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Lawyers Journal

MBA’s Access to Justice Luncheon to honor attorneys’ contributions to legal services and pro bono work

 

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Photo by Jeff Thiebauth
Pictured is McDermott, Will & Emery's pro bono practice group. The group is being honored with a Pro Bono Award for Law Firms, along with Tennant Lubell, LLC.

Honoring five Massachusetts lawyers and two firms who have made significant contributions to their communities and clients' lives through pro bono work, the Massachusetts Bar Association's Annual Access to Justice Luncheon will be held May 7 at the John F. Kennedy Library in Boston.

In addition to paying tribute to members of the legal community who are exemplary leaders in public service, this year, MBA President Edward W. McIntyre will also present the 2009 Legislator of the Year Award to State Rep. Harold P. Naughton Jr. and the President's Award to Jayne B. Tyrrell, executive director of the Massachusetts Interest on Lawyers' Trust Accounts (IOLTA) program.


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Photo by Christine Peterson

Barbara Kaban
Children's Law Center, Lynn
Legal Services Award

Children's welfare has been an enduring drive for Barbara Kaban. Earning a J.D. from Boston College Law School, an M.B.A. from Boston University and an M.Ed. in educational psychology from Harvard University, her career has been focused on ensuring equal access to justice for children and youth in Massachusetts.

"To me, kids are the most undervalued and underserved members of society, yet they are our most important resource. It has been my lifelong passion to try to maximize opportunity for kids and ensure they have the skills they need to successfully transition to adulthood," said Kaban.

While working at the Children's Law Center in Lynn, and through additional special projects and collaborations, Kaban secured federal funding from the Massachusetts Executive Office of Public Safety to design and implement a re-entry program for gang-involved youth re-entering the Lynn community after incarceration. Kaban has also collaborated on amici briefs addressing the viability of the common law infancy defense and developed an appellate advocacy practice addressing, among other things, the implication of memoranda of understandings between school, police and district attorneys on school searches.

"My biggest accomplishment is the recent Supreme Judicial Court decision in Kenniston v. DYS declaring G.L.c. 120, secs. 17-19 unconstitutional. I have been challenging the constitutionality of this statutory scheme since 2000 and it was rewarding to finally get the issue before the SJC," said Kaban.

Working with the Center for Public Representation and the Committee for Public Counsel Services, Kaban served as lead counsel on this issue. But, Kaban reflected, "I have had to redefine what is a 'win' and what is a 'loss.' Too often, I find that I may win the battle but lose the war. My clients come with a host of issues that cannot be solved in the courtroom and, without sufficient community-based services, I may not be able to help my clients achieve their desired goals."

Kaban's devotion to her clients enables her to continue her work without becoming overwhelmed by the magnitude of the problems she hopes to address.

"The best part of my job is the kids I work with. They make mistakes but they are courageous enough to keep going. They have taught me a lot," said Kaban.

Guarding against burnout is necessary in a career in legal services, and Kaban is grateful for the assistance of her colleagues, noting "any achievement of mine is really the achievement of the Law Center as a whole. The support of the other attorneys and staff enables me to accomplish what I do."


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Photo by Jeff Thiebauth

James M. McCreight
Greater Boston Legal Services, Boston
Legal Services Award

From his experiences as a community organizer in North Carolina to internships with legal services providers in New Haven, Conn., during law school, James M. McCreight has dedicated his career to the protection of tenant rights.

For more than 25 years, McCreight has worked tirelessly to ensure low-income tenants have access to secure affordable housing, first with New Haven Legal Assistance and currently with Greater Boston Legal Services (GBLS).

"I was interested in doing work that would give me the opportunity to use my legal skills in the community. The best part of my job is that I get to work with really excellent people, and to learn from them while sharing what I can," said McCreight.

With GBLS, McCreight has been involved with the Boston Housing Authority, working on class action suits, improving rent-setting, receivership cases and the recent Bridgewaters decision on reasonable accommodation.

"My most significant accomplishment has been my long-term work in public housing and Section 8 issues, along with the ongoing work we've done with resident groups to have a real role in decision making in BHA policies and in the redevelopment of their housing," he said.

Considered a "national treasure in the legal services world" by his colleagues, McCreight is generous with his knowledge and time. He always makes himself available to answer questions, provide advice and share his extraordinary wealth of knowledge with members of the housing justice network, while also working closely with tenant associations and advisory boards to ensure that tenants are aware of their rights.

Despite his tremendous success, McCreight still faces the perpetual struggle of all legal services attorneys. "The biggest professional challenge has been avoiding burn-out. Each advocate can only do so much and there is a huge unmet need," he said. Even faced with these difficulties, McCreight is enthusiastic about his work.

"I look to each case as an opportunity, not only to assist the individual client, but to try to change institutional practices so that others can also be benefited. There are always new challenges and new areas of law or opportunities for advocacy that keeps the work fresh. And working with a range of committed advocates with different skills and perspectives in a collective and collegial atmosphere is always re-energizing."


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Photo by Jeff Thiebauth
Ellen Lubell, left, and Doris Tennant.

Tennant Lubell LLC
Pro Bono Award for Law Firms

"We share a deep concern for those who are suffering as a result of human rights violations and discrimination on the basis of race, economic status and other illegal classification. As attorneys, we believe we have a heightened responsibility to uphold the rule of law and insist that our public officials be held accountable to those they serve," said Doris Tennant and Ellen Lubell of the work that inspired them to form Tennant Lubell LLC in 2006.

The two-person Newton firm has worked with organizations including Amnesty International, The Child Care Resource Center, Boston Mobilization, International Justice Network, Newton Human Rights Commission and Jewish Women's Archive.

"Of all the work we have done in our legal careers, we are most proud of our representation of Abdul Aziz Naji, our Guantanamo client," said Tennant and Lubell. Three years ago, they volunteered to represent a Guantanamo detainee who has been detained since 2002. Since then, their work on their client's behalf has accounted for at least a third of their professional hours, in addition to nearly $60,000 in travel, translation and interpreter services paid for out-of-pocket and with the support of friends and colleagues.

"We were profoundly disturbed when we learned of our government's treatment of the detainees and the appalling lack of legal process afforded to them," they said. Despite harassment by phone and e-mail, Tennant and Lubell persist in representing their client and providing time and expertise in the support of access to justice.

"And the work continues. It's important to choose work that engages your passions, and to not be shy about letting your colleagues know what you are doing. Many people have told us how inspired they are by our efforts and how grateful they feel that we are working on an issue of great concern to them," they said.


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Photo by Jeff Thiebauth
Daniel Curto, left, and Melissa Nott Davis, co-chairs of the firm's Pro Bono Group in Boston.

McDermott, Will & Emery
Pro Bono Award for Law Firms

Founded in 1934, McDermott, Will & Emery's pro bono and community service commitments are vast. With offices all over the world and 15 in the United States, McDermott's efforts range from obtaining political asylum for the persecuted to protecting children.

Using a formalized system of encouragement for pro bono work, the firm has been able to make a massive commitment to their pro bono clients. "Sometimes in large firms, one of the biggest hurdles is, 'Do I get credit for this?' Pro bono work is real work. At the end of the year, you're not going to be punished for handling a great pro bono case that took up a lot of your time. This empowers our folks to find something they really love, and this has made it a great success," said Daniel Curto, McDermott, Will & Emery's Boston office Pro Bono Group co-chair, with Melissa Nott Davis.

In the Boston office alone, 87 percent of McDermott's attorneys do some type of pro bono work during the year and 55 percent commit to more than 50 hours a year. Approximately three percent of the office's total time is spent on pro bono issues.

"There are a variety of projects by design: we have a handful of pro bono partners that we work closely with but we don't limit our attorneys to working with them. We look to expand our partnerships as appropriate," said Curto.

One of McDermott's established partnerships is with the Children's Law Center. Over the past two years, McDermott has sponsored a full-time attorney to work on a project to determine if the trial of juvenile offenders as adults and subsequent long-term sentencing without parole complies with Supreme Court rulings.

"We work very closely with her," Curto said. "We've involved partners and associates and paralegals, and we're thinking about ways to effectuate change. This is proactive, it's structured around an issue that we can reform."

Many of the pro bono cases McDermott is involved in center around children, representing special needs children and juveniles that have been sentenced to life without parole. McDermott attorneys in Boston also work closely with Citizen Schools, providing tutoring and mentoring services and running a mock trial program with them.
"Part of the work is to give people a voice that they may not have otherwise had. With children, giving them that voice is really important," said Curto.

 


Lawrence J. McGuire
Committee for Public Counsel Services, Salem Superior Court
Defender Award


Lawrence J. McGuire is a public defender with the Committee for Public Counsel Services in the Salem Superior Court. A mentor to CPCS and all criminal law attorneys in Essex County, McGuire's public defense career has spanned three decades. Committed to defending the indigent, he is a zealous advocate, setting a standard that less experienced defenders seek to achieve.

His effective skills as an innovative litigator have proven to be successful in the courtroom, but also in training new bar advocates and as an advisor and faculty member for Massachusetts Continuing Legal Education.

McGuire relishes the tough cases and according to his peers, is "always the best-prepared attorney in the courtroom."

According to those who nominated him for the award, McGuire "always dots the i's and crosses the t's."

 


 

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Wendy J. Rickles
Sole practitioner, Worcester
Pro Bono Publico Award

Wendy J. Rickles is indefatigable. In addition to her busy solo practice focusing on criminal, family and employment law, she is an active member of the Worcester County Bar Association's Committee on Services to the Poor and Homeless.

A volunteer with the Honorable Harry Zarrow Homeless Advocacy Project, a collaboration between the WCBA and the Legal Assistance Corp. of Central Massachusetts, Rickles helps provide legal assistance to those who are homeless or in immediate danger of becoming so. As part of her work with the WCBA, Rickles founded the Mustard Seed Dinners at a homeless shelter in Worcester. Several times a year, Rickles plans menus and enlists volunteers to provide, cook and serve food to more than 150 homeless or low-income individuals. In addition, Rickles also contributes to dinners at the Veterans' Shelter, which serves more than 100 meals every night. "Throughout my career, I have tried to be an advocate for the homeless," said Rickles.

However, Rickles' work with the WCBA is not limited to her advocacy for the homeless. As co-chair of the Family Law Section, she has started and chaired the winter coat drive, the canned food drive and the cell phone drive, during which more than 1,100 phones were collected and distributed to victims of domestic violence. Her latest project is a blanket drive which, to date, has collected more than 200 blankets to be donated to Worcester County shelters.

"Our parents taught us to be a voice for social justice. There has always been a tradition of Tikkun Olum in our family: It means 'the healing of the world.' From very early, we all volunteered for many causes," Rickles explained. "Our parents instilled the virtues of hard work and community service in us - their generosity and love for helping others has been an example for my sister and me."
Rickles is an active part of a local interfaith council promoting relationships and endeavors between religions, while coordinating charitable contributions.

Through all her work, it is her humility and commitment to community that keeps her energized.
"My first thought when I was notified of this award was that there are many people more deserving. It's really the attorneys in the Worcester County Bar Association and the staff of the association that has made it possible to accomplish these things. Working together with them has been my privilege," said Rickles.


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Photo by Jeff Thiebauth

Aloke Chakravarty
Assistant U.S. attorney, Boston
Prosecutor Award

"Like others, Sept. 11, 2001, impacted me on a number of levels, including professionally," reflected Aloke Chakravarty. "I sought a way to bring my experience and perspective to bear on the legal challenges which would inevitably follow, both to provide for aggressive counter-terrorism enforcement as well as aggressive protection of civil liberties."

Chakravarty began his career as a public servant working as a Middlesex assistant district attorney after a brief tenure in private practice. "A lawyer at the corporate firm where I worked told me: 'No matter where you do it, if you want to try cases, you should become a prosecutor somewhere, anywhere.' I heeded his advice and joined the district attorney's office. It was an inimitable experience, and demonstrated the impact that people can have in the communities they serve," said Chakravarty.

An assistant attorney general in the Special Investigations and Narcotics Unit, Chakravarty began work as an assistant general counsel in the National Security Law Branch of the FBI after Sept. 11. "The insight into the differences between the intelligence community and law enforcement, along with long-standing exposure to international issues, gave me a strong interest in pursuing the wide array of cases which I am now able to do."

Since 2005, Chakravarty has been an assistant U.S. attorney in the Anti-Terrorism and National Security Section, working as the District Crisis Management coordinator and District International Affairs and National Security Coordinator. "After Sept. 11, 2001, the relationship between these communities and the government has become strained with distrust and lack of understanding on both sides. In this sense, the domestic tensions too often parallel those of external diplomacy."
Beyond his innovative work as a prosecutor, Chakravarty has helped establish a groundbreaking initiative bringing together prosecutors, government agency officials and community groups to discuss legal issues affecting the Muslim, Arab and Sikh communities.

"For law enforcement, building the support of these communities is an essential component to effectively detect and disrupt terrorism. For the impacted communities, understanding their rights and having an opportunity to shape the implementation of policy is essential to providing a sense of security and justice and to feel enfranchised. It has been a great challenge to build constructive relationships with the communities from which the government needs the greatest assistance, while at the same time prosecuting some prominent individuals within these same groups."

Chakravarty's career has been marked by a steadfast belief that it is critical for minority communities to be involved in the legal process, and he has used his background to ensure that justice is carried out with cultural sensitivity. "In my current position, I have the privilege of serving our community, striving for justice and working with exceptional people. I am honored and humbled by this recognition, especially when there are so many deserving prosecutors in the commonwealth."


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Photo by Jeff Thiebauth
Naughton to receive MBA's Legislator of Year Award

by Tricia M. Oliver
The Legislator of the Year Award is presented annually to a state or federal legislator who has distinguished himself or herself in public service through outstanding contributions to the legal profession, courts and administration of justice.

State Rep. Harold P. Naughton Jr. (D-Clinton) will be presented the 2009 Legislator of the Year Award. In addition to his native town of Clinton, Naughton represents Worcester County's Boylston, Northborough and parts of Sterling and Lancaster.

MBA President Edward W. McIntyre, a Clinton resident, has seen firsthand Naughton's commitment to the legal community and constituents. "The people of the commonwealth are the ultimate beneficiaries of his work to appropriately resource the full administration of justice spectrum."
Naughton realizes that the current economic climate has affected court resources and is "difficult for hardworking court personnel." He describes the current funding reality as a "shared sacrifice" with the state and the courts.

During a recent visit to Marlborough District Court, Naughton was told that the court was operating at 70 percent of the appropriate staffing model, while staff at Worcester Superior Court expressed similar sentiments. "Until we can turn this around and increase revenue, the citizens will notice a difference in the service provided," he said.

In addition to supporting proper court funding, Naughton has addressed other access to justice issues during his 14 years as a state representative. He has been an informed voice on matters such as fair compensation for the Committee for Public Counsel Services, bar advocates and district attorneys, as well as new courthouse construction throughout the commonwealth.
"In the United States, justice is the ultimate equalizing tool," Naughton said.

His commitment to the justice system was on display when then Gov. Mitt Romney attempted to shut down several district courts in Massachusetts. Naughton was strongly against such a move. He explained that actions taken in district courts are felt "immediately and personally by the community they serve."

Naughton grew up idolizing attorneys and loved reading fiction involving court cases. Now a practicing attorney, he brought copies of To Kill a Mockingbird and shared them with Iraqi judges during his most recent deployment in 2006.

He is one of the nearly 30,000 "new" veterans as a result of the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan. Naughton has been a member of the Joint Committee on Veterans and Federal Affairs since its inception in 2005 and he proudly took over as House chair in February.

Naughton said his primary job as chair is answering the question, "How does the community step up to serve the needs of these young adults coming home?" He explains that swiftly addressing veterans' needs early on means sparing courts and social services more work down the road.
Naughton and his staff are well connected with his constituents and enlist a highly responsive approach. "Even though our office may be answering our 100th call of the day, that call might be that caller's most important call of that day," Naughton said.

"Constituent service is his hallmark," said McIntyre of Naughton. "He includes the bench and bar of Central Massachusetts among his constituents and both have no greater supporter than 'Hank' Naughton."


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Photo by Jeff Thiebauth
Tyrrell recognized with MBA President's Award

by Tricia M. Oliver
Jayne B. Tyrrell, executive director of the Massachusetts Interest on Lawyers' Trust Accounts program, is the President's Award recipient.

The award is bestowed by the MBA president upon those individuals who have made a significant contribution to the work of the MBA, to the preservation of MBA values, to the success of its initiatives and to the promotion of its leadership role within the Massachusetts legal community.

"Jayne's dedication to the core values of the MBA, including access to justice, inspires everyone who comes in contact with her," MBA President Edward W. McIntyre said. He added that coming into contact with Tyrrell is relatively easy "because she seems to be intimately involved in every access to justice initiative in the commonwealth and has been for nearly a quarter of a century."

Tyrrell has worked with IOLTA for nearly two decades. After first approving
IOLTA as a voluntary program in 1985, the Supreme Judicial Court made it mandatory in 1989. Tyrrell was hired as a consultant at that time to help with the transition of the new requirements of all participating attorneys to keep nominal, short-term client deposits in interest-bearing accounts. Following that transition, she accepted the offer to serve as executive director and 20 years later, remains passionate about her influential role.

Tyrrell is a past president of the National Association of IOLTA Programs. She is the co-chair of the Boston Bar Association Task Force on Expanding the Right to Counsel and is a member of the National Coalition on Civil Right to Counsel and the Supreme Judicial Court Working Group on Limited Assistance Representation.

"Jayne has earned a national reputation for her innovative collaborations with banking institutions, successfully helping them realize that they too have a role to play in addressing the unmet legal needs of the poor," said McIntyre.

"Every five years, my job totally changes," said Tyrrell, who weathered the most recent obstacle by successfully requiring banks to pay interest on IOLTA accounts at rates comparable to similar commercial accounts. Defending IOLTA has always been a big part of Tyrrell's job.

When the constitutionality of IOLTA was questioned on the federal stage, she was enlisted as part of the litigation strategy team for the federal case that led to the U.S. Supreme Court's 2003 5-4 majority decision in favor of IOLTA.

"Half of my office used to be filled with litigation files," said Tyrrell. Strong advocacy for legal services has been a common thread throughout her legal career.

Following her graduation from Suffolk University Law School, she served as the assistant director on a groundbreaking study of the legal needs of the poor in Boston. Tyrrell describes the study results as "eye opening" and something that set the groundwork for her professional aspirations.
"I've had so many fantastic jobs," said Tyrrell, who is recognizably satisfied with her chosen career path and finds her current IOLTA post enjoyable despite the difficult economic climate.

Tyrrell responded modestly to the news of her award and opted to shine the spotlight on those on the front lines of legal services delivery. "Those are the real heroes," she said.

 

 

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