Committee Meeting Agenda – December 17, 2020 Meeting

The meeting will begin at 5:30 p.m. on Thursday, December 17, 2020.  Registration is required to attend the meeting.

  1. Approval of minutes of the November 19, 2020 meeting
  2. Amicus Request(s)
    1. Doe No. 7346 v. Sex Offender Registry Board, SJC-13032
  3. CAFL Counsel Shortage – emergency language
  4. Monthly Financial Overview Report
  5. Commitments $10,000 and Over Report
  6. FY 2021 Budget Update
  7. FY 2022 Budget Proposal – Maintenance Request
  8. Chief Counsel Report

You are invited to a Zoom meeting.
When: Dec 17, 2020 05:30 PM Eastern Time (US and Canada)
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After registering, you will receive a confirmation email containing information

Children and Family Law Panel is Seeking Attorneys

CAFL Trial Panel Training (January 28 – March 17, 2021)

CPCS is now accepting applications for its 2021 CAFL Trial Panel Certification Training to represent children and parents in care and protection/termination of parental rights cases.  The on-line training includes a mix of substantial self-directed learning and live Zoom sessions two mornings a week for four weeks.  The training concludes with a full day mock hearing. Preference will be given to attorneys who submit applications by December 11 and who commit to accepting cases in central and western Massachusetts, where we currently have an attorney shortage. The agency actively seeks to diversify its private attorney panel membership.

For more information about the training and to download the application, click here: [application]

CPCS Committee Meeting Agenda – November 19, 2020 Meeting

  • Approval of minutes of the October 15, 2020 meeting
  • Amicus Request(s)
    • C.M. v. Commissioner of Dep’t of Children & Family, SJC-13015
    • Commonwealth v. Jenks, SJC-13016
    • Silva v. Barr, U.S. Court of Appeals for the First Circuit, No. 20-1593
    • Sign on in Support of Motion for Preliminary Injunction to Prohibit New Asylum Rule Expanding Criminal Bars from Going into Effect (Informational Purpose Only – Approved by Executive Committee on November 2, 2020)
    • Commonwealth v. Concepcion, SJC-12382 (Informational Purpose Only – Approved by Executive Committee on November 12, 2020)
  • FY 2020 Attrition Statistics
  • Calendar Year 2021 Meeting Dates
  • Commitments $10,000 and Over Report
  • Monthly Financial Overview Report
  • FY 2021 Budget Update
  • Chief Counsel Report
  • Executive Session
    • Litigation Matter

Registration is required to join the meeting
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After registering, you will receive a confirmation email containing information about joining the meeting.


Committee Meeting Agenda – October 15, 2020 Meeting

  1. Approval of minutes of the September 17, 2020 meeting
  2. Amicus Request(s)
    • Commonwealth v. Sharma, 2020-P-0550
    • Commonwealth v. Hinds, SJC-12953
  1. Temporary Leave Policy Change
  2. Commitment $10,000 and Over Report
  3. Monthly Financial Overview Report
  4. Breathalyzer Litigation Update
  5. Equity and Inclusion Director Update
  6. Chief Counsel Report
  7. Executive Session

Registration is required to join the meeting
When: Oct 15, 2020 05:30 PM Eastern Time (US and Canada)

Register in advance for this meeting:

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

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

Registration is required to join the meeting.
Register in advance for this meeting:

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



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 or 617-910-5714