The Supreme Judicial Court announced the appointments of seven new members to the Massachusetts Access to Justice Commission, on December 23.
First established by the Supreme Judicial Court 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.
“We are delighted to welcome these new members to the Commission,” said Susan Finegan, who co-chairs the Commission. “These new members were nominated during the tenure of the late Supreme Judicial Court Chief Justice Ralph D. Gants, my long-time co-chair at the Commission, and they are already engaged and contributing to the important work of the Commission. They include judges from the District Court and Housing Court, key administrators managing access to justice initiatives within the courts, an associate general counsel for an internationally renowned hospital, a partner at a leading law firm, and an attorney with a statewide legal advocacy organization. Each of these new members lends an important and unique perspective to the Commission’s ongoing efforts to ensure equal access to justice.”
The new Access to Justice Commission members are:
- Hon. Julie Bernard, first appointed to the bench in 2002, currently serves as an Associate Justice of the District Court. She previously served as First Justice of the Brockton District Court. She is the Co-Chair of the Trial Court Race and Implicit Bias Advisory Committee, Chair of the District Court Working Group on Alternative Dispute Resolution, a Judicial Mentor and a member of the District Court Race and Ethnic Fairness Committee. She previously served as a member of the District Court Appellate Division and a member of the District Court Committee on Continuing Education. Prior to her appointment to the bench, Judge Bernard held positions with Keyspan Energy, Inc.; Verizon, Inc.; Segal & Feinberg; the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority and the Committee for Public Counsel Services.
- Hon. Robert Fields, Associate Justice of the Western Division Housing Court. Before his appointment in 2009, Judge Fields was the Clerk Magistrate of that Court. Prior to joining the Housing Court in 2001, Judge Fields was a founding partner at the Springfield based law firm of Heisler, Fields & Feldman and before that was a Staff Attorney in the Housing Unit of Neighborhood Legal Services in Lynn.
- Krietta Bowens Jones, Associate General Counsel at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, where she advises on corporate, regulatory and risk management matters, as well as patient care matters and privacy and data security, including HIPAA and state medical privacy laws. Prior to working at Dana-Farber, Attorney Bowens Jones was an associate in the Health Law Department at Mintz, Levin, Cohn, Ferris, Glovsky and Popeo, P.C. She currently serves as a Council member of the Boston Bar Association and as a Trustee for the Boston Bar Foundation. She is also a member of the Women’s Bar Association of Massachusetts and the American Health Lawyers Association.
- Elizabeth Cerda, Senior Manager for Access to Justice for the Trial Court. Attorney Cerda is serving as the Trial Court’s ex officio access to justice representative. Attorney Cerda served as a law clerk in the Superior Court and a corporate associate with LeBoeuf, Lamb, Greene and MacRae, LLP before returning to the trial court, first as Coordinator of Intergovernmental Relations and then with the Administrative Office of the District Court.
- Lisa C. Goodheart, a partner at Sugarman, Rogers, Barshak & Cohen, where she co-chairs the firm’s Environmental and Energy Law and Real Estate Litigation Practice Groups. She is a past president of the Boston Bar Association and past president of the Boston Bar Foundation. She has also served as chair of the Court Management Advisory Board and the Judicial Nominating Commission.
- Rochelle Hahn, an attorney with the Massachusetts Law Reform Institute is co-director of the Massachusetts Legal Aid Websites Project, which seeks to improve access to justice for low-income and disadvantaged persons in Massachusetts through innovative use of technology. Attorney Hahn is also the co-manager of the Massachusetts Civil Legal Aid for Victims of Crime Initiative. Previously, she was the Executive Director of the Legal Advocacy & Resource Center, a staff attorney at Greater Boston Legal Services, and a litigation associate at WilmerHale.
- Sheriece M. Perry, Acting Co-Director of Support Services for the Massachusetts Trial Court Office of Court Management, where she oversees the Court Service Centers, Law Libraries, and Judicial Response System. She is a past president of the Massachusetts Black Lawyers Association and previously worked as a family law attorney in private practice and as a staff attorney at the Volunteer Lawyers Project.
Among other activities, the Access to Justice 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.