WBA Selects Newest Class of Rising Stars for its Women’s Leadership Initiative

The WBA congratulates the members of its sixth Women’s Leadership Initiative (WLI) class!

The WLI is a program that brings together senior women attorneys and up and coming stars of the legal profession for leadership development and mentoring. The program is chaired by Erin Higgins, Partner at Conn Kavanaugh Rosenthal Peisch & Ford, LLP, and Meredith Ainbinder, Deputy General Counsel of Emerson College, along with Mary Ryan, Partner at Nutter McClennen & Fish LLP, as Senior Chair.

The 2020 Class includes women practicing in firms, government, and in-house, touching a wide variety of sectors/industries including the criminal justice system, higher education, legal services, and the financial services and biotechnology industries. With a record number of applicants this year, it is clear that the desire for leadership training and building connections with accomplished women lawyers is strong.

Congratulations to the 2020 Women’s Leadership Initiative members:

Azure Aronsson, Hogan Lovells LLP
Jessica Babine, Cornetta Babine LLC
Saraa Basaria, Todd & Weld LLP
Elizabeth Monnin-Browder, Hirsch Roberts Weinstein LLP
Margaret Caulfield, Alkermes
Meghan Cooper, Peabody & Arnold LLP
Michelle Detherage, Robins Kaplan LLP
Courtney Groh, Holland & Knight LLP
Amalia Jorns, Northeast Legal Aid
Nita Kumaraswami Klunder, Office of the Attorney General
Stephanie Lin, WilmerHale
Elizabeth McEvoy, Barrett & Singal
Maggie Morgan, Greater Boston Legal Services
Emily Musgrave, Mintz Levin Cohn Ferris Glovsky & Popeo, P.C.
Rebecca Neale, Law Office of Rebecca G. Neale
Amy Sennett, Catalant Technologies
Naomi Shatz, Zalkind Duncan & Bernstein LLP
Emily Sy, State Street Bank & Trust Company
Allison Lukas Turner, Latham & Watkins LLP
Destinee Waiters, Suffolk University Office of the General Counsel
Jennifer Watson, Liberty Mutual
Whitney Williams, Middlesex District Attorney’s Office

WBA President Jennifer Saubermann remarked, “As a past graduate of the WLI program I am keenly aware of the wealth of knowledge that mentors are able to bestow to their mentees through this program, and the positive influence this can have on a woman’s career. I am thrilled that we are able to provide this experience to a new class of already accomplished women.  The WBA is very grateful to Meredith Ainbinder, Erin Higgins, and Mary Ryan, and the outstanding mentors they have lined up, for their willingness to lead a new class. Programs like the WLI are integral to changing the practice of law by fostering the growth of women into leadership positions across all areas of the law, and the WBA is proud to offer this program to its members.”

About the Women’s Leadership Initiative:
The WLI was launched in 2009 by a group of leaders in our legal community eager to give back to the next generation of promising women attorneys. WLI alumni include Attorney General Maura Healey and other high-ranking government attorneys, law firm partners, and accomplished in-house attorneys. A new class of mentees is selected biennially.

The WLI is designed to provide participants with large-scale networking, group mentoring, and one-on-one career development opportunities.  Each event leverages the experiences of accomplished women attorneys in Massachusetts interested in cultivating the next generation of women leaders.  From no-holds barred Q&A sessions to events introducing participants to leaders in the Massachusetts legal and business communities, the WLI provides participants with opportunities to work with their role models and one another, build their networks, and further their careers. 

Rampant Errors on Criminal Background Check Reports Are Still Preventing Consumers from Securing Jobs and Housing

Boston – Passing a criminal background check is a nearly universal prerequisite to securing a job or housing, yet employers and landlords are making decisions based on inaccurate reports. Broken Records Redux: How Errors by Criminal Background Check Companies Continue to Harm Consumers Seeking Jobs and Housing, a new report from the National Consumer Law Center (NCLC), finds that problems with accuracy in commercial criminal background check reports are still rampant. “Unfortunately, many background screening companies still seem to prioritize profit over accuracy, leading to reports that cost consumers’ jobs and housing,” said Ariel Nelson, National Consumer Law Center staff attorney and author of the report.

NCLC’s research reveals that background screening companies continue to generate criminal background check reports that:

– Mismatch the subject of the report with another person (e.g., listing criminal records belonging to someone else, often harming common-name consumers in particular);
– Include sealed or expunged records (e.g., listing a conviction that was legally removed from the public record);
– Omit information about how the case was resolved (e.g.., failing to report that charges were dismissed);
– Contain misleading information (e.g., listing a single charge multiple times); and/or
– Misclassify the offense reported (e.g., reporting a misdemeanor as a felony).

The background screening industry is now a multi-billion dollar industry, with about 94% of employers and about 90% of landlords using criminal background check reports to evaluate prospective employees and tenants. Yet there are still no registration requirements for background checking companies and no standardized criteria governing background checks.…Read more from the National Consumer Law Center. Read the full report here.

GBLS advocates for improved child care policies

Chanice was so buried in bills in 2017 that she took on part-time work at a taxi company in addition to her full-time job answering phones at a Boston community health center in hopes of digging herself out.

Still, she staggered under the weight of the copayments she was expected to contribute for state-subsidized child care. With more than $2,100 in overdue child care bills, the young Roxbury mother lost her day care spot for her son. Then she lost her job. After experiencing more setbacks, she became homeless.

“You can’t work without child care,” she said.

Chanice’s experience is far too common for working poor parents in Massachusetts, advocates say. Poor families in Massachusetts with state-subsidized day care still pay, in proportion to their income, the highest child care fees in the nation. Greater Boston Legal Services is petitioning the state Department of Early Education to revise its child care fee schedule and its policy of terminating parents who fall behind on payments, which they argue is illegal.

“Federal law permits disqualifying someone for fraud, but living in poverty and falling behind is not fraud,” said Sarah Levy, a senior attorney with the organization. The legal group is representing 24-year-old Chanice. Read more in the Boston Globe.

Somerville activists, legal aid seek to combat rampant wage theft

Somerville bosses have been quietly cheating employees out of tens of thousands of dollars for years now. But a coalition of labor groups, unions, the Our Revolution Somerville Labor Committee and other worker advocates are hoping to put an end to “wage theft,” includes instances where employers deny workers wages and benefits, such as a lunch break, tips, paid sick time, or when they force employees to work off the clock. Some Somerville residents hope to resolve the problem by changing city ordinances.

Ben Traslavina of Greater Boston Legal Services told a gathering of residents that Somerville’s current wage theft law is ineffectual.

“It only comes into effect if a company has been found to have criminally violated the law,” he explained. “As all of you know, prosecutions, criminal prosecutions of wage theft, are almost non-existent. It’s on the books but it’s a dead letter.”

Traslavina, who has been helping craft language that would essentially replace the existing ordinance, noted that while it’s difficult to prosecute employers, cities and towns have power.

“We do have, as a municipality, the power to decide what businesses can work in our community,” he noted…Read more in the Somerville Times.

Local undocumented immigrants fear deportation when reporting abuse, says immigration attorney

For undocumented immigrants suffering domestic violence or sexual assault, reporting it is often sidetracked by fears of deportation. A bill aiming to ease those fears when talking with local police – called the Safe Communities Act – will undergo a hearing at the State House on Dec. 2. It’s important legislation, because “it doesn’t serve the community for people to be scared,” says attorney Jennifer Ollington.

“…Our clients have suffered from domestic violence or sexual assault, either in the United States or in their country of origin,” said Ollington, an immigration supervisor and staff attorney at MetroWest Legal Services (MLS) in Framingham. Many fear that their immigration status puts them at risk of deportation if they report the abuse to law enforcement.

MetroWest Legal Services helps thousands of low-income clients with civil legal problems for free – many of them are part of the 45,000 people living below the poverty line in Framingham. Read more in The MetroWest Daily News.

Massachusetts jails men to provide drug addiction treatment

Massachusetts is among several states using involuntary commitment to force someone into addiction treatment if they have an alcohol or substance abuse problem and pose a risk of serious harm. But it’s the only state to provide that treatment in a correctional facility, and critics say that’s no place for those battling addiction who haven’t been criminally charged… Bonnie Tenneriello is one of those critics. She’s a staff attorney at Prisoners’ Legal Services of Massachusetts, a nonprofit group that represents incarcerated people.

“It may be a nicer environment than an ordinary prison setting but it’s still a prison and you’re still telling people you belong in jail. There is already enough stigma around addiction that for us to say it’s OK to put people with addiction in jail just furthers that stigma, furthers a belief in our communities that these people are bad. And that’s going to stop people from getting treatment,” said Tenneriello.
Read more from PBS Newshour.

Editorial: The Horrors of Unfair Prison Visitation Practices

by Dave Eisenstadter

… [A] new bill would disallow limiting unique individuals who can visit an inmate, loosen clothing restrictions, allow for reasonable touch among inmates and visitors, and otherwise facilitate more visits to inmates.

It is at the top of the list of legislative priorities for advocacy organization Prisoners’ Legal Services of Massachusetts, which has assembled a fact sheet of the benefits of the bill. Among them are that prisoners who receive visits have fewer instances of misconduct, visitations help mitigate the risk for children with incarcerated parents of negative social outcomes and help the prisoners themselves when they re-enter society, and that visitations are crucial to the well-being of prisoners, their families, and the people who work in prison.

At the recent hearing, Prisoners’ Legal Services representative Bonnie Tenneriello, an attorney, called the current policies “nonsensical” and “contrary to the idea of rehabilitation and re-entry.”

Read more in the Valley Advocate.

Pro bono legal service integral to Worcester lawyers’ work

…Recent recognition of Worcester-area lawyers spotlights an often-overlooked contribution these professionals make: taking time away from their billable hours for clients who may pay them handsomely, to donate pro bono, or uncompensated, legal services to persons of limited means or to nonprofit charitable organizations…Bowditch & Dewey LLP was nationally recognized by the ABA at a summit outside Washington, D.C. last month, with its ABA Outstanding Medical-Legal Partnership Pro Bono Advocacy Award.  The award celebrates Bowditch’s years of pro bono commitment to “meeting the health-harming needs of low-income families in Central Massachusetts, including through the Community Legal Aid Medical-Legal Partnership with UMass Memorial Medical Center”…Kate Gannon, a staff attorney for the CLA medical-legal partnership, said Bowditch & Dewey was particularly dedicated to “providing holistic upstream advocacy,” in other words addressing issues before they became big legal problems for clients, and to recruiting other attorneys and participating in training on the different challenges CLA clients face. Read more in the Telegram & Gazette.

Supreme Judicial Court to Present Pro Bono Committee Awards to Four Attorneys and a Recent Law School Graduate

Supreme Judicial Court Justice Kimberly S. Budd will present the annual Adams Pro Bono Publico Awards to four attorneys and a recent law school graduate in recognition of their outstanding commitment to providing pro bono legal services for those in need. Two of the awards recognize lawyers working with Community Legal Aid.

The awards are named in honor of John Adams and John Quincy Adams.

The SJC’s Standing Committee on Pro Bono Legal Services has selected the following attorneys to receive awards:

Rhonda L. Bachrach, for her exemplary record as a volunteer attorney for the family law, small claims, and housing lawyer-for-the-day programs administered by Community Legal Aid (CLA) and the Worcester County Bar Association, for CLA’s medical-legal partnership with UMass Memorial Health Care, and for taking private pro bono cases from these agencies as well.

Douglas L. Fox and Lawrence E. Cohen, for their extraordinary dedication to providing pro bono legal services for more than 30 years to the residents of Jeremiah’s Inn, a residential recovery program in Worcester, on a wide range of issues — from bankruptcy to driver’s license reinstatements to housing and unemployment compensation. Attorneys Fox and Cohen provide these services in collaboration with the Honorable Harry Zarrow Homeless Advocacy Project, a special program of Community Legal Aid, which receives funding from the Massachusetts Bar Foundation.

Robert P. Sherman, for his exceptional commitment to pro bono service, devoting nearly 500 hours of volunteer legal work in 2018 alone on a variety of legal projects such as reuniting immigrant families, and providing leadership and support for DLA Piper’s pro bono partnerships with the Lenny Zakim Fund and the National Center for State Courts.

And for the Adams law student award, the Committee has selected:

Lauren Victoria Rossman, a 2019 graduate of Boston College Law School, for dedicating hundreds of hours to volunteer work over the course of her law school career, including most significantly her extensive and successful efforts with the Boston College Innocence Program to win reversal of the murder conviction of Christopher “Omar” Martinez, leading to his release from prison after nearly 20 years of incarceration.

Certificates will also be presented to those listed on the Pro Bono Honor Roll. The Honor Roll each year recognizes law firms, solo practitioners, in-house corporate counsel offices, government legal offices, non-profit organizations and law school faculties that certify that they have performed a minimum number of hours of approved pro bono legal services during the previous calendar year, and law students who have done so during their law school careers.

The SJC Standing Committee on Pro Bono Legal Services works to promote volunteer legal work in Massachusetts to help people of limited means in need of legal representation, in accordance with Rule 6.1 of the Massachusetts Rules of Professional Conduct for attorneys. The awards ceremony is one of many activities celebrating and building support for pro bono legal work in Massachusetts during the month of October. The American Bar Association has declared October 20 to 26 as Pro Bono Week.

Thursday, October 24, 2019
3:30 p.m. — Pro Bono Honor Roll Ceremony for Law Students
4:00 p.m. — Adams Awards and Pro Bono Honor Roll Ceremony for Attorneys

Seven Justice Courtroom
John Adams Courthouse
One Pemberton Square
Boston, MA 02108

Berkshire attorneys volunteer to help immigrants at border

Karen Cole has spent the past five years helping unaccompanied immigrant children adjust to a new life in Central and Western Massachusetts. But, it wasn’t until she visited the U.S.-Mexico border in May that she fully understood what those children already might have endured. “No doubt, once they get status in the U.S., by a green card or asylum, they are in a better place,” she said.

Cole, a West Stockbridge resident who works as an attorney with the Central West Justice Center office in Northampton, assists minors younger than 18 who legally are living with sponsors from the Berkshires to Worcester County.

She and another attorney with the center, Donna Morelli, of Pittsfield, each spent a week in southeastern Texas recently, assisting newly arrived immigrants. Read more in the Berkshire Eagle.