The Massachusetts Bar Association's
Access to Justice Awards will honor four attorneys and one law
firm, recognizing their the exemplary legal services delivery, at
its 2012 Annual Dinner at the Westin Boston Waterfront hotel on
Thursday, May 31.
The event will also feature keynote
speaker Victoria Reggie Kennedy and the presentation of the
Legislator of the Year Award to House Speaker Robert A. DeLeo
(see p. 1 for more information).
Dulcinea (Duci) Goncalves
QUINCY YOUTH ADVOCACY DEPARTMENT, COMMITTEE OF PUBLIC COUNSEL
As soon as Dulcinea (Duci) Goncalves could practice, she went
straight to where she needed to be: representing indigent juveniles
in the criminal justice system. Now, turning 32 this month, she's
the attorney in charge of the Quincy Youth Advocacy Department
(YAD) of the Committee of Public Counsel Services (CPCS).
"Growing up, people often told me they
thought I should be a lawyer," but she never considered it until
she interned at the Children's Law Center as a Boston University
undergraduate. It changed her perception about lawyers and the
roles they can play in communities like hers.
At Northeastern University School of
Law, she interned at CPCS, then joined the Roxbury YAD as a staff
attorney in 2005.
"CPCS is a holistic experience. You do criminal defense, but you
also address problems in the community. I can do an excellent job
on someone's legal case, but if they're going home and having
trouble in school, they're likely to end up back in court. Working
for an organization that values that is really critical."
At the Quincy YAD, she supervises three attorneys and support
staff and carries 15 to 20 cases at a time. She also helps newer
attorneys with their cases, including offering advice and support
during their first court appearances.
She's learned that a successful outcome isn't wholly dependent on
how she fares in court.
"There are definitely times where it doesn't work out the way I
want it to, but I've learned to measure success in different ways.
If a client starts going back to school, that's a success.
Hopefully, you will have an impact on their future as an
In one case, she helped one former client get probation instead of
prison. "Sometimes it's hard to see where we've been successful,
but had she gone to state prison for five years … Now she's got a
job and is pursuing higher education."
That Goncalves is a woman of color who speaks Portuguese and Cape
Verdean-Creole also helps inspire the youth she represents.
"It was really important to me, helping the folks I grew up
around. I wanted them to have a different experience. It makes a
difference, being able to communicate with them. They see that
someone who looks like me and sounds like me can achieve things.
That means a lot to the kids."
PRO BONO PUBLICO AWARD
Linda C. Hickman
NEIGHBORHOOD LEGAL SERVICES, LYNN
Linda C. Hickman grew up with a strong sense of fairness and
decided to attend law school after realizing the potential a lawyer
has to help people.
"I thought of law as something you could use, sort of a tool to
further justice," she said.
After graduating from Northeastern University Law School, Hickman
delayed her legal career to raise three children. When she and her
family moved to Boston, Hickman decided to volunteer before
deciding whether she would commit to a legal career.
In 2005, Hickman contacted Neighborhood Legal Services and
interviewed with Director John Ford. She began volunteering with
the Elder Law Project, one of four units at the organization.
"It was really great work … it was just my good fortune to have
him [John Ford] as a mentor. He really taught me how to be a
lawyer," she said.
Although Hickman originally signed on for a six-month commitment,
she continued to volunteer at Neighborhood Legal Services.
"I was reluctant to bail out when the need was so great … the work
just has a way of grabbing you," she said. "I remember when I first
started, I would sit in on interviews with John and I was so
affected by people's interviews, their stories, their lives."
Over the years, Hickman has worked in the Elder Law Unit on many
complex cases and has been instrumental in providing legal services
to those who might not otherwise have access. "There are so many
elderly people that are poor and need lawyers," she said.
After seven years, Hickman has decided to pursue a different
career, but she has only fondness for her time spent with the
organization. "If I were going to spend seven years of my life
being a lawyer, it was my good fortune to spend those years with
Neighborhood Legal Services," she said.
Hickman, who describes herself as a "low-profile" person,
expressed shock at being chosen for the Pro Bono Publico Award.
"I'm really surprised … it is something I will treasure," she
PRO BONO AWARD FOR LAW FIRMS
Brody, Hardoon, Perkins & Kesten
The 13-attorney firm Brody, Hardoon, Perkins & Kesten LLP in
Boston is being honored for its work representing domestic violence
clients in collaboration with the Middlesex District Attorney's
Office. Brody, Hardoon is one of only six law firms involved in
this unique pro bono collaboration that represents high-risk,
complex domestic violence cases.
The pro bono working relationship between Brody, Hardoon and the
DA's office is due in large part to partner Laurence Hardoon, who
previously served for more than 14 years in the Middlesex DA's
office and began the Middlesex Child Abuse Unit there.
Hardoon explained that he "was already quite biased and
sympathetic" to the domestic partners in these cases. He describes
the pro bono efforts of this firm to be a "win-win." "First and
foremost, we are helping people in very vulnerable situation," he
said, but in addition to helping the DA's office, the firm is also
adding to its attorneys' range of experience.
Firm attorney Thomas Donahue explained that the cases are
complicated. "The most valuable measure we are able to attain for
our highly vulnerable clients is emergency support," he said.
Donahue has found this important work highly satisfying, since he
has been able to help domestic violence clients keep their kids and
their house, and the ability to pay their bills -- all elements
that abusers typically hold over their heads and impede them from
leaving the abuser in the first place, according to Donahue. He has
found it particularly rewarding to serve as an individual's
advocate in one of the worst times in their lives. "Most of my
clients are not used to being able to 'stand up' to their
Colleague Gregor Pagnini concurs. "It is really a great feeling to
bring that relief for clients, to take that stress off their
shoulders." As with Donahue, these cases fall outside of Pagnini's
typical case portfolio, but he finds them professionally and
personally beneficial. "To know that my client's life is
immediately changed for the better because of our counsel has been
the most rewarding."
Attorney Kristin Harris finds the clients she's assisted to be
very appreciative. "One on one, face-to-face, I could see how I was
making a difference in their lives." Harris has represented a woman
who was abused by a man she was dating, a woman who was being
abused by an ex-spouse and a woman with a young child who was being
abused by her husband.
Hardoon said the pro bono effort has been embraced by everyone at
the firm, not just the attorneys, noting that Administrative
Assistant Nicole Romano's coordination has been particularly key to
LEGAL SERVICES AWARD
MASSACHUSETTS ADVOCATES FOR CHILDREN, BOSTON
After more than 40 years in the profession, Massachusetts
Advocates for Children Managing Attorney and Senior Project
Director Thomas Mela is still passionate. His longstanding career
in public services is highlighted by his work serving the
"I went to law school in the '60s knowing that I wanted to be able
to secure the tools to represent and improve the standing of
low-income persons," said Mela, who worked first in employment
discrimination law after graduating from Harvard Law School in
"I'm at an age where I could've retired years ago, but I have no
interest, because the work I do is so satisfying."
Mela began his legal career advocating for minorities trying to
achieve entry-level positions as police and firefighters in
Massachusetts. Seeing an increase in the number of minorities who
acquire those positions over the years has been one of his proudest
More recently, Mela has worked to represent low-income children
and children with disabilities. "I moved from the rights of adults
to the rights of children -- especially children with
disabilities," he said.
At Massachusetts Advocates for Children, Mela facilitates the
interests and efforts of legal services and public interest
attorneys from around the state who wish to promote the rights of
This past year, Mela advocated for House Bill 178, legislation
that would reform school discipline laws in the state. He expressed
appreciation to those who have supported the bill.
"The MBA deserves our thanks for specifically voting to endorse
the bill and for appointing a representative, Peter Hahn … we are
very grateful to them for that," Mela said.
He also underscored the need for those in the legal profession to
take on pro bono work. "We need to refer our cases to others and we
very much appreciate the fact that there are some others … but the
need far exceeds available pro bono resources."
Michael A. Fabbri
MIDDLESEX DISTRICT ATTORNEY'S OFFICE
The gratifying work is what has kept Michael A. Fabbri a
prosecutor for the past 26 years. Despite the challenges and stress
that come with a job responsible for proving a defendant's criminal
guilt, Fabbri finds immense joy in his work.
"Even on a bad day, it's a great profession," said Fabbri, who
called the honor humbling.
Fabbri has spent 24 of his 26 years as a prosecutor with the
Middlesex District Attorney's Office, where he is currently chief
trial counsel. He has also held the positions of chief of homicide,
chief of the Special Investigations Unit, deputy chief of the
Appeals and Training Bureau and Framingham regional supervisor. He
spent two years in the Attorney General's Office, working in the
Special Investigations Unit and as deputy chief of the Medicaid
The most challenging time of Fabbri's career was prosecuting the
highly publicized murder trial of Neil Entwistle, the British man
convicted in June 2008 of murdering his 27-year-old wife, Rachel,
and 9-month-old daughter, Lillian Rose, in their Hopkinton home two
"It was one of the first cases I've had that was really under the
spotlight. It was a case that seemed like the whole planet was
looking at," Fabbri said. "I didn't know if I was going to be able
to take the pressure."
The case was also logistically challenging, with witnesses
spanning the globe, and a multitude of forensics details.
His most rewarding case took Fabbri by surprise many years ago.
The defendant, plagued by substance abuse, pled guilty to a series
of house break-ins in the Framingham area. "At the end, he and his
lawyer thanked me," Fabbri said. "It worked out for
Fabbri decided to join the legal profession while working as an
Air Force electromechanical technician on Minuteman missiles in
Missouri. He earned degrees from Framingham State College and
Northeastern University School