At the Massachusetts Bar Foundation’s recent Annual Meeting, 2007 President Carol A. Witt passed the gavel to 2008 President Laurence M. Johnson, and Supreme Judicial Court Associate Justice Roderick L. Ireland was honored with the Great Friend of Justice Award. More than 150 people attended the meeting and reception, which was held Jan. 24 at the Social Law Library in Boston.
In his keynote address, Ireland thanked the MBF for providing the SJC and the Massachusetts Bar Association with a $21,750 Fellows Grant to restore this year’s Judicial Youth Corps in Worcester.
The grant helped the program bring legal education and courthouse internships back to Worcester after budget limitations in recent years forced the program to scale back to serving only Boston.
Ireland explained the ways the program has made a difference in the lives of urban teenagers since it was established by the SJC’s Public Information Office in 1991. Ireland has been an advocate of the Judicial Youth Corps since its beginning, serving as chair of the planning committee, advisor, program director, mentor and teacher.
“Last year, with the funding of the MBF, the program was able to pick up Worcester again,” he said during his speech. “For many of the students, this is their very first real job.”
Johnson praised Ireland’s commitment to the state’s youth through his involvement with the program, noting, “Justice Ireland has had a positive impact on a tremend-ous number of lives, and continues to do so.”
Ireland shared credit for the award with all of the court staff who volunteer their time to make the program work. “They do it for just one reason — because it’s a chance to give back and work with young people,” he said.
Ireland said he particularly enjoyed sharing lunches with the program’s students.
“Interacting with the students is certainly the high point of the summer, and it gives you a different perspective,” he said.
While all of the students participating in the program gain an understanding and appreciation for the law, he said, some alumni even end up working in the legal profession. Three graduates of the program, now practicing attorneys in Boston, were present for the event.
“We view this as a real investment in young people,” Ireland said.
This year’s grantee speaker was David LeBoeuf, a 2007 Judicial Youth Corps member from Worcester. He said he was impressed with the program’s ability to bring together a diverse group of students from across the city. LeBoeuf, whose internship was in the probation department, said it was rewarding to be able to work face-to-face with state employees and the people using the justice system.
“We were able to interact directly with the public,” he said. “We got to see the human side of the law.”
In his speech, LeBoeuf thanked the MBF for giving 10 students in Worcester the opportunity to work with attorneys, probation officers and defendants and gain a deeper understanding of the law.
“All of this happened because of individuals like you, members of the Mass. Bar Foundation, that sponsored this program and invested in hope, not stereotypes. So tonight I want to formally thank you all for your commitment to giving my community the chance to prove to the cynics that they are wrong about today’s youth, and I ask that you please continue to extend this opportunity to others.”
In his remarks to the audience, MBA President David W. White Jr. said he was honored to have the MBF as the MBA’s philanthropic partner.
“The strength of our collaboration continues to grow,” he said. “We were delighted to work with the foundation in reviving this program in Worcester, and equally delighted to see a group of students so inspired by the law—a novelty sometimes lost on those of us who have made it a career. I would like to say a special thank you to Justice Ireland for his continuing support for and dedication to the Judicial Youth Corps project. We look forward to watching this program continue to expand and thrive.”
The MBF inducted its officers for 2008:
• President Laurence M. Johnson, Davis, Malm & D’Agostine PC
• Vice President Joseph P.J. Vrabel, Endurance Asset Management Inc.
• Treasurer Jerry Cohen, Burns & Levinson LLP
• Secretary Robert V. Ward Jr., Southern New England School of Law
A new class of trustees, whose terms run through January 2012, was also inducted:
• Richard P. Campbell, Campbell, Campbell, Edwards & Conroy
• Hon. Thomas A. Connors, Massachusetts Superior Court
• Daniel J. Gleason, Nutter, McClennen & Fish LLP
• Edward W. McIntyre, Law Office of Edward W. McIntyre
• Joseph P.J. Vrabel, Endurance Asset Management Inc.
For 2008, Johnson pledged that the MBF would continue working on serving the state’s unmet legal needs through IOLTA grants and other projects.
“We’re going to broaden and expand our efforts to fulfill our mission,” Johnson said. “It is surely one of the very best organizations for lawyers to give back to their communities and the profession.”
Witt said she was pleased with the foundation’s accomplishments in 2007.
“I think we made some major strides this year on achieving the goals of our long-range plan,” she said, including broadening the scope of services the MBF provides with non-IOLTA-generated funds, such as it did with the Judicial Youth Corps.
“There’s no question what the students being served by this program gain,” Witt said. “We want to take the foundation in the direction of supporting a wide range of initiatives.”