Court and Community News

Thursday, Oct. 1, 2020
U.S. District Court Judge Zobel wins 2020 Distinguished Service to Justice Award; SJC rules unidentified IOLTA funds must be transferred to IOLTA Committee; Apply to be a BBO Hearing Committee member; MRWA seeks senior staff counsel

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U.S. District Court Judge Zobel wins 2020 Distinguished Service to Justice Award

Judge Rya W. Zobel of the U.S. District Court for the District of  Massachusetts has won the Edward J. Devitt Distinguished Service to Justice Award for 2020. The award was created to honor a federal judge with an exceptional and distinguished career who has made significant contributions to the administration of justice, the advancement of the rule of law and the improvement of society as a whole. The selection is made by a panel of judges that is chaired by a justice of the U.S. Supreme Court.

Zobel photo 2

"It is no exaggeration to say that this is the highest honor that a federal judge can receive," said U.S. District Court Chief Judge F. Dennis Saylor IV. "We are immensely proud of Judge Zobel, who is an exceptionally deserving recipient. And in her 88th year, she is still blazing new trails: she is the first-ever female District Judge to win the award."

Click here to read a nomination letter submitted by the court that outlines Zobel's life and career.

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SJC rules unidentified IOLTA funds must be transferred to IOLTA Committee

In a decision announced today, the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court has ruled that unidentified IOLTA funds do not fall under the state’s abandoned property statute and must be transferred to the IOLTA Committee for disposition. The decision, In the Matter of Gregory M. Olchowski, clarifies for attorneys what had been a disputed area: whether to remit unidentified funds to the IOLTA Committee or to the state treasurer as abandoned property under G.L.C. 200A. 

The decision, which was authored by the late Chief Justice Ralph Gants in one of his final acts, will benefit programs providing civil legal services to low-income and elderly Massachusetts residents. IOLTA funds are distributed to the Massachusetts Legal Assistance Corporation and the Massachusetts and Boston bar foundations to support civil legal services and access to justice initiatives.

“In a year filled with loss and injustice, this decision is a ray of hope,” said MA IOLTA Committee Chair Hannah Kilson. “In finding that the principal in an IOLTA account is not subject to the abandoned property statute, the SJC is rightly exercising its superintendence authority over the practice of law. The decision provides lawyers with the necessary guidance on how to address the issue of unidentifiable IOLTA funds while providing underfunded legal services programs with a small but badly needed source of additional funding.” 

Jayne Tyrrell, executive director of the IOLTA Committee, added, “The IOLTA Committee is pleased with the court’s decision and looks forward to working with the Rules Committee to amend Rule 1.15 as ordered by the Court.”  

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Apply to be a BBO Hearing Committee member

The Board of Bar Overseers (BBO) encourages interested attorneys and members of the public across the commonwealth to apply for appointment to a three-year term (2021-2023) as a volunteer Hearing Committee member. Hearing committees sit in panels of three as fact-finding tribunals in disciplinary proceedings brought against individual attorneys by the Office of Bar Counsel. The committees hear testimony, take evidence, make adjudicatory rulings and, with the assistance of a board attorney, prepare a written report and recommendation for the BBO.

The board is conducting virtual hearings at this time and into the foreseeable future. Applicants must have a computer equipped with a camera and microphone, as well as reliable internet, and be comfortable with the use of remote technology.

Committee members receive no monetary compensation and devote their time as a public service in the vital interest of preserving the integrity of the legal profession. The board will provide comprehensive training, including in the use of the relevant remote technology. 

The board seeks to maintain a broad-based representation of attorneys and members of the public within the committee ranks, and strongly encourages diverse applicants, women, candidates with varied backgrounds, small-firm practitioners, and individuals in public service. Active members of the bar with at least 10 years of professional experience should forward a statement of interest and résumé and should specify their major field(s) of practice. Members of the public (non-lawyers) may apply as long as they are not paralegals or employed in a legal-related field, and should complete an application form at http://www.massbbo.org/volunteer. All Hearing Committee members are considered special state employees subject to the state conflict of interest law, G.L. c. 268A.

Contact Sandra Mahabir, by mail at: Board of Bar Overseers, 99 High St., Boston, MA 02110, or e-mail at HCR@massbbo.org, on or before Oct. 31, 2020.  

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MRWA seeks senior staff counsel

The Massachusetts Water Resources Authority (MRWA), located in the Charlestown Navy Yard, is seeking a senior staff counsel – labor and employment. The senior staff counsel provides advice and counsel in all areas of federal and state labor and employment law, and represents the MRWA in state and federal courts and in administrative and arbitration proceedings involving labor and employment matters. 

The position requires a bachelor’s degree and a juris doctorate from an American Bar Association-accredited law school. An understanding of the substantive area of labor and employment law acquired by at least three to six years of relevant experience is also required. The position requires state bar admission by the date of hire and federal bar admission no later than six months after the date of hire.

For more information, and to apply, click here.