Commission Meets at 3:00 PM on Thursday, September 26

The Massachusetts Access to Justice Commission meets on Thursday, September 26, at 3:00 PM in the fifth floor conference room of the Social Law Library in the Adams Courthouse, Pemberton Square in Boston.  The public is invited to attend.

The Agenda for the meeting includes reports and discussion on the following subjects:

  • Making Access to Justice a Bar Exam Topic
  • Civil Right to Counsel Pilot Projects
  • Incubator Developments and the Commission’s Role
  • Pro Bono Issues
  • Revenue Enhancement
  • Activities of the Special Advisor to the Trial Court on Access to Justice Initiatives
  • Housing Court Expansion
  • Court Service Centers
  • Commission Communication Strategies and Goals
  • Pro Bono Projects at Black and Latino Churches

2013-2014 Access to Justice Fellows Inaugural Reception at 5:00  PM, Thursday, September 26

The Commission invites you to attend the Inaugural Reception for its 2013-2014 Access to Justice Fellows, which will take place directly after the Commission meeting, on Thursday at 5:00 PM in the SJC Seven Justice Courtroom.  This is the second group of Fellows.  There are 12 this year (up from 7), each a senior lawyer partnering with nonprofit and legal aid organizations to provide critical legal assistance to underserved populations in Massachusetts. The program features remarks by SJC Associate Justice and Commission Co-chair Ralph D. Gants and will be followed at 5:45 PM by a Reception in the Social Law Library Hall.  Please RSVP to

BBA Conference on Civil Right to Counsel October 24 at 2:00 PM Features Judge Lippman

On Thursday, October 24, from 2:00 PM to 6:00 PM, the Boston Bar Association Task Force on Civil Right to Counsel is sponsoring a conference on “Examining the Civil Right to Counsel on the 50th Anniversary of Gideon v. Wainwright.”   The afternoon’s discussion will seek to answer the question “What are the next steps concerning a civil right to counsel in Massachusetts?”

The Conference features a number of prominent proponents of an expanded civil right to counsel (Cathy Carr, Russell Engler, Bonnie Hough, Clare Pastore and Mary Ryan are listed), but the Keynote speaker is Hon. Jonathan Lippman, Chief Judge of New York’s highest court, the Court of Appeals.  Judge Lippman is an inspirational speaker who has taken a major leadership role in access to justice work in New York.  He has led the state’s legal aid community to coalesce on funding issues, convinced the legislature to make major  increases in support of legal aid and sponsored a requirement that new lawyers perform 50 hours of pro bono service prior to their admission to the bar.

Register through the BBA’s website (the conference is free but you have to spend a minute logging in to the website).

 Adams Pro Bono Publico Awards, October 23

A highlight of Pro Bono Week will be the presentation of the Adams Pro Bono Publico Awards on October 23 at the Supreme Judicial Court.  Individuals and firms will be honored for their exemplary service.  In addition, lawyers and firms that have met the standards will be recognized by inclusion on the SJC’s pro bono Honor Roll.

ABA Resource Center for Access to Justice Initiatives Revamps Website

The ABA’s Legal Services Division is the home of ABA committees on pro bono, legal aid, and services to moderate income families and military families.  One of its active projects is the ABA Resource Center for Access to Justice Initiatives, has transformed its traditional website into the Access to Justice Blog.  The blog will be publishing reports on access innovations and developments every other Friday.  A sampling of topics covered in this month’s report includes:

  • §  Old Dominion has a new ATJ Commission;
  • §  Newly appointed Texas Chief Justice is a staunch ATJ supporter;
  • §  Experimenting with evening/weekend courthouse hours in The Last Frontier;
  • §  Cy pres residuals going to Tar Heel IOLTA program;
  • §  Fred Rooney: incubator of law school incubators;
  • §  ATJ hearings commence in the Empire State;
  • §  In CA, “Affordable Legal Aid” changes name to avoid being mistaken as, well, a legal aid office;
  • §  Spotlight on the federal Public Service Loan Forgiveness program;
  • §  “A2J Author” software produces automated forms for legal aid advocates and self-represented litigants;
  • §  Big cy pres residual award will benefit Keystone State legal aid providers;
  • §  Resource for legal aid lawyers advising clients on new healthcare options;
  • §  One month until the National Celebration of Pro Bono(!);
  • §  Department of Labor guidance on FLSA and unpaid, law-firm interns working on pro bono matters;
  • §  Tennessee Bar Association boosting pro bono efforts for armed forces members and vets;
  • §  Hitting the brakes on a mandatory pro bono reporting requirement in NY;
  • §  CA judge looks into progress on Civil Gideon;
  • §  DISCO.

If you want to know more about these developments, a full description of each can be found at the blog site,  If you would like an email notice of each new report, you can enter your email address at the bottom of the right-side menu bar.

Child Support “Interview” Uses A2J Author to Help Self-Represented Litigants Create Forms

A team of advocates, working with members of the Judicial Department, has completed and published on the web material, in English and Spanish, which enables self-represented litigants to “access legal information in plain language on [] which will enable them to more easily and effectively represent themselves in Massachusetts child support cases.”  Seven videos were produced that explain the child support process.  On-line Document Assembly using the Law Help Interactive Infrastructure with an A2J Author Interface is employed to generate ten essential forms.  The materials can also be reached through the trial court website [].

The team was led by Gordon Shaw, Executive Director of the Massachusetts Justice Project (MJP), who obtained a Technology Initiative Grant from the Legal Services Corporation to support the work.  The Commission was a partner in a collaborative application to the Legal Services Corporation for the grant.  The core team included Caroline Robinson (Massachusetts Law Reform Institute), Oonagh Doherty (MJP), Jeff Wolf and Ilene Mitchell (Probate and Family Court).