Access to Justice award winners to be honored May 7

Thursday, Apr. 30, 2015

The Massachusetts Bar Association's Access to Justice Awards will honor six attorneys and one law firm, recognizing their exemplary legal skills and service to the community, at its sold out 2015 Annual Dinner at the Westin Boston Waterfront hotel on Thursday, May 7.

Rising Star Award
Adriana Lafaille, American Civil Liberties Union of Massachusetts

LafailleAs a native of Brazil, Adriana Lafaille constantly saw families being separated by deportations. Even as a young child, she thought there must be a more fair and humane way to handle immigration-so she decided to do something about it. Lafaille came to the United States when she was 5, graduated from Harvard Law School and now advocates for immigrant rights as a legal fellow for the American Civil Liberties Union of Massachusetts.

Her most meaningful work has centered on the case of Gordon v. Johnson, in which the ACLU and its partners obtained a class action ruling allowing more than 100 detainees a year in Massachusetts to be eligible for individual bond hearings when placed in mandatory immigration detention. To date, more than 50 detainees, including Lafaille's client, have been released from immigration detention under a court order. Lafaille has also spearheaded a pro bono effort to provide legal counsel for detainees at their bond hearings by enlisting the help of law firms, such as Greenburg Traurig LLP, Foley Hoag LLP and WilmerHale.

Legal Services Award
Elizabeth Toulan, Greater Boston Legal Services

ToulanElizabeth Toulan considers it an "incredible privilege" that she's been able to help serve low-income, marginalized and often exploited populations during her legal career as a senior attorney at Greater Boston Legal Services. As part of a team effort that involved decades of work, Toulan helped bring about an earned sick time benefit under Massachusetts law through a ballot question, which voters passed in November 2014. The lack of any earned sick time has had a serious effect on low-wage families and a particularly devastating impact on poor working mothers. The new law, which goes into effect on July 1, will provide earned sick time to 1 million workers in the commonwealth, or more than 30 percent of the workforce who currently have no access to such a benefit.

After the success of the ballot question, Toulan is working with others, such as the Attorney General's Office and the Secretary of the Commonwealth's Office, to have the new law implemented so that it provides protections to those who are most in need of its benefits.

Pro Bono Award for Law Firms
Ropes & Gray

Ropes & GrayRopes & Gray LLP has a history of being responsive to the needs of the community, which dates back to its founding. In 2014, more than 1,200 Ropes & Gray LLP professionals (partners, associates, paralegals and retired partners) spent more than 106,000 hours assisting pro bono clients. In Massachusetts alone, professionals from the firm logged approximately 50,000 hours of pro bono service last year.

Two of the most successful pro bono projects the firm conducts in the commonwealth are the Massachusetts Juvenile Justice Pay for Success Initiative, an innovative program aimed at reducing recidivism among young men, and the Medical Legal Partnership, which helps local families and patients with health care and legal concerns at the Dorchester House Multi-Service Center (Dot House).

Her most meaningful work has centered on the case of Gordon v. Johnson, in which the ACLU and its partners obtained a class action ruling allowing more than 100 detainees a year in Massachusetts to be eligible for individual bond hearings when placed in mandatory immigration detention. To date, more than 50 detainees, including Lafaille's client, have been released from immigration detention under a court order. Lafaille has also spearheaded a pro bono effort to provide legal counsel for detainees at their bond hearings by enlisting the help of law firms, such as Greenburg Traurig LLP, Foley Hoag LLP and WilmerHale.
Legal Services Award
Elizabeth Toulan, Greater Boston Legal Services
Elizabeth Toulan considers it an "incredible privilege" that she's been able to help serve low-income, marginalized and often exploited populations during her legal career as a senior attorney at Greater Boston Legal Services. As part of a team effort that involved decades of work, Toulan helped bring about an earned sick time benefit under Massachusetts law through a ballot question, which voters passed in November 2014. The lack of any earned sick time has had a serious effect on low-wage families and a particularly devastating impact on poor working mothers. The new law, which goes into effect on July 1, will provide earned sick time to 1 million workers in the commonwealth, or more than 30 percent of the workforce who currently have no access to such a benefit.
After the success of the ballot question, Toulan is working with others, such as the Attorney General's Office and the Secretary of the Commonwealth's Office, to have the new law implemented so that it provides protections to those who are most in need of its benefits.
Pro Bono Award for Law Firms
Ropes & Gray
Ropes & Gray LLP has a history of being responsive to the needs of the community, which dates back to its founding. In 2014, more than 1,200 Ropes & Gray LLP professionals (partners, associates, paralegals and retired partners) spent more than 106,000 hours assisting pro bono clients. In Massachusetts alone, professionals from the firm logged approximately 50,000 hours of pro bono service last year.
Two of the most successful pro bono projects the firm conducts in the commonwealth are the Massachusetts Juvenile Justice Pay for Success Initiative, an innovative program aimed at reducing recidivism among young men, and the Medical Legal Partnership, which helps local families and patients with health care and legal concerns at the Dorchester House Multi-Service Center (Dot House).
Pro Bono Publico Award
Brian J. McLaughlin, Brian J. McLaughlin, Attorney at Law
Giving back through pro bono and community service has become second nature for sole practitioner Brian McLaughlin, who has been practicing in Boston since 2009. McLaughlin's work focuses on family law, special needs issues, unemployment and mediation. Some of his most meaningful pro bono projects have been family law and domestic violence cases involving clients of a battered women's shelter, which have come to him through working with the Women's Bar Foundation. On the urban transportation front, McLaughlin has also strongly advocated for those with disabilities by working for more wheelchair access in Boston's taxi cabs. He has given countless presentations concerning disabilities and accessibility issues, and was featured in the Boston Globe in 2010 as part of a wheelchair accessible task force sting.
In addition, McLaughlin serves on the board of Shelter Legal Services, where he has handled pro bono cases for veterans in housing and civil litigation matters. He is also a board member for Easter Seals Massachusetts and frequently volunteers with the Volunteer Lawyer of the Day program at Suffolk County Probate and Family Court.
Defender Award
Ben Evans, Committee for Public Counsel Services Public Defender Division
When public defender Benjamin Evans is first assigned a case, his priority is letting the client know that someone is in their corner. For some of the defendants Evans represents, this will be a first for them. Working as the Fall River supervising attorney for the Committee for Public Counsel Services (CPCS), Evans must balance the duty of providing a high level of service with maintaining large numbers of clients appointed to him by the court. But each case is unique and, for Evans, everything comes together when he sees a client's face when a jury returns a verdict of "not guilty."
But criminal defendants aren't Evans' only "clients." The Fall River CPCS Office runs a robust internship program that gives young law students and those who are Supreme Judicial Court Rule 3.03 certified the opportunity to immerse themselves in criminal cases in District Court. Like legal apprenticeships from days gone by, Evans said he thinks practical experience while in law school is critical to the successful practice of law, especially criminal defense.
Prosecutor Award
Jonathan Miller, Attorney General Office's Public Protection and Advocacy Bureau
This past March, Jonathan Miller became the chief of the Attorney General's Office's Public Protection and Advocacy Bureau - a position that oversees six separate state divisions that work together to enforce laws that protect the citizens of Massachusetts, including civil rights laws, access to justice for all residents, affordable health care and more. It's a job Miller is deeply committed to, having served in the Attorney General's Office since 2008 and as the chief of the Civil Rights Division since 2012.
Miller's career in the Attorney General's Office has been highlighted by work on groundbreaking cases, including challenging the constitutionality of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) and a successful predatory lending case against Option One Mortgage Corp. In the last year, Miller also played an active role in the defense of the Massachusetts buffer zone law, which restricted speech outside abortion facilities. When the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court unanimously struck down the law, it was "very disappointing to lose," but Miller and his team then turned the loss into a win. They worked with the state Legislature and fellow advocates to create a bill, passed by the Legislature within a month, which ensures ongoing protections for women to safely access reproductive health care facilities.
Lifetime Achievement Award
Willard P. Ogburn, National Consumer Law Center
When Willard P. Ogburn began his role as executive director of the National Consumer Law Center (NCLC) in 1987, the organization was a government funded backup center for legal services programs. Today, nearly 30 years later, the NCLC uses no government funding and is one of the premier advocacy groups in the country. The organization is now widely known as the primary source for consumer law experts in America.
Ogburn has played a key role in the transformation of the NCLC throughout the last three decades. He has represented low-income consumers in consumer and energy issues, and has helped shape major federal and state consumer protection laws and policies. Under Ogburn's leadership, the NCLC's work has centered on helping low-income individuals and families who have been victims of unfair, deceptive or abusive practices in financial transactions. The organization was instrumental in passing credit card reforms through Congress, including some aspects of the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act. NCLC also helped create the Truth In Lending Act, the Fair Credit Reporting Act and the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act.
Pro Bono Publico Award
Brian J. McLaughlin, Brian J. McLaughlin, Attorney at Law

McLaughlinGiving back through pro bono and community service has become second nature for sole practitioner Brian McLaughlin, who has been practicing in Boston since 2009. McLaughlin's work focuses on family law, special needs issues, unemployment and mediation. Some of his most meaningful pro bono projects have been family law and domestic violence cases involving clients of a battered women's shelter, which have come to him through working with the Women's Bar Foundation. On the urban transportation front, McLaughlin has also strongly advocated for those with disabilities by working for more wheelchair access in Boston's taxi cabs. He has given countless presentations concerning disabilities and accessibility issues, and was featured in the Boston Globe in 2010 as part of a wheelchair accessible task force sting.

In addition, McLaughlin serves on the board of Shelter Legal Services, where he has handled pro bono cases for veterans in housing and civil litigation matters. He is also a board member for Easter Seals Massachusetts and frequently volunteers with the Volunteer Lawyer of the Day program at Suffolk County Probate and Family Court.

Defender Award
Ben Evans, Committee for Public Counsel Services Public Defender Division

EvansWhen public defender Benjamin Evans is first assigned a case, his priority is letting the client know that someone is in their corner. For some of the defendants Evans represents, this will be a first for them. Working as the Fall River supervising attorney for the Committee for Public Counsel Services (CPCS), Evans must balance the duty of providing a high level of service with maintaining large numbers of clients appointed to him by the court. But each case is unique and, for Evans, everything comes together when he sees a client's face when a jury returns a verdict of "not guilty."

But criminal defendants aren't Evans' only "clients." The Fall River CPCS Office runs a robust internship program that gives young law students and those who are Supreme Judicial Court Rule 3.03 certified the opportunity to immerse themselves in criminal cases in District Court. Like legal apprenticeships from days gone by, Evans said he thinks practical experience while in law school is critical to the successful practice of law, especially criminal defense.

Prosecutor Award
Jonathan Miller, Attorney General Office's Public Protection and Advocacy Bureau

MillerThis past March, Jonathan Miller became the chief of the Attorney General's Office's Public Protection and Advocacy Bureau -- a position that oversees six separate state divisions that work together to enforce laws that protect the citizens of Massachusetts, including civil rights laws, access to justice for all residents, affordable health care and more. It's a job Miller is deeply committed to, having served in the Attorney General's Office since 2008 and as the chief of the Civil Rights Division since 2012.

Miller's career in the Attorney General's Office has been highlighted by work on groundbreaking cases, including challenging the constitutionality of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) and a successful predatory lending case against Option One Mortgage Corp. In the last year, Miller also played an active role in the defense of the Massachusetts buffer zone law, which restricted speech outside abortion facilities. When the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court unanimously struck down the law, it was "very disappointing to lose," but Miller and his team then turned the loss into a win. They worked with the state Legislature and fellow advocates to create a bill, passed by the Legislature within a month, which ensures ongoing protections for women to safely access reproductive health care facilities.

 

Lifetime Achievement Award
Willard P. Ogburn, National Consumer Law Center

OgburnWhen Willard P. Ogburn began his role as executive director of the National Consumer Law Center (NCLC) in 1987, the organization was a government funded backup center for legal services programs. Today, nearly 30 years later, the NCLC uses no government funding and is one of the premier advocacy groups in the country. The organization is now widely known as the primary source for consumer law experts in America.

Ogburn has played a key role in the transformation of the NCLC throughout the last three decades. He has represented low-income consumers in consumer and energy issues, and has helped shape major federal and state consumer protection laws and policies. Under Ogburn's leadership, the NCLC's work has centered on helping low-income individuals and families who have been victims of unfair, deceptive or abusive practices in financial transactions. The organization was instrumental in passing credit card reforms through Congress, including some aspects of the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act. NCLC also helped create the Truth In Lending Act, the Fair Credit Reporting Act and the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act.