Press Release

Press Release Massachusetts Access to Justice Commission Announces Four New Members and Release of Annual Report

For immediate release:
  • Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court
  • Massachusetts Court System

Media Contact for Massachusetts Access to Justice Commission Announces Four New Members and Release of Annual Report

Jennifer Donahue and Erika Gully-Santiago

BOSTON, MAThe Supreme Judicial Court today announced the appointments of four new members to the Massachusetts Access to Justice Commission.

"We are delighted to welcome these new members to the Commission," said Supreme Judicial Court Chief Justice Ralph D. Gants, who co-chairs the Commission. "Each of them has demonstrated a commitment to improving access to justice for all residents of the Commonwealth, and their experience and expertise will play important roles in helping the Commission carry out its mission."

The four new members are:

  • The Honorable Valerie Yarashus, Associate Justice of the Superior Court. Before her appointment to the Superior Court in 2018, Judge Yarashus was a principal at Meehan, Boyle, Black & Bogdanow, P.C. She has also has served as a president of both the Massachusetts Bar Association and the Massachusetts Academy of Trial Attorneys.  
  • Laura Gal, Esq., Supervisory Attorney for Family Law at Northeast Legal Aid. Attorney Gal served as the Commission's consultant from September 2017 through June 2019, and has also worked as a staff attorney in the Family Law Unit and the Benefits Unit at Community Legal Aid, and in the Family Advocacy Program at Boston Medical Center.
  • Benjamin Golden, Esq., Health Law Clinical Fellow at Suffolk University Law School. Attorney Golden has previously held positions as an assistant attorney general in the Consumer Protection Division of the Massachusetts Attorney General's Office and as a law clerk for the Honorable Mitchell J. Sikora, Jr. at the Massachusetts Appeals Court and for the Honorable Robert J. Lynn at the New Hampshire Supreme Court.
  • J. D. Smeallie, Esq., a litigation partner at Holland & Knight and former executive partner of the firm's Boston office. Attorney Smeallie is a former President of the Boston Bar Association (BBA), as well as a former Trustee of the BBA Foundation, and will serve as the BBA's representative on the Commission.

First established by the Supreme Judicial Court in 2005, the Access to Justice Commission seeks to improve access to justice for people who are unable to afford an attorney for essential civil legal needs, such as cases involving housing, consumer debt, and family law. Among other activities, the Commission coordinates with civil legal aid organizations to support their activities and develop new initiatives to address unmet needs. The Commission also works to increase the number of attorneys able to provide pro bono or limited assistance civil legal services and coordinates with the court system on initiatives that assist individuals to better understand and navigate civil legal proceedings. The Commission's members include representatives from the court system, legal aid organizations, social service organizations, bar associations, law schools, businesses, and other stakeholders in the access to justice community.

The Commission is co-chaired by Supreme Judicial Court Chief Justice Gants and Susan M. Finegan, Esq., of Mintz, Levin, Cohn, Ferris, Glovsky & Popeo, P.C.

More information about the Commission and its activities is available in its recently released Annual Report for 2018-2019, which is available on the Commission's website,, under the Resources/Library tab at


Media Contact for Massachusetts Access to Justice Commission Announces Four New Members and Release of Annual Report

Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court 

The Supreme Judicial Court is the Commonwealth's highest appellate court.

Massachusetts Court System 

The Massachusetts court system consists of the Supreme Judicial Court, the Appeals Court, the Executive Office of the Trial Court, the 7 Trial Court departments, the Massachusetts Probation Service, and the Office of Jury Commissioner.