The Massachusetts Bar Association's Access to Justice Awards will honor eight attorneys, two law partners and one law firm, recognizing their exemplary legal skills and service to the community. The awards will be presented at the Access to Justice Awards Celebration at the Sheraton in Framingham on Wednesday, June 15. Click here to purchase tickets for the event.
In the profiles that follow, meet the winners of the 2022 Access to Justice Awards.
LEGAL SERVICES AWARD
Greater Boston Legal Services, Boston
Sarah Levy has devoted her professional life to public service, and in particular civil legal service to those unable to afford a private attorney. As an attorney at Greater Boston Legal Services for over 25 years, and currently Senior Attorney in the Welfare Law Unit, she has tirelessly pursued justice for her clients while demonstrating creativity and effectiveness in complex litigation. In 2007, Levy led the charge in filing a federal class action against the Department of Transitional Assistance under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). The resulting settlement agreement, which required broad changes to increase access for people with disabilities, has been viewed as a national model for holding state agencies accountable under the ADA.
In 2019, Levy successfully argued that the Department of Early Education and Care (EEC) used an unlawful fee scale to determine parent “co-payment” amounts for subsidized childcare. As a result, the EEC developed a new fee scale that lowers costs to families by $53 million each year and charges no fees to families living below the federal poverty line.
These accomplishments are just a sample of the positive impact Levy regularly makes for her clients and other families in need. For these reasons and her career-long commitment to helping others, the MBA is proud to honor Levy with the Legal Services Award.
LEGAL SERVICES AWARDSTEPHEN MATTHEWS
MetroWest Legal Services, Framingham
Stephen Matthews, Metro West Legal Services’ advocacy director, has dedicated 30 years to protecting some of the commonwealth’s most vulnerable residents, with a focus on housing and elder law.
Known for his impressive work ethic and passionate commitment to clients, Matthews has handled a number of impactful cases, including several where he helped prevent affordable housing complexes from terminating subsidies and returning to market-rate complexes. He has also worked to shape policies affecting at-risk tenants, most recently by leading a COVID Eviction Legal Help Project to fight for clients in eviction, Section 8 termination, and foreclosure matters. In addition to representing hundreds of individual clients each year, Matthews has been active in community and outreach programs, including formerly serving as director of the Human Rights Committee at The Bridge of Central Massachusetts for 25 years.
A valued mentor to fellow lawyers, Matthews is widely respected and admired among his peers in the legal community, from colleagues, clients, judges and court staff to longtime opposing counsel, who know him as both zealous and scrupulously fair.
The MBA is proud to honor Matthews with the Legal Services Award for his leadership and his tireless devotion to his clients.
RISING STAR AWARDHANNAH TANABEGreater Boston Legal Services, Boston
Hannah Tanabe has distinguished herself through exceptional client advocacy at Greater Boston Legal Services, where she is a Senior Attorney in the Employment Law Unit. She previously worked in the CORI & Re-Entry Project; Elder, Health, and Disability Unit; and Family Law Unit. Tanabe has also taken on a leadership role in improving the delivery of legal services to clients with disabilities.
In addition to managing an enormous workload of individual cases, she has skillfully raised and resolved systemic issues with the leadership of the Department of Unemployment Assistance. With the onset of COVID-19 and the massive increase in unemployment benefit claims, Tanabe co-directed a rapid-response Unemployment Claims Project that provided benefits to over 6,000 claimants during the pandemic.
Noted for her fervent defense of clients and their interests, Tanabe is also highly regarded in professional circles as a spirited, creative and driven team member.
The MBA is proud to present Tanabe with the Rising Star Award for her initiative and leadership, through which she continues to help so many people in need.
PRO BONO PUBLICO AWARDMARTIN R. ROSENTHALLaw Offices of Martin R. Rosenthal, Boston
Described by one friend as the “conscience of the justice system,” Marty Rosenthal has dedicated his five-decade professional life to Deuteronomy’s “justice, justice thou shalt pursue” — in court, in Board of Bar Overseers cases, in politics (especially Brookline’s), and in pushing for fair, humane justice systems — not only for his clients, but also for everyone’s clients. He personifies a whole-universe approach to justice.
As a seasoned public defender, Rosenthal served as the Committee for Public Counsel Services’ first Training Director, training hundreds of public defenders and bar advocates, and as the main author of the Criminal Defense Training Manual and (allegedly, the first anywhere) Performance Guidelines. After two years clinical teaching, and now as a solo practitioner, he has served on innumerable volunteer committees, as well as in Brookline elected offices (including as ex officio Police Commissioner), while also zealously representing many whom he calls “mere humans.”
Known for sending 1 a.m. emails, he’s constantly “on the job,” including “chronic and habitual” outspokenness — on all sorts of justice-related issues — that is seamlessly integrated with tirelessly representing his clients, redefining both lawyering and “pro bono publico.”
The MBA proudly presents Rosenthal the Pro Bono Publico Award for his holistic, tireless dedication to his clients, and to justice.
PRO BONO AWARD FOR LAW FIRMSPEABODY & ARNOLD
Since its founding in 1899, Peabody & Arnold LLP has represented hundreds of pro bono clients and encouraged its attorneys to use their legal skills to give back to the community.
Over the past four years, the firm has volunteered countless hours representing the Massachusetts IOLTA Committee in several substantial matters. In one case litigated before the Supreme Judicial Court, attorneys Kristyn Kelley and Allen David successfully argued that undistributed IOLTA Committee funds should be used to support free legal services for low-income individuals and their families rather than be sent to the Treasurer’s Office. The SJC’s 2020 decision will ultimately bring in millions of dollars to assist legal services clients.
In addition, Peabody & Arnold LLP has represented a Boston Marathon survivor, a victim in a highly publicized domestic violence case, Catholic employees who were fired for refusing to work on Christmas, gay marchers in the South Boston St. Patrick’s Day Parade, veterans in obtaining government benefits and prisoners with civil rights claims.
The MBA is proud to present Peabody & Arnold LLP with the Pro Bono Award for Law Firms in recognition of its robust support of pro bono and its commitment to making a positive impact in the community.
PROSECUTOR AWARDBECKY MICHAELSNorthwestern District Attorney, Northampton
During her tenure with the Northwestern District Attorney’s Office, Becky Michaels has spearheaded numerous initiatives to improve access to justice for victims and defendants and increase the availability of rehabilitative and preventive services within the legal system.
In conjunction with her position as an Assistant District Attorney and Director of Community Prosecution Projects, Michaels leads the office's independent Conviction Integrity Unit and works with local police departments to ensure Brady compliance. Michaels has also sought to address the root causes of criminal justice involvement, most notably by supervising the office's Drug Diversion and Treatment Program, expanding the use of diversion in the district courts, and helping to establish a Restorative Justice program for Hampshire County.
Along with her professional accomplishments, Michaels has volunteered in local education and community organizations as well as the Joint Bar Committee and the Boston Children’s Hospital Pain Clinic’s Comfortability Parent Advisory Board.
The MBA is proud to present Michaels with the Prosecutor Award for her commitment to ensuring access to justice for all.
Committee for Public Counsel Services, Worcester
Adrian Angus of the Committee for Public Counsel Services (CPCS) has earned admiration not only for his skills as a legal advocate, but for his unique ability to give humanity and voice to his clients in protecting their interests. A trial attorney since 2011, Angus has worked to ensure a similar level of client service across the organization by sharing his expertise in the CPCS training unit and in informal brainstorming sessions with colleagues.
Outside of CPCS, Angus is an active member of the Worcester County Bar Association and previously chaired its Committee for Anti-Racism and Equality (CARE), which he was instrumental in establishing. In addition, Angus is the CPCS representative to the Supreme Judicial Court’s Access to Justice Commission and serves on several other boards and committees.
A 2017 Fellow in the Massachusetts Bar Association’s Leadership Academy, Angus has co-chaired the MBA’s Criminal Justice and Policing Reform Working Group and authored a Black Lives Matter resolution that was passed by the MBA’s House of Delegates.
The MBA is proud to present the Defender Award to Angus in recognition of his tireless work and dedication to his clients and colleagues alike in the Worcester community.
RACE, EQUITY AND INCLUSION AWARD
FREITAS AND FREITAS LLP (CRISTINA FREITAS AND DEBBIE FREITAS)
The Lowell law firm of Freitas & Freitas LLP is run by juvenile and child welfare law partners and sisters Cristina and Debbie Freitas, who have established themselves as legal disrupters and revolutionaries, centering their practice on zealous advocacy framed with a diversity, equity and inclusion lens.
In an effort to eliminate systemic racism in the Massachusetts Juvenile Court, the partners joined forces with their colleagues to advance a Racial Justice Task Force within the Children and Family Law Division of the Committee for Public Counsel Services. Founded in 2020, the task force works to implement anti-racist strategies aimed at promoting fairer treatment and better outcomes for clients of color.
Both Cristina and Debbie have also taken an active role in engaging fellow attorneys about the experience of Black and Brown communities in America. In particular, they have organized tours to educate lawyers and court staff about African American history in Lowell and have taught colleagues the principles of transformative justice, which recognizes the need to challenge traditional systems of oppression.
Noted for their mentorship of younger practitioners, Cristina and Debbie have sought to provide similar inspiration for their young clients by dedicating wall space to highlight accomplished people of color.
In recognition of the Freitas sisters’ innovative approach to the practice of juvenile law for the benefit of historically underserved communities, the MBA is proud to present Freitas & Freitas LLP with the Race, Equity and Inclusion Award.
LIFETIME ACHIEVEMENT AWARD
Massachusetts IOLTA Committee (ret.), Boston
Over more than 30 years as executive director of the Massachusetts IOLTA Committee, Jayne Tyrrell greatly enhanced access to justice through her diligent efforts to generate new revenue streams for civil legal services.
Before her retirement in 2021, Tyrrell helped the IOLTA Committee raise more than $368 million to benefit legal aid, including through the adoption of attorney registration and pro hac vice admission fees to support access to justice. Other rule changes introduced during Tyrrell’s tenure as executive director required banks to pay interest rates comparable to commercial accounts and allowed legal aid programs and the IOLTA Committee to receive awards of class action residuals.
In addition, Tyrrell has served the legal community as president of the National Association of IOLTA Programs, co-chair of the Boston Bar Task Force on Expanding the Right to Counsel, and a longtime member of the Massachusetts Bar Association’s Access to Justice Section Council. A local supporter of the right to counsel in housing cases, Tyrrell has also participated in the National Coalition for a Civil Right to Counsel and created the Women’s Bar Association Women Leadership Initiative.
The MBA is proud to present Tyrrell with the Lifetime Achievement Award in recognition of the outsized and positive impact she has made on legal aid in Massachusetts throughout her long career.
LIFETIME ACHIEVEMENT AWARD
CHRISTOPHER KAUDERS (posthumously)
Christopher Kauders, who passed away in July 2021, devoted his life to opening the doors to justice through his work as an alternative dispute resolution professional and advocate for the visually impaired community. Though legally blind, Kauders did not let his condition define him and demonstrated unflagging optimism, good humor, and passion.
Kauders served on the board of The Seeing Eye, the oldest guide dog school in the U.S.; the Carroll Center for the Blind; the Massachusetts Commission for the Blind; and Massachusetts Eye and Ear — and on the advisory board of the Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination. After he was personally denied Uber service because of his Seeing Eye dogs, Kauders filed suit and eventually secured a Supreme Judicial Court decision on the enforceability of agreements made through website and mobile apps.
Throughout his career as a mediator and arbitrator, Kauders mentored many law students and became known for his patience, empathy, and ability to bring litigants to the mediation table with open minds. According to retired Superior Court Judge Paul Chernoff, Kauders could sense everything, and he could see what no one else could.
The MBA is proud to honor Kauders with the Lifetime Achievement Award in recognition of his pioneering work representing the visually impaired and his dedication to increasing access to justice through dispute resolution.
Registration is required by 5 p.m. on Wednesday, June 8. Questions? Email Membership and Marketing Manager Heather Robertson at email@example.com.