Committee Meeting Agenda – May 19, 2021 Meeting

The meeting will begin at 5:30 p.m.  Registration is required – details below.

  • Approval of minutes of the April 15, 2021 meeting
  • Amicus Request – Commonwealth v. Ernest Monell – FAR-28219
  • Contract – FY 2022 Juvenile Supervising Attorney
  • Commitments $10,000 and Over Report
  • Monthly Financial Overview Report
  • FY 2022 Budget Update
  • Personnel Subcommittee Update
  • Chief Counsel Report
  • Executive Session
    *Equity Adjustment
    *Staff Supplemental Payment Proposal

    Registration is required to join the meeting
    When: May 19, 2021 05:30 PM Eastern Time (US and Canada)
    Topic: CPCS Committee Meeting
    Register in advance for this webinar:
    https://us02web.zoom.us/webinar/register/WN_py_LKIFBSL6H0jFIVeQLaA

    After registering, you will receive a confirmation email containing information about joining the webinar.

Baratta, O’Connor Win MBA’s COVID-19 Impact Award

Children and Family Law attorneys Nancy Baratta, Esq., left, and Ann Balmelli O’Connor, Esq.

The Massachusetts Bar Association has announced that it will present its Access to Justice COVID-19 Impact Award to the Committee for Public Counsel Services’ Nancy Baratta and Ann O’Connor for going “above and beyond during these challenging times to address legal needs arising from the pandemic.”

Baratta and O’Connor, who are both involved with the CPCS Children and Family Law Division’s COVID Legal Response Team, will be presented with the award at the MBA’s free, virtual Annual Meeting on Tuesday, May 25, at 5:30 p.m.

“This is wonderful recognition for the hard work that Nancy and Ann have done over the last year to ensure indigent clients continued to receive the zealous advocacy that they are entitled to and deserve,” said CPCS Chief Counsel Anthony Benedetti.

Baratta, a CAFL managing director, created the COVID Legal Response Team, which is charged with ensuring that attorneys continue to zealously represent clients despite the many obstacles caused by COVID-19. The response team is made up of private attorneys, staff attorneys and a social worker. O’Connor, a CAFL attorney in charge, took a leadership role on the COVID Legal Response Team from the outset.

“Families involved in state intervention cases brought by DCF have faced even more challenges in over the last 14 months than they do in ordinary times,” said Michael Dsida, Deputy Chief Counsel for CPCS’s Children and Family Law Division. “Thanks to Nancy’s and Ann’s leadership and dedication, along with great work from the rest of the COVID Legal Response Team, parents and children were provided far more access to justice than they would have otherwise had during the pandemic.”

The team continues to ensure that each of the more than 900 attorneys taking cases for indigent parents and children had the tools to access justice. Whether it was by phone, Zoom, or in person, every attorney had the resources to support their practice. Through their leadership, Baratta and O’Connor helped to ensure that thousands of parents and children received high-quality legal representation under incredibly stressful circumstances.

In nominating Baratta and O’Connor for the award, attorneys Debbie and Cristina Freitas wrote:

“The pandemic may have paralyzed the economy, but these two very dedicated leaders ensured that it would not paralyze justice. They mobilized (and often created!) the resources, trainings, ideas, and support to keep zealous and high quality representation of indigent parents and children a priority throughout the pandemic using a relatively unprecedented model of partnership. It was through their creativity and resolve that parents and children did not wait indefinitely to have their cases heard, to visit with each other, or to secure needed services. Nancy and Ann moved quickly to create and implement an innovative and creative program to address the barriers the COVID-19 pandemic put in the way of accessing justice and in doing so, ensured that justice was not delayed or denied for thousands of indigent parents and children.”

Defenders in the News

Hello and welcome to the second edition of Defenders in the News

On the last Friday of every month we will publish a list of news items, awards or big decisions involving anyone under the CPCS banner. If we missed anything, or if you spot an article that needs to be included in the weeks ahead, feel free to send it to CPCS Communications Director Bob McGovern at: rmcgovern@publiccounsel.net

Cristina Rodrigues, a CPCS staff attorney, won the Massachusetts Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers’ prestigious Hines-Burnham Award for her outstanding contribution to racial justice and civil rights. The Hines-Burnham award is reserved for attorneys who have demonstrated excellence and innovation within the first 10 years of criminal defense practice.

Joe Schneiderman, a private panel attorney, was quoted in a Boston Herald article about his victory in Commonwealth v. Ulani. The Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court vacated a contempt judgment against a juvenile, and found that a lower court judge abused her discretion by not taking the teenager’s status as a juvenile into account. Schneiderman called the decision “a banner, positive, landmark win for children throughout the commonwealth. Children in juvenile court shall not be treated as criminals.”

Randy Gioia, deputy chief counsel for CPCS’s Public Defender Division, was interviewed by GBH about the resumption of jury trials. Gioia said, “we all know that studies have shown that racial and ethnic minorities have suffered disproportionately from COVID, and they’re less receptive to taking the vaccine. We’re concerned that they’ll be less likely to appear for jury duty, and an accused person won’t have a jury that represents a fair cross section of the community, like the person is entitled to.”

Jeffrey Baler, a private panel attorney, earned a victory for his client in Commonwealth v. Williams, where the Supreme Judicial Court vacated a murder conviction because “the trial judge abused his discretion in excusing a juror who professed an inability to begin deliberations anew after the discharge of another juror.”

Jacqueline M. Dutton, Attorney-in-Charge of the combined District and Superior Court Office in Worcester, was quoted by the Telegram in its piece about Worcester District Attorney Joseph D. Early Jr. failing to disclose information about an integrity unit created after a complaint about the Worcester PD. Dutton said, “I would expect, as a lawyer, under ethical rules to do justice, that they would want to follow up on concerns about integrity — even just to say, ‘We looked into it, and there’s nothing there.’”

Anne Stevenson, a private panel attorney, was quoted in a Patch article about Marblehead’s search for a new police chief. Stevenson said “civil rights and equality are things that we need to look at, and make sure that the new candidate is going to put us in a good position and shares our values in that respect.”

Victoria Bleier, a staff attorney, was quoted in a CommonWealth Magazine piece about the effect the pandemic has had on the child welfare system in Massachusetts. Bleier said, “there are huge due process implications with terminating a parent’s rights and permanently severing the connection a child has with the parent over Zoom.”

James Doyle, a private panel attorney, was quoted in a New Yorker article about Elizabeth Loftus, a psychologist who studies how false memories can affect our daily lives. Doyle said that Loftus’ “work changed the whole story of what an eyewitness case was about, and destabilized a solid and routine part of the criminal caseload.”

A CPCS staff attorney and her client were quoted in a Marshall Project article about how video chats replaced in-person visits between parents and their children placed in foster care. The client, discussing the practice, said “it’s just impossible to bond with her over the screen. Ever since, I’ve been asking basically, ‘Can I hold my daughter?’”

Lisa Billowitz, a private panel attorney, was quoted in a Boston Globe article about the Supreme Judicial Court reducing the sentence of her client, Raymond Conception, from first degree murder to second degree murder due to his cognitive impairment. Billowitz said she was “pleased that the SJC held that Raymond’s unusual vulnerabilities — including his intellectual disability and the coercion by adult gang members — warranted a reduction to second-degree murder, with an earlier opportunity for parole.”

April 2021 MHLD News

Kudos to Miriam, Beau & everyone who contributed to the MHLD Newsletter April 2021

  • Interesting, informative and helpful.

  • Here are the headlines:

  • Upcoming Webinars – check them out on the Training Page
  • Why Race Matters Speaker Series: We encourage you to register for the April 26th session on the Harvard Study on Racism in the Criminal Justice System. There will be MHLD-specific breakout sessions on how to raise and litigate racial bias in mental health cases.
  • April is National “Minority” Health Month – Resources to keep you informed
  • CDC Declares Racism a Serious Public Health Threat
  • Resources for Culturally Responsive Behavioral Health
  • Research Shows Neurological and Psychiatric Outcomes from COVID article from Lancet
  • Recent SJC Arguments by the Appellate Unit
  • April 5 In the Matter of K.I. “Impounded Case” SJC-13081
  • April 9 In the Matter of P.R. “Impounded Case” SJC-13068
  • To watch the arguments, go to the Suffolk/SJC archive page: https://boston.suffolk.edu/sjc/archive.php
  • New Attorneys Joining the Guardianship Panel after completing certification training. Thanks to all who helped

Committee Meeting Agenda – April 15, 2021 Meeting

The meeting will begin at 5:30 p.m.  Registration is required

  • Approval of minutes of the March 16, 2021 meeting
  • Amicus Request(s)
    *Commonwealth McDermott, SJC-13091 – Reporting Only
    *Commonwealth Bailey-Sweeting, SJC-13086 – Reporting Only
    *Arnold Emma Massachusetts Parole Board, No. SJC-12954
  • CAFL Emergency Declaration – Franklin-Hampshire County
  • Monthly Financial Overview Report
  • Commitments $10,000 and Over Report
  • Chief Counsel Report
  • Executive Session
    *Litigation Matters

You are invited to a Zoom webinar:
When: Apr 15, 2021 05:30 PM Eastern Time (US and Canada)
Topic: CPCS Committee Meeting – April 15, 2021

Register in advance for this webinar:
https://us02web.zoom.us/webinar/register/WN_dW3I5j_DR36R-3FByHQ48Q

After registering, you will receive a confirmation email containing information about joining the webinar.

Defenders in the News

Hello and welcome to the first edition of Defenders in the News. 

On the last Friday of every month we will publish a list of news items, awards or big decisions involving anyone under the CPCS banner. If we missed anything, or if you spot an article that needs to be included in the weeks ahead, feel free to send it to CPCS Communications Director Bob McGovern at: rmcgovern@publiccounsel.net

James Doyle, a private panel attorney, had two pieces published in The Crime Report, a nonprofit multimedia information and networking resource based at John Jay College of Criminal Justice in New York. In one article, Doyle discusses the importance of conviction integrity units, and in the other he examines what effects – if any – punishing prosecutors can have on the system.

Cristina Rodrigues and Connor Barusch, CPCS staff attorneys, were referenced in a Boston Globe article about one of their clients and how community groups, including the Bail Fund, helped her pay high bail. 

Michael Waryasz, a private panel attorney, was quoted in a Boston Globe story about one of his clients, Antonio Cruzado Jr., in which the newspaper examined Massachusetts’ controversial three strikes law. The Globe also spoke to Cruzado’s supporters, who “say his punishment is unjustly harsh and shows how habitual offender laws can reinforce racial disparities that run through the criminal justice system.”

CPCS joined a group of organizations in a letter to the Boston Globe pushing back on a Globe article that was critical of compassionate release. CPCS joined Prisoners’ Legal Services, Real Cost of Prisons Project, Coalition for Effective Public Safety, Criminal Justice Policy Coalition, The F8 Foundation, Northeastern University School of Law Prisoners’ Assistance Project and the Massachusetts Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers in signing the letter.

Lisa Steele, a private panel attorney, did an interview with The Connecticut Case Law Podcast about the recent decision in State v. Gomes and her role in the case. In Gomes, the Connecticut Supreme Court ordered a new trial in a case where a jury instruction about inadequate investigation by police. Steele also had a piece on alibi defenses featured as the cover article for Champion, a National Association for Public Defense publication. (Click here for the article)

Anthony Benedetti, chief counsel for CPCS, was quoted in a CNN story about Suffolk District Attorney Rachael Rollins’ “Hinton Lab Initiative,” which is geared toward vacating the drug convictions for all whose evidence certifications were conducted in the William A. Hinton State Lab between May 2003 and August 2012. Benedetti also wrote a column in CommonWealth Magazine on Public Defender Day discussing the pandemic and the inequities in the criminal legal system.

Anne Bader-Martin, a private panel attorney and founder of One Can Help, won the second annual Massachusetts Bar Association Juvenile & Child Welfare Award “in recognition of her tireless work on behalf of the juvenile and child welfare community.” Bader-Martin also had an article published in the ABA Journal about the inextricable connection between poverty and the juvenile court system. One Can Help, the nonprofit Bader-Martin leads, is featured in the article. The nonprofit “exists to provide the missing resources foster children, at-risk youth and underserved families urgently need to remedy court concerns, improve difficult lives and build better futures.”

Rebecca A. Jacobstein, Director of Strategic Litigation at CPCS, was referenced in a Mass Lawyers Weekly article about a single justice Supreme Judicial Court hearing in which she and other advocates argued that the county houses of correction are restricting attorney access and failing to provide comprehensive COVID-19 testing to asymptomatic prisoners. Jacobstein and attorneys for the Massachusetts Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers have argued “the Houses of Correction (HOCs) failure to conduct routine, comprehensive COVID-19 testing and to meaningfully reduce their populations, as well as five HOCs’ failure to provide meaningful, timely, and confidential modes of communication between incarcerated individuals and their lawyers, violate constitutional guarantees concerning cruel and unusual punishment, due process, and the right to counsel.” Jaconstein and staff attorney Dave Rangaviz are also referenced in this iPondr piece about COVID-19 in jails and prisons

Barbara Munro, a private panel attorney, recently had second degree murder conviction vacated by the Massachusetts Appeals Court in Commonwealth v. Fahey. The court found that a new trial was warranted “based on the cumulative effect of the prosecutor’s improper cross-examination and inflammatory closing argument.

Massachusetts Lawyers Weekly recognized private panel attorneys Elliot Weinstein, Victoria Kelleher, Patricia DeJeunas, John Barter and John Warren on its list of 2020 Lawyers of the Year.

In memoriam: John Dingee was a CPCS Bar Advocate in Bristol and Plymouth Counties. He passed away recently at the age of 48. Two months prior to his diagnosis, he achieved his career goal and was appointed to the Superior Court Murder List.  Colleagues say he was a zealous and passionate attorney but he was always polite, respectful and a joy to work with whether you were working on his team or as an adversary.

Committee Meeting Agenda – March 16, 2021 Meeting

The meeting will begin at 5:30 p.m.  Registration is required

  • Approval of minutes of the February 17, 2021 meeting
  • Amicus Request(s)
    • Commonwealth D.W., a juvenile, SJC-12954
    • Commonwealth E.V., a juvenile, SJ-2021-0044
    • Commonwealth Karen K., a juvenile, FAR 28101
  • Social Services Update
  • Contract – Anti-Racism Training
  • Temporary Leave Policy Change
  • C&P Cases – Modifying Eligibility Criteria for Emergency Rate
  • Lease – Worcester Office
  • Commitments $10,000 and Over Report
  • Monthly Financial Overview Report
  • Social Services Update
  • Chief Counsel Report

Registration is required to join the meeting

https://us02web.zoom.us/meeting/register/tZIkdempqD8tE9aaT8ZFfX9i2jVigpc-T7Pr

After registering, you will receive a confirmation email containing information about joining the meeting.

Committee Meeting Agenda – February 17, 2021 Meeting

The meeting will begin at 5:30 p.m.  Registration is required.

  1. Approval of minutes of the January 21, 2021 meeting
  2. Commitments $10,000 and Over Report
  3. Monthly Financial Overview Report
  4. FY 2022 Budget Request – Initiative
  5. Chief Counsel Report
  6. Executive Session
    • Litigation Matter

Registration is required to join the meeting

https://us02web.zoom.us/meeting/register/tZUkdOqhqz4pGtbmdn_O9pjRTnNpFC8KEIvs

After registering, you will receive a confirmation email containing information about joining the meeting.

Committee Meeting Agenda – January 21, 2021 Meeting

The meeting will begin at 5:30 p.m.  Registration is required.

  • Approval of minutes of the December 17, 2020 meeting
  • Audit and Oversight Overview
  • Commitments $10,000 and Over Report
  • Monthly Financial Overview Report
  • COVID-19 Update
  • Chief Counsel Report

Registration is required to join the meeting:

https://us02web.zoom.us/meeting/register/tZMlcO2urzwoE9w44A61UIi6AA8N8ujR93es

After registering, you will receive a confirmation email containing information about joining the meeting.