DO YOU WANT TO HELP PROTECT THE CIVIL RIGHTS OF PEOPLE WITH PSYCHIATRIC CHALLENGES? APPLY TO JOIN THE MENTAL HEALTH LITIGATION DIVISION TRIAL PANEL!

The Mental Health Litigation Division (MHLD) of the Committee for Public Counsel Services (CPCS) is now accepting applications to its fall 2018 Civil Commitment Certification Training.

In Massachusetts, people experiencing psychiatric distress can be involuntarily detained at psychiatric facilities, committed for up to six months, and treated with medications against their wishes. This substantial deprivation of liberty entitles these clients to court-appointed counsel to make sure that all their rights under the law are protected.

There is a great need for certified attorneys to represent these clients and it is rewarding work. Effective advocacy by attorneys can make a real difference in these cases. You will get client contact, litigation experience, and the satisfaction of knowing that the most vulnerable people in the Commonwealth had a lawyer to fight for their rights.

This certification training will be held at Community Legal Aid in Worcester on October 22, 23, 24 (9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. each day), and November 5, 2018. November 5th will be a half-day mock hearing (you will be scheduled for either morning or afternoon, to be determined).
Please download the application from our website here: MHLD Panel Application

The deadline to apply is September 21, 2018. Applicants to the program must be accepted before registering. The cost of the training is $125.00.

For more information about the Mental Health Litigation Division Civil Commitment Certification Training, please contact Miriam Ruttenberg at (617) 910-5782, mruttenberg@publiccounsel.net or Paulette Marie at (617) 910-5844, pmarie@publiccounsel.net.

Reporting tool to capture video conferencing issues experienced during client court hearings.

In response to the 2017 CPCS/Suffolk University survey regarding trial court video conferencing (VC), the Trial Court has established a Working Group to address various issues associated with VC.  Technological malfunctions are one focus for the Working Group.

CPCS’s representatives on the Working Group seek to gather data so the Working Group can identify specific courts and correctional institutions that tend to experience malfunctions. This data will allow CPCS to work with the courts to remediate malfunctions.

We ask anyone witnessing a VC malfunction, or issue related to video conferencing, during a client hearing to report the malfunction at https://bit.ly/2JRdePu . Continue reading

Boston Globe Op Ed

CPCS Chief Counsel Anthony Benedetti coauthored an Op Ed for the Boston Globe with
Dr. Laurie Guidry, chair of the Public Policy Committee for the Massachusetts Association for the Treatment of Sexual Abusers (MATSA).  The Op Ed, “Changing Sex Offender Law Needs to Be Evidence-Based”, opposes the Governor’s legislative response to the proposed release of Wayne Chapman.  Two examiners found Chapman no longer sexually dangerous after having spent 40 years in custody, serving a lengthy prison sentence followed by sexually dangerous person civil commitment.  The Globe posted the Op Ed on July 9, 2018, online.  To read it visit:  https://www.bostonglobe.com/opinion/2018/07/09/changing-sex-offender-law-needs-evidence-based/495OLMLwZHlpu4rTUDH4RP/story.html.

Lawyers Needed to Represent Parents and Children in State Intervention Cases

The Children and Family Law (CAFL) Division of the Committee for Public Counsel Services is seeking qualified attorneys to represent children and indigent parents in care and protection/termination of parental rights and child requiring assistance cases in the Juvenile Court.

There is a significant shortage of CAFL attorneys in western Massachusetts. The need is most critical in the Springfield Juvenile Court. As a result we are particularly interested in applicants who are able to accept CAFL appointments in Springfield as soon as possible after successfully completing the certification training.

Admission to the seven day CAFL trial panel certification training is by application only. The training dates are September 24-26 and October 2 in Sturbridge and either October 3 & 4 in Boston or October 4 & 5 in Springfield followed by a one day mock hearing scheduled at locations throughout the state from October 15 to 17. Applicants with extensive trial experience may request a waiver of the trial skills portion of the training program (the last one and one-half days), and the mock hearing.

We will give preference to attorneys who commit to practicing in western Massachusetts and to attorneys who submit completed applications by Friday, July 20, 2018.

The application and training requirements can be found here: https://www.publiccounsel.net/wp-content/uploads/CAFL-Trial-Panel-Training-Application-Fall-2018.doc

The Berkshire Eagle – Attorney Richard LeBlanc

The Berkshire Eagle
Monday, June 11, 2018 9:51 am

STEPHANIE ZOLLSHAN — THE BERKSHIRE EAGLE
Attorney Richard LeBlanc of Pittsfield has received the Edward Duggan Award from the state Commission of Public Counseling Services for his work as a public defender in the Berkshires. Tuesday, May 22, 2018.

“It’s all I ever wanted to do”: A love of the law led Richard LeBlanc to become a public defender. Now, he’s being honored for his “zealous advocacy.”

Attorney Richard LeBlanc of Pittsfield has represented countless clients facing long odds in Berkshire courtrooms. Including two of the most notorious defendants in county history, Lewis Lent and Wayne Lo.

PITTSFIELD — Richard LeBlanc’s mother loved novels that were written by mystery writers.
They included books by Erle Stanley Gardner, who created Perry Mason, a Los Angeles defense attorney who fought long odds trying to clear his clients from seemingly insurmountable situations.  Mason’s exploits became the subject of one of the most beloved and long running crime dramas in television history. LeBlanc’s whole family were big fans of the show; Rick especially liked the way it contained realistic interpretations of the law.

“The law was right down the line,” said LeBlanc, a Pittsfield native who graduated from Taconic High School in 1971. “It just fascinated me the way the whole thing worked.”
Fast forward several years. LeBlanc turned his love for Mason into a love for the law into a career as a public defender — “it’s all I ever wanted to do” — where he’s often found himself representing clients facing the same situations that his television alter ego was up against. He’s represented two of Berkshire County’s most notorious defendants, convicted child serial killer Lewis Lent, and convicted school shooter Wayne Lo. Continue reading

MBA and CPCS Issued Statement on Judicial Independence

CPCS and the Mass Bar issued a joint statement on Friday, June 8, 2018, responding to those calling for the removal of Judge Timothy Q. Feeley.  CPCS and the Mass Bar warn that removing a judge because he or she made an unpopular decision would threaten the independence of the Judiciary.  See statement below or view statement at the following link:  MBA/CPCS Statement

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: June 8, 2018

CONTACTS: MBA: Kelsey Sadoff (617) 338-0680; Cameron Woodcock / (617) 338-0675; CPCS General Counsel Lisa Hewitt (617) 910-5717

Mass. Bar Association and CPCS Warn Removal of Judge
Would Threaten Judicial Independence

BOSTON, Mass. —Massachusetts Bar Association President Christopher P. Sullivan and Committee for Public Counsel Services Chief Counsel Anthony J. Benedetti release the following statement in opposition to calls for the removal of Superior Court Judge Timothy Q. Feeley:

The recent uproar related to Judge Timothy Q. Feeley’s lawful sentencing of convicted drug dealer Manuel Soto-Vittini illustrates the absolute importance of preserving an independent judiciary. As the public outcry increases, facts get distorted, and misinformation travels faster than it can be corrected. Continue reading

Press Release

In response to call for the removal of Judge Timothy Feeley, CPCS and the MBA issued a joint statement in support of the Judge and highlighting the importance of an independent and impartial judiciary.  See statement below:

CPCS and MBA: Support Impartial Courts

– Agree Attacks against Judge Feeley Detrimental to Fair Judiciary –

  Boston – In support of fair and impartial courts, the Committee for Public Counsel Services, joined by the Massachusetts Bar Association, today released a statement about efforts by some who are calling to remove Judge Timothy Feeley because of a recent sentencing decision.

“Our forefathers were careful in crafting both our nation’s tenets and in Article 29 of the Bill of Rights of the Massachusetts Constitution. If we begin to remove judges because we don’t like their decisions, then we begin to undermine our judicial system and the judicial impartiality that is so vital in maintaining a fair judiciary,” said Anthony J. Benedetti, chief counsel for the Committee for Public Counsel Services.

“An independent judiciary is a cornerstone upon which this country was founded. Our citizens are entitled to no less than a free and independent judiciary bound by the rule of law and not the vagaries of public opinion and political consequence,” said Christopher P. Sullivan, president of the Massachusetts Bar Association. “Individual attacks and overly broad intrusions will have a chilling effect on the judiciary and will erode public confidence in the judicial system,” said Sullivan.

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2018 Awards Ceremony – CPCS Honors Outstanding Achievements in Client Centered Advocacy

On Thursday, April 26, CPCS had the pleasure of honoring exceptional members of our community – attorneys from the public and private counsel divisions, as well as a social worker, investigator and administrative professional – who work tirelessly to insure that CPCS meets our mission:  to fight for equal justice and human dignity by supporting our clients in achieving their legal and life goals; to zealously advocate for the rights of individuals; and to promote just public policy to protect the rights of all.

Gathered at the John Adams Courthouse were honorees, members of the staff and private bar, friends, family and clients of the honorees, as well as Committee members. The ceremony was a moment to pause and to celebrate the outstanding work of colleagues on behalf of their clients, not just over the course of the last year, but for their perseverance over the course of their careers.

The 2018 honorees:

Anthony Benedetti presenting the Thurgood Marshall Award to Nancy Bennett at the CPCS Annual Conference

NANCY T. BENNETT, Thurgood Marshall Award. 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.

Nancy T. Bennett devoted almost four decades of her professional life to championing and advancing the cause of zealous representation for the poor. She was relentless, dedicated and effective in vindicating the right of the indigent not only to receive legal representation, but to receive zealous and effective assistance of counsel.  (continue reading here)

 

Norma Wassel presenting the Jane Addams Award to Norman Beach

NORMAN BEACH, Jane Addams Award for Outstanding Social Service Accomplishments. 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 his or her 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.  (continue reading here)

 

Randy Gioia presenting the Carol Donovan Award to Wendy S. Wayne

WENDY S. WAYNE, Carol Donovan Exceptional Advocacy Award. 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.

Perhaps, this year, more than any other year, the awesome power of the state is being felt  (continue reading here)

 

 

Priscilla Duffy presenting the Edward Duggan Award-Private Counsel, to Jeanne Earley (right)

JEANNE EARLEY, Edward J. Duggan Award for Outstanding Service-Private Counsel. The Edward J. Duggan Award for Outstanding Service, Private Counsel is given to an Assigned Private Counsel 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 has been presented each year since 1988 to the private attorney who best represents zealous advocacy   (continue reading here)

 

 

Debra Krupp presenting the Maura Mellen Award to Bonnie E. Mullen (left)

BONNIE E.MULLEN, Maura Mellen Administrative Professional Award.  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.

Bonnie Mullen has been an outstanding member of the CPCS staff for 39 years.  She is the consummate Administrative Assistant – smart, professional, highly organized, dedicated,  (continue reading here)

 

 

Karen Owen Talley being presented with the Liacos Award by Mark Larsen

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

Since her graduation from New York Law School in 1995, Karen Talley has dedicated her career to representing people with mental and or physical disabilities and has zealously advocated for their right to self-determination and  (continue reading here)

 

 

Michael Dsida presenting the Margaret Winchester Award to Ann Balmelli O’Connor

ANN BALMELLI O’CONNOR, Margaret Winchester Child Welfare Advocacy Award. The Margaret Winchester Child Welfare Advocacy Award honors a staff member or a private attorney who, through his or her 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.

Ann O’Connor started her career in 1991 as a DSS trial lawyer.  She quickly transitioned to (continue reading here)

 

 

Ryan M. Schiff (right) being presented the Jay D. Blitzman Award by Josh Dohan

RYAN M. SCHIFF, Jay D. Blitzman Youth Advocacy Award. 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,  (continue reading here)

 

 

Richard D. LeBlanc (right) receiving the Edward Duggan Award-Public Defender from Randy Gioia

RICHARD D. LeBLANC, Edward J. Duggan Award for Outstanding Service-Public Defender. The Edward J. Duggan Award for Outstanding Service, Public Defender is given to a Public Defender 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 has been presented each year since 1988 to the public defender who best represents zealous advocacy — the central principle governing the representation of indigents   (continue reading here)

 

Eddie Coren, Jr. (right) receiving the Maria Souto-Armand Goyette Award from Richard Slowe

EDDIE COREN, JR., Maria Souto-Armand Goyette Investigator Award. The Maria Souto-Armand Goyette 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.

This year’s recipient is Eddie Coren Jr. For the past five years, Eddie has worked as a criminal (continue reading here)

 

Springfield Summit

On February 26, 2018, Supreme Judicial Court Chief Justice Gants and Trial Court Chief Justice Paula Carey hosted the “Springfield Summit on Child Welfare Attorney Crisis.”  The purpose of this unique event was to discuss the initiatives and plans to increase the capacity and improve the quality of child welfare/state intervention practice in the Hampden Juvenile Court.  Also participating on the panel were Juvenile Court Chief Justice Amy Nechtem, Hampden County Juvenile Court First Justice Lois Eaton, CPCS Chief Counsel Anthony Benedetti, Deputy Chief Counsel Mike Dsida, Department of Children, and Families Chief Counsel Andrew Rome.  Attending were several elected officials from western MA, court personnel, Department of Children and Families attorneys, and over two dozen private panel attorneys.

The counsel crisis (which had over 120 clients awaiting the appointment of counsel) was temporarily relieved on February 23, when over 30 attorneys appeared to accept new assignments at the temporary rate of $75/hour.  However, there was much discussion as to how difficult it is to manage a financially successful practice in this area.  Discovery issues, billing requirements, courthouse facilities, and other challenges were raised by attorneys.

The local elected officials seemed open to learning more about these issues and hearing from attorneys.  Many learned of the severity of the problems when their constituents called them requesting help because their case couldn’t go forward as there were no available attorneys.  The officials expressed appreciation of the need to pay a higher hourly rate and their need to hear from their constituents.

CPCS Brings Gideon to the State House

Chief Counsel Anthony Benedetti

In recognition of the 55th Anniversary of the U.S. Supreme Court’s landmark decision in Gideon v. Wainwright, CPCS held an informational forum for Legislators and their staff on Gideon and the right to counsel at the Massachusetts State House on March 20, 2018.  Although a majority of those attending were staff, several legislators, including State Rep. Joan Meschino (D-Hull), State Rep. Jack Lewis (D-Framingham), and State Rep. Chynah Tyler (D-Roxbury) were on hand for a portion of the day’s event.

CPCS Chief Counsel Anthony Benedetti thanked the audience for

SJC Chief Justice Ralph Gants

Sen. William Brownsberger

attending and recognized guest speakers, SJC Chief Justice Ralph Gants and Senate Judiciary Chairman William Brownsberger (D-Belmont), for agreeing to share their perspective on why the right to counsel is so important.  Both speakers focused their remarks on quality counsel and why it is necessary if we are to fulfill Gideon’s promise.  Chief Justice Gants explained that expecting attorneys, both public and private, to accept cases for inadequate compensation leads to a dearth of quality counsel.  He called attention to the fact that public attorneys who represent the liberty interests and rights of the Commonwealth’s indigent do not make nearly as much as Executive Branch attorneys who do important work, but who do not face the same burdens and complications as public defenders, especially risking a client’s freedom.  Sen. Brownsberger spoke to his personal experience as a member of the private bar who accepted indigent cases and the difficulties attorneys face, including the lack of trust clients have for most public and private assigned counsel when their they are first assigned.

Before showing the film, “Defending Gideon”, Chief Counsel Benedetti gave a brief history of the right to counsel in Massachusetts, noting, “In Massachusetts, we have unwaveringly upheld this freedom far longer than most other states with the right to counsel having a long and legendary history.  When Gideon was decided, the belief that the right to counsel is fundamental was very old news in the Commonwealth – by nearly 200 years.”  He took the audience from 1770 Colonial Massachusetts with John Adams and the Boston Massacre to 1963 and the Commonwealth’s direct involvement with Gideon because of Massachusetts Assistant AG Gerald Berlin’s amicus brief in support of Mr. Gideon and the right to counsel.

The Chief Counsel closed by telling the audience, “Although we are here to celebrate Gideon, we must also defend it.  As states across the nation struggle with dwindling fiscal resources the right that Gideon secured is in jeopardy….‘Defending Gideon’ tells the story of Clarence Earl Gideon and the successful outcome of his efforts, and it alerts us to the risks challenging the right to counsel that he so persuasively won.”  He added, “Unlike many other states, the Massachusetts system provided through CPCS has been lauded as ‘the best statewide indigent defense program in the country’, it has often been a model to which other states turn when they are looking to improve their systems, and we continue to work tirelessly with the help of both the Legislature and the Court to make certain that we protect the right to counsel and provide the highest quality, zealous representation possible to our clients.”