Court and Community News

Thursday, Sept. 26, 2019
Mass. A to J Commission announces four new members

newsfromcourtsThe Supreme Judicial Court this week announced the appointments of four new members to the Massachusetts Access to Justice Commission. 

The four new members are:

• Hon. Valerie Yarashus, associate justice of the Superior Court. Before her appointment to the Superior Court in 2018, Yarashus was a principal at Meehan, Boyle, Black & Bogdanow, P.C. She has also has served as a president of both the Massachusetts Bar Association and the Massachusetts Academy of Trial Attorneys.   

• Laura Gal, Esq., supervisory attorney for family law at Northeast Legal Aid. Gal served as the commission's consultant from September 2017 through June 2019, and has also worked as a staff attorney in the Family Law Unit and the Benefits Unit at Community Legal Aid, and in the Family Advocacy Program at Boston Medical Center. 
• Benjamin Golden, Esq., health law clinical fellow at Suffolk University Law School. Golden has previously held positions as an assistant attorney general in the Consumer Protection Division of the Massachusetts Attorney General's Office, and as a law clerk for Hon. Mitchell J. Sikora Jr. at the Massachusetts Appeals Court and for Hon. Robert J. Lynn at the New Hampshire Supreme Court.

• J. D. Smeallie, Esq., a litigation partner at Holland & Knight and former executive partner of the firm's Boston office. Smeallie is a former president of the Boston Bar Association (BBA), as well as a former trustee of the BBA Foundation, and will serve as the BBA's representative on the commission.

First established by the SJC in 2005, the Access to Justice Commission 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. Among other activities, the commission coordinates with civil legal aid organizations to support their activities and develop new initiatives to address unmet needs. The commission also works to increase the number of attorneys able to provide pro bono or limited assistance civil legal services and coordinates with the court system on initiatives that assist individuals to better understand and navigate civil legal proceedings. The commission's members include representatives from the court system, legal aid organizations, social service organizations, bar associations, law schools, businesses and other stakeholders in the access to justice community. 

The commission is co-chaired by SJC Chief Justice Ralph D. Gants and Susan M. Finegan, Esq., of Mintz, Levin, Cohn, Ferris, Glovsky & Popeo, P.C.

More information about the commission and its activities is available in its recently released Annual Report for 2018-2019, which is available here.