We are so pleased to share the below press release announcing this year’s recipients of the Adams Pro Bono Awards.  We are particularly excited to share the wonderful news that Susan Finegan, Co-Chair of the Massachusetts Access to Justice Commission, is the recipient of the inaugural Ralph D. Gants Award for Extraordinary Leadership in Pro Bono Service.  Please join us in congratulating Sue, and all the award recipients, at the Awards Ceremony held on October 28th from 4-5:30 (details below).



John Adams Courthouse

One Pemberton Square

Boston, Massachusetts 02108


Jennifer Donahue/Erika Gully-Santiago



October 16, 2019

Supreme Judicial Court to Present Pro Bono Committee Awards


On October 28, 2020, Supreme Judicial Court Justice Kimberly S. Budd will present awards to four attorneys selected by the Supreme Judicial Court Standing Committee on Pro Bono Legal Services for their exceptional dedication to providing volunteer legal services for persons who cannot afford an attorney for their essential legal needs.

Three attorneys will receive Adams Pro Bono Publico Awards and a fourth attorney will receive a special pro bono award named in honor of the late Supreme Judicial Court Chief Justice Ralph D. Gants. The Committee will also recognize the achievements of attorneys, law students, and legal organizations who qualified for the Supreme Judicial Court Pro Bono Honor Roll

Justice Budd will present the annual Adams Pro Bono Publico Awards, named in honor of John Adams and John Quincy Adams, to the following three attorneys for their outstanding pro bono work:

  • Crispin Birnbaum, Esq., an Access to Justice Fellow, for her extensive efforts to expand free legal services to provide sealing and expungement of criminal records for low income clients, including veterans through Veterans Legal Services, and homeless clients and others through Lawyers Clearinghouse, and for performing more than 95 free criminal records trainings for nonprofits, attorneys, government agencies, veteran support groups, clinical law students, and individuals with criminal records across the Commonwealth.
  • James S. Rollins, Esq., Nelson Mullins Riley & Scarborough LLP, for devoting 16 years of pro bono service to the cause of freeing a wrongfully convicted Pennsylvania inmate, who was released after 23 years on death row when his conviction was finally overturned this past June.
  • Christian J. Westra, Esq., Ropes & Gray, LLP, for his instrumental role in bringing together partners to launch the COVID Relief Coalition, a group of law firms, nonprofits and government agencies working with Lawyers for Civil Rights and Lawyers Clearinghouse to provide information and pro bono support to nonprofits and small businesses, including many small businesses owned by women and people of color, to access emergency relief during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Justice Budd will also present the inaugural Ralph D. Gants Award for Extraordinary Leadership in Pro Bono Service to:

·       Susan M. Finegan, Esq., Mintz Levin Cohn Ferris Glovsky & Popeo, P.C., for providing extraordinary leadership in pro bono legal services and improving access to justice over the course of her career.

In addition to handling many significant pro bono litigation matters and chairing Mintz’s pro bono committee, Attorney Finegan has served as Chair of the Supreme Judicial Court Standing Committee on Pro Bono Legal Services, and as Co-Chair of the Massachusetts Access to Justice Commission together with Chief Justice Gants. In both of those positions she worked closely with Chief Justice Gants on a wide range of initiatives to encourage pro bono service and improve access to justice in the Commonwealth, including the Supreme Judicial Court Pro Bono Honor Roll; the Access to Justice Fellows Program; the Appellate Pro Bono Clinic; the Justice for All Strategic Action Plan; Civil Legal Aid for Victims of Crime; and the Commission’s COVID-19 Task Force.      

The SJC Standing Committee on Pro Bono Legal Services works to promote volunteer legal work in Massachusetts to help people of limited means in need of legal representation, in accordance with Rule 6.1 of the Massachusetts Rules of Professional Conduct for attorneys. The awards ceremony is one of many activities celebrating and building support for pro bono legal work in Massachusetts during the month of October, a month officially proclaimed Pro Bono Month by Governor Charlie Baker. The American Bar Association has also proclaimed a National Celebration of Pro Bono during the week of October 25 – 31, 2020.


Wednesday, October 28, 2020, 4:00–5:30 p.m.


The program will be presented live online at https://boston.suffolk.edu/sjc/, the same Suffolk University Law School webpage that is used to present oral arguments before the Supreme Judicial Court.