD Reform Task Force

Roxbury Defenders Attorney-in-Charge Allison Cartwright

Allison Cartwright, the Attorney-in-Charge of the Committee for Public Counsel Services’ Roxbury Defenders office, has been appointed to a Task Force charged with reviewing Boston Police policies and making recommendations for progressive reform.

The Boston Police Reform Task Force was launched earlier this month by Boston Mayor Martin J. Walsh. It will review Boston Police’s use-of-force policies, recommend rigorous implicit bias training for police officers, improve the current Body Worn Camera program and look for ways to strengthen the city’s existing police review board, known as the Community Ombudsman Oversight Panel or Co-op Board.

“As a public defender and a resident of Boston, I am honored to be appointed by Mayor Walsh to sit on the BPD Task Force,” Cartwright said. “One of the most important issues we are facing as a city, and as a nation, is to critically review policing in our communities, in particular for people of color. The work that we do with this Task Force will have a long-lasting impact on those who are affected by police and the criminal justice system.”

Walsh created the new Task Force to ensure that commitments made as part of the “Mayor’s Pledge” translate into immediate action. Mayor Walsh signed the “Mayor’s Pledge” issued by the Obama Foundation’s My Brother’s Keeper Alliance. The “Mayor’s Pledge” commits the City of Boston to the following actions:

  1. Review police use of force policies
  2. Engage communities by including a diverse range of input, experiences, and stories
  3. Report review findings to the community and seek feedback
  4. Reform police use of force policies

The Task Force will produce recommendations by July 14, 2020. Aligned with President Obama’s “Mayor’s Pledge,” the community will have until July 31, 2020 to review recommendations and provide feedback to the City of Boston. Mayor Walsh will announce reforms to be implemented as a result of the Task Force and the community’s input by August 15, 2020.

In addition to Cartwright, the Boston Police Reform Task Force includes:

  • Wayne Budd, former United States Attorney for the District of Massachusetts (Chair)
  • Joseph D. Feaster, Jr., Chairman of the Board, Urban League of Eastern Massachusetts
  • Tanisha Sullivan, President, NAACP Boston Branch
  • Darrin Howell, President, DRIVE Boston Community Resources Inc. & Political Coordinator, 1199SEIU
  • Superintendent Dennis White, Chief of Staff, Boston Police Department
  • Marie St. Fleur, former Massachusetts State Representative, Boston
  • Rev. Jeffrey Brown, Associate Pastor, Historic Twelfth Baptist Church, Roxbury
  • Eddie Crispin, Boston Police Department Sergeant and President of MAMLEO (Mass. Assn. of Minority Law Enforcement Officers)
  • Jamarhl Crawford, Resident & Activist

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

Committee Meeting Agenda – June 18, 2020 Meeting

Due to social distancing, the Committee will be taking all matters by phone.

  1. Approval of minutes of the May 20, 2020 meeting
  1. Amicus Requests – Reporting Only (approved by Executive Committee)
    1. Commonwealth Daniel Nash, 2019-P-0703
    2. Gonzalez v. Immigration & Customs Enf’t, 416 F. Supp. 3d 995 (C.D. Cal. 2019)
  1. Contracts
    1. FY 2021 Bar Advocate Program Contracts
    2. FY 2021 Provision of Legal Services to Dukes and Nantucket Counties Contract
    3. FY 2021 Bar Advocate Program Supervising Attorney Contracts
    4. FY 2021-FY 2022 CAFL Resource Attorney Contracts
    5. FY 2021-FY 2022 MH Regional Coordinator Contracts
  1. Lease Agreement – Boston Office
  1. Committee Rules and Regulations
  1. Monthly Financial Overview Report
  1. Commitments $10,000 and Over Report
  1. FY 2021 Obligations over $25,000 for Preapproval
  1. Discussion of Criminal Justice System Inequities and Police Brutality
  1. Chief Counsel Report
    1. COVID-19
    2. Reopening Plan Update
  1. Executive Session – Personnel Matters

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