Attorneys, Law Firm Receive 2012 Adams Pro Bono Publico Awards
In recognition of outstanding commitment to providing pro bono legal services for the poor and disadvantaged in Massachusetts, the Supreme Judicial Court's Standing Committee on Pro Bono Legal Services today presented the eleventh annual John Adams Pro Bono Publico Awards to four recipients in recognition of distinguished service. The prestigious awards are named in honor of John Adams and John Quincy Adams. For the first time this year, a recent law school graduate received a special student award.
Supreme Judicial Court Justice Ralph D. Gants, who presented the awards to the recipients in the Seven-Justice Courtroom in the John Adams Courthouse, said, "The recipients of the Adams Awards serve as an inspiration to every law firm, sole practitioner, corporate counsel, and law student in the Commonwealth. By their extraordinary commitment to pro bono service, these awardees encourage all of us in the legal community to do more for those in need of legal assistance."
The award recipients were:
Susan Corcoran, a volunteer at the Community Legal Services and Counseling Center (CLSACC) in Cambridge, was recognized for her outstanding pro bono work representing survivors of domestic violence. Since she began volunteering at CLSACC six years ago, she has worked on over 70 cases representing survivors of domestic violence, and has become an integral and essential part of the administration of CLSACC's family law unit. In 2007, she joined the staff of the Massachusetts Chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union as a part-time intake attorney, but continued her commitment to pro bono work at CLSACC. Attorney Corcoran is known to take some of the most difficult cases at the volunteer legal services agency, and has proven to be a source of comfort and support for her clients, all of whom are survivors of domestic abuse.
Dorothy Varon, Assistant Vice President in the Law Division at the Mass Mutual Life Insurance Company (MassMutual) in Springfield, was honored for successfully developing a pro bono program at MassMutual, for her leadership in encouraging pro bono activity in Springfield, and for expanding corporate counsel pro bono efforts across Massachusetts. Attorney Varon helped create a program that offers legal representation to income-eligible landlords and tenants through the Housing Court's Lawyer-for-a-Day program, and assistance to civil litigants in the Springfield District Court through the Hampden County Bar Association's Legal Clinic. She also convened a "Hundred Lawyer Challenge" inviting representatives of larger firms in Springfield to volunteer in the Housing Court's Lawyer-for-a-Day program. Last year, she dedicated herself to building a corps of legal volunteers to provide pro bono services when hundreds of victims found themselves in need of emergency legal assistance following the tornado in Springfield. She is a long-standing member of the Supreme Judicial Court's Pro Bono Committee and served as a panelist on the In-House Counsel Pro Bono Forum, hosted by the Access to Justice Commission in 2011. Under her leadership, the program at MassMutual has become a preeminent pro bono program in western Massachusetts, and has been a model for pro bono activity by corporate counsel across the Commonwealth.
DLA Piper LLP, Boston, was awarded for its commitment and dedication to pro bono service through a partnership with the Massachusetts Advocates for Children (MAC) on the Education Rights Signature Project. DLA Piper created three teams corresponding to the MAC's areas of interest: statewide special education, autism, and Boston Public Schools. Attorneys in the litigation division represented individual clients, while transactional attorneys assisted MAC with its systemic change initiatives by providing legal research, policy analysis and other support. The firm also helped MAC by training Harvard Law School students in litigation techniques through a joint program MAC operates at the law school, and assisting MAC with its fundraising events and communications strategies. The Boston firm has thus far donated over 4,000 hours of pro bono work and has been committed to changing the lives of children with disabilities throughout the Commonwealth by volunteering their time and expertise to the project.
Steven Dzubak, the first to win a special student award, was chosen for his exceptional pro bono work on environmental legal issues while a law student at Western New England University School of Law. While in law school, he sought out and began assisting one of his law professors with an environmental issue involving a private developer that had received a city council permit to build a plant that would burn construction and debris material in the City of Springfield. Mr. Dzubak became involved with a small group of community activists and spoke on behalf of the group, both at City Council meetings and by writing letters to the editor of the local newspaper. Because of the group's work, the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection issued a moratorium on burning the debris and construction materials while the issue was studied. As part of the legal strategy, Mr. Dzubak assisted pro bono attorneys in drafting legal documents that were filed with the Massachusetts Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs. In response, the city council decided to revoke the permit the council had issued to the developer two years earlier.
Certificates also were presented by Committee members and Supreme Judicial Court Justice Francis X. Spina to the 29 lawyers and law firms that voluntarily participated in the Court's Pro Bono Recognition Program Honor Roll. The recognition program each year honors law firms, solo practitioners, in-house corporate counsel offices, government legal offices, non-profit organizations and law school faculties that certify that their attorneys have dedicated a minimum number of hours to approved pro bono legal services during a specified time period. Their names are listed on the Court's website at: Pro Bono Honor Roll
The Supreme Judicial Court's 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 SJC Rule 6.1.
The Adams Pro Bono Publico Awards ceremony is one of many events and activities celebrating and building support for pro bono legal work in Massachusetts. October has been proclaimed as Pro Bono Month by Governor Deval Patrick for the fourth consecutive year. The American Bar Association declared October 21-27, 2012 as Pro Bono Week.