Court and Community News

Thursday, Oct. 29, 2020
​SJC honors attorneys for outstanding commitment to pro bono legal services; Panel to consider reappointment of U.S. Magistrate Judge Hennessy; New online trainings for attorneys to assist domestic violence survivors; Massachusetts Trial Court seeks court administrator


SJC honors attorneys for outstanding commitment to pro bono legal services

On Wednesday, Oct. 28, Supreme Judicial Court Justice Kimberly S. Budd presented Adams Pro Bono Publico Awards to three attorneys and the inaugural Ralph D. Gants Award for Extraordinary Leadership in Pro Bono Service to a fourth attorney for their exceptional dedication to providing volunteer legal services for persons who cannot afford an attorney for their essential legal needs. The annual Adams Pro Bono Publico Awards are named in honor of John Adams and John Quincy Adams. Normally held in the John Adams Courthouse in Boston, this year's event was presented live online.
The three attorneys selected by the SJC Standing Committee on Pro Bono Legal Services for their outstanding pro bono work were:

  • Crispin Birnbaum, Esq., an Access to Justice Fellow, for her extensive efforts to expand free legal services to provide sealing and expungement of criminal records for low-income clients, including veterans through Veterans Legal Services, and homeless clients and others through Lawyers Clearinghouse, and for performing more than 95 free criminal records trainings for nonprofits, attorneys, government agencies, veteran support groups, clinical law students and individuals with criminal records across the commonwealth.

  • James S. Rollins, Esq., Nelson Mullins Riley & Scarborough LLP, for devoting 16 years of pro bono service to the cause of freeing a wrongfully convicted Pennsylvania inmate, who was released after 23 years on death row when his conviction was finally overturned this past June.

  • Christian J. Westra, Esq., Ropes & Gray, LLP, for his instrumental role in bringing together partners to launch the COVID Relief Coalition, a group of law firms, nonprofits and government agencies working with Lawyers for Civil Rights and Lawyers Clearinghouse to provide information and pro bono support to nonprofits and small businesses, including many small businesses owned by women and people of color, to access emergency relief during the COVID-19 pandemic.           

Prior to the presentation of the Ralph D. Gants Award, Justice Budd and Professor Deborah Ramirez of Northeastern University School of Law, widow of Chief Justice Gants, delivered remarks in a tribute to the late chief justice.

Justice Budd then presented the inaugural Ralph D. Gants Award for Extraordinary Leadership in Pro Bono Service to:

  • Susan M. Finegan, Esq., Mintz Levin Cohn Ferris Glovsky & Popeo PC, for providing extraordinary leadership in pro bono legal services and improving access to justice over the course of her career.

In addition to handling many significant pro bono litigation matters and chairing Mintz's pro bono committee, Finegan has served as chair of the SJC Standing Committee on Pro Bono Legal Services, and as co-chair of the Massachusetts Access to Justice Commission together with Chief Justice Gants. In both of those positions, she worked closely with Chief Justice Gants on a wide range of initiatives to encourage pro bono service and improve access to justice in the commonwealth, including the Supreme Judicial Court Pro Bono Honor Roll, the Access to Justice Fellows Program, the Appellate Pro Bono Clinic, the Justice for All Strategic Action Plan, Civil Legal Aid for Victims of Crime, and the commission's COVID-19 Task Force. 

Click here to read the full press release.     


Panel to consider reappointment of U.S. Magistrate Judge Hennessy

The current term of the office of U.S. Magistrate Judge David H. Hennessy will expire on May 5, 2021. In accordance with 28 U.S.C. §631(b)(5) and regulations promulgated by the Judicial Conference of the United States, the U.S. District Court for the District of Massachusetts will appoint a panel of citizens to advise the court concerning the reappointment of Judge Hennessy to a new eight-year term.

In criminal cases, the duties of a magistrate judge include the conduct of most preliminary proceedings, as well as trials and dispositions of misdemeanor offenses. In civil cases, the duties encompass managing various pretrial matters, presiding over evidentiary proceedings on delegation from the district judges, and conducting trials upon the consent of the litigants.

In aid of its review and evaluation of the incumbent’s performance in office, the panel
will consider comments from members of the bar and the public and any other evidence of Judge Hennessy’s character, ability, fairness and commitment to equal justice. It will report its recommendations to the court by Jan. 28, 2021.

Comments from members of the bar and the public concerning the incumbent’s
qualifications for reappointment are invited and must be received by Dec. 30, 2020.
They should be marked “Confidential” and directed to:

Robert M. Farrell
Clerk of Court
Attn: USMJ — Reappointment
United States District Court
1 Courthouse Way, Suite 2300
Boston, MA 02210

The members of the Merit Selection Panel are: Erika P. Reis, Esq., chair; Jason Chan, Esq.; Philip Clay; Peter Ettenberg, Esq.; Giselle Joffre, Esq.; Robert Mercier; Beth Meyers, Esq.; Hector Pineiro, Esq.; and Jenn Pucci, Esq.


    New online trainings for attorneys to assist domestic violence survivors

    The Massachusetts Law Reform Institute and the Massachusetts Legal Aid Websites Project are pleased to share two new online training courses for attorneys interested in helping survivors of domestic abuse. Attorneys can start and stop at any point and come back to review the course at any time.  

    • 209A Abuse Prevent Orders: An Overview for Attorneys
      The course follows the restraining order process from the beginning to the end, and includes links to key forms and relevant court rules. Throughout the course, users are given a series of “knowledge checks” to apply what they have learned. Click here to view the course.

    • Building Effective Attorney-Client Relationships with Survivors of Domestic Abuse
      This 30-minute course will offer you important context about domestic abuse and how it might affect survivors' interactions with you and the courts, and provide you with the techniques and strategies to build an effective relationship with your client. Click here to view the course.


    Job Openings

    Court Administrator for the Massachusetts Trial Court

    The Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court is seeking to hire an experienced, dynamic leader as the next court administrator for the Massachusetts Trial Court. With general guidance from the Supreme Judicial Court, the court administrator, along with the chief justice for the Trial Court, co-­leads the Trial Court, the largest component of the Massachusetts judicial branch with seven individual court departments, over 6,000 employees and more than 100 locations. An exceptional leader is required for this position given the additional challenges facing the court system due to the pandemic.

    The court administrator serves as the administrative head of the Trial Court, and is charged with managing operations that provide effective, timely and innovative support to the judges, clerks and staff who work daily to achieve the Trial Court's mission -- Justice with Dignity and Speed. The court administrator works closely and collaboratively with the chief justice of the Trial Court and is responsible for the administrative functions that support this mission, including budget preparation and oversight, labor relations and personnel policy, information technology, facilities management, capital projects and security. The court administrator position was created by statute. G.L. c. 211B, section 9A, which sets forth the powers and duties of the office.

    This individual will be expected to bring innovative vision and best practice solutions to support a continuous improvement culture in a high-performance organization. The successful candidate must have the ability to collaborate, build consensus, motivate, and inspire others to realize and implement the Trial Court’s goals and vision and to build a state-of-the-art, 21st century model of court management excellence. This position calls for a leader with a broad understanding of executive management, organizational change and improvement, the legislative appropriations process, budgeting, capital planning and facilities management, labor relations and information technology.

    Click here to learn more about the position. This posting will remain open until the position is filled, but candidate evaluation will begin on Nov. 30, 2020.