Access to Justice Update, September 19, 2017

MA ATJ Commission Welcomes New Consultant, CLA’s Laura Gal

We are thrilled to welcome Laura Gal as the new consultant to the MA Access to Justice Commission! Laura brings years of professional experience in law and legal aid to the role. Laura is currently a staff attorney in the Family Law Unit of Community Legal Aid, where she will continue to practice part-time.  She has been a member of the Commission’s Access to Attorneys Committee since 2015. She also sits on the board of the Women’s Bar Association, is a member of the Worcester County Bar Association, and serves as a mentor for the Women’s Bar Foundation. Laura began her legal career as a Skadden Fellow at the Family Advocacy Program of Boston City Hospital (now Boston Medical Center), the first medical-legal partnership in the country. Under the two-year Fellowship, Laura created and implemented a legal services program for low-income grandparents raising their grandchildren. Laura stayed on as a staff attorney at the Family Advocacy Program for a third year and then moved into private practice at Witmer, Karp, Warner & Thuotte, LLP in Boston, where she handled family law and franchise dispute cases. She has written and presented extensively on various issues in the access to justice sphere, including the civil right to counsel in child custody, SNAP advocacy, hunger and poverty in Worcester, and the needs of children in kinship care.  Please be sure to give her a warm welcome when she joins us for our first Full Commission Meeting on Thursday, October 12th at 3-5pm at the Social Law Library, followed by the annual Access to Justice Fellows event and reception.

Massachusetts Law Reform Institute Honors Justice Hines, Gerry Singsen, & John Carroll

Each year, the Massachusetts Law Reform Institute (MLRI) hosts the Catalyst for Change Award Reception to honor the accomplishments of those in the legal profession working to advance MLRI’s mission of advancing economic, racial, and social justice through legal action, policy advocacy, coalition building, and community outreach. This year, each of the three honorees is a member of the Massachusetts Access to Justice community. The namesake award is being given to our own Access to Justice Fellow John Carroll for his career-long dedication to serving those who cannot afford legal representation. MLRI’s Distinguished Alum Award will be granted to former Commission Co-Chair Justice Geraldine Hines for her perseverance in removing barriers to justice in the Massachusetts courts. MRLI will also be presenting a special award to the Commission’s former consultant Gerry Singsen for his lifetime commitment to civil legal aid.  We are thrilled to celebrate the lives and achievements of three valued leaders of the Access to Justice initiative. The Reception will take place on Wednesday, September 27 at 5:30pm-7:00pm at the offices of Nutter McClennen & Fish, 155 Seaport Boulevard. Please see the MLRI website for details and ticket information.

ABA Publication Honors ATJ Fellows as “Pro Bono Heroes”


The August 2017 edition of the American Bar Association’s publication “Voice of Experience” featured an in-depth article discussing the Massachusetts Access to Justice Fellows Program. Author Steven Scudder, Counsel to the ABA Standing Committee on Pro Bono and Public Service, speaks highly of the Program’s unique focus on affording senior lawyers and retired judges the opportunity to partner with non-profit organizations, legal services programs and the courts to provide essential legal assistance to underserved populations. He also highlights the real possibility of replicating the Justice Fellows Program across the country. Mr. Scudder notes, “Today, the scope of the Fellows’ volunteer efforts and their commitment to spending some of their “retirement” to making a profound difference is truly impressive.” Thank you to all our ATJ Justice Fellows as well as Program Managers Mia Friendman and Susan Gedrick from Lawyers Clearinghouse for building a successful and impactful program in Massachusetts! The full article can be found here.