Greetings:

We write to share important news of Commission leadership transitions, share highlights from our recent Commission meeting and provide information on two upcoming events.

Supreme Judicial Court Appoints New Co-Chairs for Massachusetts Access to Justice Commission

The Supreme Judicial Court announced the appointment of three new co-chairs to lead the Massachusetts Access to Justice Commission: the Honorable Serge Georges, Jr., Associate Justice of the Supreme Judicial Court; Marijane Benner Browne, Esq.; and Laura W. Gal, Esq. They will take office on June 30, 2021, succeeding current co-chair Susan M. Finegan, Esq., and the late Honorable Ralph D. Gants, former Chief Justice of the Supreme Judicial Court, who served as co-chair of the Commission until his death last September. See the full press release here.

As we look forward we also look back with gratitude for the tremendous and innovative leadership of the late Honorable Ralph D. Gants and current Co-Chair Susan Finegan.

Massachusetts Access to Justice Commission March 26, 2021 Commission Meeting Highlights

Thank you to the Commissioners and guests who joined us for the most recent meeting of the MA ATJ Commission on Friday, March 26. As we passed the one-year mark of the pandemic we focused this meeting on remote court proceedings, considering both challenges to the user and successful adaptations to meet user needs.

Remote Court Proceedings – Perspectives:

·        The Court User Perspective: Norieliz De Jesus, Director of Policy and Organizing, La Colaborativa, discussed the experiences of community members in remote eviction proceedings. Her important and impactful presentation highlighted the challenges faced by many in accessing court due to a myriad of factors, including language access and barriers to technology.

·        Litigating Access: Blair Komar-Bates, Staff Attorney, Central West Justice Center, highlighted issues that have arisen for self-represented litigants when attempting to submit evidence in remote proceedings.

·        Facilitating Child Support Enforcement Hearings Remotely: Tanya E. Fuller, Regional Counsel, Metro Boston Region, Child Support Enforcement Division, Department of Revenue (DOR) and Sara E. McCollum, Regional Counsel, Western Region, Child Support Enforcement Division, DOR discussed the agency’s innovative adaptations to meeting customer needs during the pandemic.

·        Massachusetts Attorney General’s Office: Assisting Tenants with Online Eviction Hearings: Commissioner Richard Johnston, Chief Legal Counsel, Massachusetts Attorney General’s Office, shared information about a program from the Attorney General’s Office offering financial assistance to community organizations for technology resources to allow litigants to access remote hearings.

For general background on COVID-19 and the impact of the digital divide please see a blog from ProBono.Net.

The next Massachusetts Access to Justice Commission Meeting is on May 27 from 3-5 via zoom. We hope you can join us.

Symposium in Honor of Chief Justice Ralph D. Gants

The Boston College Law Review is hosting a virtual Symposium Event on April 9, 2021, from 9:30 am to 2:00 pm, celebrating the jurisprudence and legacy of former Chief Justice Ralph D. Gants of the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court.  The Symposium Event (which will be followed by a special print edition of the Boston College Law Review in the Fall of 2021) will feature panel presentations.

Registration is required; to learn more and register, please visit the event listing

Q & A for Community Advocates about the Latest in Immigration Changes, Including Public Charge,

The Access to Justice Commission’s Ecosystem Committee is sponsoring its latest webinar on Thursday, April 1, 2021 from 2:00 to 3:15.

Presenters will give a short overview of key legal issues including:

  *   Current status of the public charge rule

  *   The latest news about DACA, TPS, federal legislative proposals and enforcement updates

  *   How your clients can get legal help with immigration law cases

The event is free, but please register at here.

Thank you and happy spring!