Updated MassProBono site simplifies search for pro bono work

By David Spinosa

MassProBono is a comprehensive, yet easy-to-use online resource for lawyers, law students, and other legal professionals who want to find the right pro bono volunteer opportunity.

Starting in 2010, MassProBono is a collaboration between legal aid groups, bar associations, the Massachusetts Access to Justice Commission, and the Volunteer Lawyers Project of the Boston Bar Association that supports legal professionals in their pro bono efforts. Almost a decade later, this vision hasn’t changed – but its resources have expanded.

With more than 100 legal aid organizations and programs listed, as well as 63 specific projects, MassProBono’s website, MassProBono.org, offers pro bono opportunities for many interests and schedules. The specific filters allow users to look for organizations or projects, or search by an area of law and county. Each listing and project has easy-to-follow and relevant information about the program as well as contact information.

MassProBono also includes an extensive library of resources from “Know Your Rights” manuals to court forms. Checklists and guides offer volunteers an overview of several areas of law – a valuable resource if they are volunteering with Eastern Housing Court’s Lawyer for the Day Program or taking on a Guardianship case.

As MassProBono’s partnerships and resources have grown, so has its technology. To keep people updated on what’s going on in legal programs around the state, MassProBono has added a calendar feature with upcoming trainings and events as well as a Twitter feed.

Each MassProBono resource and feature has been designed to make pro bono searches easier and more enjoyable. MassProBono will be hosting a webinar Tuesday, June 4th, to go over how to best use the site as well as some of its newer features.
If you are interested or have any questions about MassProBono, please email David Spinosa, dspinosa@vlpnet.org.

David Spinosa is an AmeriCorps Legal Advocate with the Volunteer Lawyers Project.

Massachusetts’ contentious tactic to fight its opioid crisis: jailing addicts

The scene plays out every day in Massachusetts, thousands of times a year.

A loved one is addicted to opioids. Their life is spinning out of control as they use more and more. Their family panics. Rehab can be unaffordable – and it may require waiting for a spot. But they need to get their loved one somewhere they can’t use before it’s too late. Read more about Prisoners’ Legal Services‘ advocacy in The Guardian.

More Workers Are Suing Happy Lamb Hot Pot

In October 2018, nine current and former employees of Happy Lamb Hot Pot in Cambridge filed a complaint with the United States District Court of Massachusetts alleging restaurant management committed a number of labor law violations. Allegations included failing to pay overtime wages, pocketing and improperly distributing workers’ tips, and refusing to let workers use accrued sick time.

Attorneys representing the workers filed a supplemental complaint with the US District Court of Massachusetts, which includes the names of five additional workers, bringing the total number of plaintiffs suing Happy Lamb Hot Pot to 14. The supplemental complaint states that the alleged violations occurred at both Boston-area locations of Happy Lamb Hot Pot, in Central Square, Cambridge, and in Chinatown, Boston. Greater Boston Legal Services represent the workers, who are mostly Chinese or Latino. Read more in Eater Boston.

Nonprofit law firm receives $90,000 grant to assist veterans

NORTHAMPTON — Community Legal Aid will create the first veterans medical-legal partnership, or VMLP, in the state with a $90,000 grant from United Way of Hampshire County.

Located at the Edward P. Boland Northampton VA Medical Center, the VMLP will help low-income veterans in Hampshire County navigate the legal system. Medical-legal partnerships pair lawyers with specializations in areas such as health care and homelessness with veterans who face problems that may affect their health. Issues around hunger, financial insecurity and domestic violence are among other problems lawyers will assist veterans in navigating.

“We want to catch something in the courtroom rather than in the emergency room,” said Daniel Bahls, Community Legal Aid’s lead VMLP attorney. Read more in the Daily Hampshire Gazette.

MLRI prepares know-your-rights info for striking Stop & Shop workers

In response to a strike by Stop & Shop workers that is entering its second week, the Massachusetts Law Reform Institute has prepared know-your-rights information for striking workers who may be eligible for SNAP assistance.

The brochures, in English and Spanish, detail when striking workers are eligible for assistance from SNAP, the federal nutrition benefits program.

“We all hoped this strike would not last this long (especially during religious holidays for many who celebrate). But unfortunately it has, and it has caused a substantial hardship on thousands of workers and their families,” said Georgia Katsoulomitis, executive director of MLRI. “We hope for a just and equitable resolution to the issues these hard-working Stop & Shop employees have raised so that they can get back to work.

“Thank you to all our legal aid partners and colleagues for what you are doing to help and support these workers and their families.”

The information on SNAP eligibility for striking workers is available here.

Mass. Supreme Judicial Court Issues Groundbreaking Worker Overtime Ruling

Appearing on WGBY’s “Connecting Point,” Claudia Quintero (above), a lawyer with the Central West Justice Center, discussed her work on a groundbreaking case before the Supreme Judicial Court on behalf of employees of a farm in South Deerfield, Mass. In Arias-Villano v. Chang & Sons Enterprises, the court found that the workers were entitled to overtime pay because the work they performed was not the same as farm work, which is not entitled to overtime pay. Joining Quintero was Bill Newman, an attorney with the ACLU and a former board member of the Massachusetts Legal Assistance Corporation. Watch the interview on Connecting Point.

As housing crunch tightens, older women fight eviction from Kenmore Square rooming house (Boston Globe)

Below is an excerpt from a March 29 article published by the Boston Globe.

For more than half a century, single women of limited means could count on Our Lady’s Guild House in Boston’s Kenmore Square for shelter and fellowship. Rents were low, residents ate together in common areas, and many attended Mass in the building’s chapel.

That all changed in recent years as the owner of the brick rooming house forced out scores of long-term residents and replaced them with students who can pay higher rents.

It’s a familiar story in Boston, where older renters have been squeezed out as rents climb and apartments convert to condos for well-heeled newcomers. But this time, the landlord isn’t a private real estate goliath: It’s the Daughters of Mary of the Immaculate Conception, an order of nuns from New Britain, Conn. And eight older women who live in the building — the last holdouts of their generation — are fighting back, with support from neighborhood groups and local activists.

Read more at the Boston Globe.

Protecting low-income tenants in the private rental market

Greater Boston Legal Services staff attorney Ting Chiu answers some common questions about housing law in Massachusetts in this excellent piece in Sampan. Read more…

Massachusetts SJC rules employees at Chang & Sons farm in Whately are entitled to overtime

The state’s highest court on Friday reversed a lower-court ruling and decided that employees at a Franklin County farm are entitled to be paid overtime because the work they performed at the farm was not the same as farming. The Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court on Friday ruled in favor of the 15 plaintiffs in the case of Ana Arias-Villano and others vs. Chang & Sons Enterprises of South Deerfield…The Central West Justice Center, which represented the 15 plaintiffs, hailed the ruling as an important victory for worker’s rights. Leticia Medina-Richman, managing attorney for the center, said the decision “brings clarity about what constitutes fair compensation for the many hours worked by those performing the kinds of tasks that the plaintiffs performed.” Read more in The Springfield Republican

Suit alleges bias in civil commitments for addiction

Ten men who have been ordered into treatment for addiction filed suit Thursday against several state agencies, alleging that they are unlawfully being held in a prison instead of a treatment facility. The men are represented by Prisoners’ Legal Services. Read more…