Farewell Presentation to Gerry Singsen
At the May 23, 2017 meeting of the Access to Justice Commission, Supreme Judicial Court Chief Justice Ralph D. Gants, Associate Justice and Commission Co-Chair Geraldine Hines, and Commission Co-Chair Susan M. Finegan, Esq. presented Antone G. “Gerry” Singsen with a special Access to Justice Award in recognition of Gerry’s longtime service as a consultant to the Access to Justice Commission and his many years of leadership in improving access to justice in Massachusetts.
Antone “Gerry” Singsen (seated), surrounded by Chief Justice Gants, Sue Finegan, former Access to Justice Commission Co-Chair David Rosenberg, Justice Hines, and former Access to Justice Commission Vice Chair James T. Van Buren.
Remarks on Retirement as Consultant to the Massachusetts Access to Justice Commission by Gerry Singsen
Thank you Justice Gants, Justice Hines and Sue for your kind remarks. It has been an honor and a pleasure working with you over the years. If in some way I have been a teacher and you students, you have each earned your A.
Justice Gants, it has been a special privilege to work closely with you as you moved into your current role as a national leader for access to justice. You are making history.
Of course, no one does what I have done with the Commission on his own. I have been the instrument of a lot of great people. Only by working together was any of this possible. So I must pause to mention some of those who really deserve the credit for the work of the Commission.
I want to thank each of the Chairs of the three Commissions:
Herb Wilkins as the chair and Jim Van Buren the Vice Chair of the first Commission
Dave Rosenberg along with Justice Gants in the second Commission
Justice Geraldine Hines and Sue Finegan in the current Commission.
We have been blessed by such leaders.
In addition, I want to thank Russell Engler, who has served for many years as the intellectual leader of the Commission; I want to thank Dina Fein, who has provided immense energy since the beginning; and Cindy Cohen and Jacqui Bowman and…but here I get into trouble, because I really owe thanks to all of you current Commissioners, and those who have gone before, including the members of the LSC State Planning Body which recommended that a Commission was needed.
I want to recognize MLAC, our partner in many of the Commission’s endeavors, and the Boston Bar and Mass Bar and their Foundations
And, of course, I must reserve my deepest thanks to Jayne Tyrrell, my best friend and most consistent adviser, without whom I personally could not have done this job and without whom I don’t believe Massachusetts would have earned the reputation it now holds as a state that leads access to justice work in the United States.
So, thanks to you all.
Now, the way I see it, I’m not abandoning the work for justice, I’m simply getting out of the way of the future. You will make that future.
As you do this work, there are many principles I could suggest that you draw from the prior work of the Commission. But there are three that I would specifically urge upon you.
The first principle is that the Commission is powerless — it has no budget, no authority. Justice Wilkins enunciated this principle, with a droll tongue firmly planted in his cheek.
Because, of course, you do have power. You have a bully pulpit and hard working, creative volunteers. What the good Justice was reminding us of was that we all have the power of “Voice” – the commanding power of truth – and that is great power indeed.
The second principle is that “Justice is everybody’s business.”
We learned this principle while examining the potential for funding from nonlawyer philanthropists. But it is much more important than that. It is a fundamental objective of our constitution to “establish justice.”
The third principle is being explored by you today. It is a goal, a banner, an intention.
It is that we seek nothing less than that all persons dealing with essential legal issues have access to effective assistance and that effective assistance leads to just outcomes. That is, “justice for all.”
Putting these ideas together, I urge you to
act on behalf of everyone in our society
by using the power of speaking the truth about injustice
in order to bring real and equal justice to all.
When the opportunity to act for justice arises, just say “yes.”
For me, it is time to retire.
But I’ll still be around, watching and supporting and helping when I can.
Thank you for what you have done, and will do.