Member Spotlight

Issue June 2010

MATA bestows "Excellence in Advocacy" award to Sheff

Massachusetts Bar Association Vice President Douglas K. Sheff was honored with the President's Award for Excellence in Advocacy from the Massachusetts Academy of Trial Attorneys at its annual dinner on May 19 in Newton. Sheff was recognized for his representation of children and adults who have suffered traumatic brain injuries. This is the first time the award was presented.

"Doug's representation of TBI victims sets the standard in representing the underrepresented for the trial bar," said MATA President Christopher Milne, who presented Sheff with the award. A past president of MATA, Sheff has served on its Board of Governors for more than 20 years.

Sheff has represented clients with TBI since 1984. A combination of cutting-edge advocacy and proper utilization of medical technologies has enabled him to deliver consistently favorable results on his clients' behalf.

Currently serving his second term as MBA vice president, Sheff is also a member of the Executive Management Board and Budget and Finance Committee. In addition, he served as MBA secretary for 2007-08 and as chair of the MBA Civil Litigation Section for 2005-06. Sheff also serves as chair of the MBA Membership Committee and has chaired the MBA Annual Dinner Committee.

"This high honor is a reminder of the tireless commitment of attorneys on behalf of their clients. Doug's example of professionalism and altruism has had an immeasurable impact on MBA leadership and the larger Massachusetts legal community," MBA President Valerie A. Yarashus said.

In addition to his professional affiliations in the commonwealth, Sheff holds the title of governor to the American Association of Justice, where he has spent more than 20 years working nationally and locally on issues that affect the trial bar. Elected by his national peers, Sheff chairs the AAJ's State Delegates and served as chair of its Council of Presidents. Sheff is a recipient of the AAJ's Next Generation Award and a five-time recipient of its Wiedeman Wysocki Award.

Sheff has also been appointed a trustee of the National College of Advocacy, which provides education for lawyers across the United States. Also, he received the ORT Award for integrity in the law and has been recognized by the publication, "Lifesavers," for preventing injury through aggressive representation of victims of defective products.

MATA is an affiliated bar of the MBA.

Channen, Ziomek receive CSB award for "extraordinary efforts"

Haverhill attorney Russell Channen and Amherst attorney S. Peter Ziomek Jr. were presented the Clients' Security Board's 8th William J. LeDoux Award for demonstrating extraordinary efforts to help their clients recover significant financial losses. Supreme Judicial Court Justice Judith A. Cowin presented the awards at the Seven Justice Courtroom in the John Adams Courthouse on May 20.

Russell Channen has been with Phillips, Gerstein & Channen since 1989 and was named a partner in 1995.

His client was the executor of his uncle's estate. The uncle died in an automobile accident in 2006. The client retained a now-deceased lawyer to pursue the estate's interests in bringing a wrongful death claim. The lawyer settled the claim and received more than $100,000, and misappropriated the entire amount, instead of turning it over to the estate.

Channen first located and then pursued real estate assets of the deceased lawyer in two states. When title searches revealed valid encumbrances far in excess of the values of the respective properties, Channen filed claims with the lawyer's estate, only to learn that the estate had no assets beyond the two encumbered properties.

His last attempt was to file a claim on behalf of his client against the deceased lawyer's personal catastrophe liability policy. That recovery was barred by the policy's specific exclusion for losses related to providing or failing to provide professional services. The CSB awarded his client $90,000.

Channen is a graduate of UMass-Amherst and New England Law/Boston.

S. Peter Ziomek Jr., a partner in Ziomek & Ziomek, represented the young survivors of a family tragedy.

A now-disbarred attorney was appointed guardian of their property, which consisted of more than $80,000 in cash and seven multi-unit rental properties. During a period of four years, the disbarred lawyer kept poor or no records of the guardianship estate, making it impossible to determine the exact amount of the misappropriations from it.

Nevertheless, on behalf of his clients, Ziomek sued the issuer of the guardian's surety bond and recovered the coverage limit of $90,000. He then reconstructed other records to show that the disbarred lawyer misappropriated not less than an additional $42,000 that the CSB awarded to his clients.

Ziomek is a graduate of UMass-Amherst and Western New England College School of Law.

Established in 1997 in memory of the late William J. LeDoux, a member of the CSB from 1987 to 1997, the award honors attorneys who, serving pro bono, perform outstanding legal work in representing a claimant before the board. LeDoux was also chair of the board for seven years.

MLAC names Tomassian board member; Rush O'Mara reappointed

The Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court appointed Martin V. Tomassian of Edgartown to a five-year term on the board of directors of the Massachusetts Legal Assistance Corp. and reappointed Martha Rush O'Mara of Melrose to a second five-year term.

MLAC is the largest funding source for civil legal aid in the commonwealth.

"Martin is a proven leader within the Massachusetts legal community, and he will be a tremendous asset to the MLAC board," said Lonnie Powers, MLAC's executive director. "He also is the first MLAC board member from the Cape and Islands, and we are looking forward to having that perspective represented."

Tomassian, who was nominated by the presidents of the Massachusetts county bar associations, is a principal of Tomassian & Tomassian of Edgartown and Watertown. He is currently president of the Dukes County Bar Association and a member of the Massachusetts Bar Association House of Delegates.

Rush O'Mara, chair of the board, is a solo practitioner who concentrates on children's law. She was nominated by the MBA.

MLAC is governed by an 11-member board of directors, 10 of whom are appointed by the SJC. The eleventh member is the chief justice for administration and management of the Trial Court or his designee.

MLAC was established by the Legislature in 1983 to ensure that low-income people with critical, non-criminal legal problems would have access to legal information, advice and representation.

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Committee for Public Counsel Services selects Anthony Benedetti as next chief counsel

The Committee for Public Counsel Services recently selected Anthony Benedetti to be its next chief counsel, beginning Aug. 2.

Benedetti currently serves as CPCS general counsel, a position he has held since 1998. Prior to that, Benedetti spent five years as a public defender trial lawyer in the CPCS Brockton office, where he represented hundreds of clients and tried 40 cases in the district and superior courts.

Benedetti grew up in West Roxbury and graduated from Boston College (1987) and Suffolk University Law School (cum laude, 1993). While in law school, Benedetti worked as an audit specialist in the CPCS Audit and Oversight Unit. Between college and law school, he worked as a fiscal and policy analyst for the House Committee on Ways and Means.

Benedetti is an active, long-time member of the Massachusetts and Boston bar associations, and currently serves on the MBA's House of Delegates and Executive Management Board. He is also a member of the BBA Criminal Law Section Steering Committee.

On the national level, Benedetti is the Massachusetts representative on the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers (NACDL) State Legislative Network, and he has twice been elected to the National Legal Aid & Defender Association (NLADA) Board of Directors (through 2011). Benedetti is also a member of the Massachusetts Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers and the Massachusetts Citizens Against the Death Penalty.

Since 2002, Benedetti has served as an adjunct professor at Suffolk University in the Criminal Justice Masters