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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.

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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

 

CPCS Statement on Coronavirus Pandemic

PRESS RELEASE

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. Continue reading

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. Continue reading

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 – Postponed

NOMINATIONS ACCEPTED FOR ADDAMS, BLITZMAN, DONOVAN, DUGGAN, LIACOS, MARSHALL, MCPARLAND, MELLEN, SOUTO-GOYETTE AND WINCHESTER AWARDS 

Nomination Process

The CPCS Awards Ceremony has become a favored event for staff and the private bar.  It is a joyous time to honor the outstanding work of attorneys, social workers, investigators, administrative assistants, and operations staff.  The 2020 Awards Ceremony was long ago scheduled for May 14.  Unfortunately, we cannot come together for this special event this Spring.  We would very much like to be able to honor our 2020 Awardees at a live event.  If we can do so, we will schedule an in-person event for the Fall.

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 dsimonini@publiccounsel.net.

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.

Awards

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.