Category Archives: Boston Housing Court
BBA Lawyer for the Day in the Boston Housing Court Program Celebrates 15 Years of Helping Pro Se Litigants
Last Thursday, volunteers, court employees, and program leadership gathered at 16 Beacon to celebrate the success of the Lawyer for the Day Program in the Boston Housing Court Program at the 15th anniversary celebration of the Program. Since the Program’s inception in 1999, over 12,000 volunteers have helped more than 15,000 landlords and tenants navigate through the Boston Housing Court. In addition to the opportunity to network and enjoy food and drink, the evening was filled with a number of volunteer appreciation awards to longtime volunteers who are essential to its longevity. First Justice of the Boston Housing Court Jeffrey Winik presented awards to Sharon Jones (The Law Office of Sharon V. Jones), Andy Cohn (WilmerHale), and Housing Court Specialists Michael Neville, Alex Valderrama, Hector Jenkins, Delia Mathes, and Catarina Andrade.
Check out more highlights from the evening below:
The program is a collaboration between the Boston Housing Court, Boston Bar Association, Volunteer Lawyers Project of the Boston Bar Association, Greater Boston Legal Services and Legal Services Center of Harvard Law School, and is supported by the Wiley Vaughan Fund of the Boston Bar Foundation.
On Monday evening we kicked off a week of Boston Housing Court events at 16 Beacon with “Trying a Case in Housing Court.” The BBA partnered with the Volunteer Lawyers Project to teach attorneys the ins and outs of trying a Housing Court case from opening to closing – with a special presentation on evidence rules as they pertain to eviction cases. In exchange for the free training, attorneys are expected to volunteer with the Lawyer for the Day in the Boston Housing Court Program – which brings us to our next event.
As our readers may remember from this post, we will be celebrating the 15th Anniversary of the Lawyer for the Day in the Boston Housing Court Program this Thursday at 5 pm. Be sure to join us and salute the amazing accomplishments of this program (more than 15,000 pro se litigants helped!) and thank our hard working volunteers. Be there!
Monday’s training was a great success, with more than 35 attorneys in attendance. To learn more about the experience, Beyond the Billable sat down with event panelist and seasoned veteran of the housing court Chris Saccardi (The Law Office of Christopher T. Saccardi) to hear more about the training. Here’s what he had to say:
What do you hope attendees learned from the training?
“I hope that attorneys who are considering taking their first pro bono housing case feel a little bit more confident appearing in front of the Housing Court judges and potentially taking their case to trial. Our goal was to give attendees some tips on how to conduct a trial in the Housing Court and to give them the opportunity to hear from Judge Winik, who has been a big supporter of the Volunteer Lawyers Project’s pro bono programs. “
Why should attorneys get involved in pro bono efforts in the Housing Court? How can pro bono experience help attorneys build a practice?
“First, regardless of one’s practice area, taking cases at the Housing Court is an excellent way to gain valuable litigation experience. Because the vast majority of litigants are unrepresented, there are ample opportunities to appear for various motion hearings and, if participants wish, to conduct trials. Second, if an attorney is interested in taking housing cases as part of their private practice, I can’t think of a better way to gain the procedural and substantive knowledge necessary to successfully pursue such cases. Third, while these are pro bono cases and attorneys should not necessarily expect to be paid, there is the potential for an award of attorney’s fees if one wins under a statute that includes a fee shifting provision. Finally, the most important reason to volunteer is because there is a large, unmet need for representation, particularly among the low- and middle-income population that VLP typically serves. These individuals often face an attorney on the other side and the involvement of a volunteer attorney can often make a huge difference in the outcome of the case, sometimes resulting, for example, in a preserved tenancy where an unrepresented tenant might otherwise have ended up homeless.”
Volunteer Lawyers Project of the Boston Bar Association thanks the following attorneys who accepted cases or provided consultation through the Lawyer for the Day in the Boston Housing Court Program or Chapter 7 Bankruptcy Program in January and February:
Lawyer for the Day in the Boston Housing Court Program
Nicholas Bentley, Mintz Levin
Christine Dieter, Goodwin Procter LLP
Dahlia Fetouh, Goodwin Procter
Martsyl Joseph, Committee for Public Counsel Services
Jennifer Kent, Goodwin Procter
Corrine Lusic, Goodwin Procter
Kenneth Parker, Parker Keough LLP
Sarah Solomon, Goodwin Procter
Leann Walsh, Goodwin Procter
Katy Ward, Mintz, Levin
James Xu, Goodwin Procter
Chapter 7 Bankruptcy Program
Richard Baldwin, Foley Hoag
Mark Berman, Nixon Peabody
Peter Bilowz, Goulston Storrs
Jeremy Coffey, Brown Rudnick
Kenneth Parker, Parker Keough LLP
Steven Pohl, Brown Rudnick
Kiersten Taylor, Brown Rudnick
Did you know that approximately 90 percent of tenants and 50 percent of landlords in the Boston Housing Court don’t have legal representation? Since 1999, the BBA’s Lawyer for the Day in the Housing Court Program has acted as a lifeline for pro se landlords and tenants, with volunteers providing more than 15,000 pro se litigants with legal assistance.
This year, the Program has been able provide representation to over 450 tenants and 100 landlords. Last Wednesday, the Program also launched a monthly initiative with Burns & Levinson LLP that will assist Section 8 clients facing eviction. As our members know, a lawyer can make all the difference for families who are facing the loss of their homes and landlords who need to better understand their rights.
Beyond the Billable checked in with Joanna Allison (Volunteer Lawyers Project) to learn more about the Program. Here’s what she had to say:
“The Lawyer for the Day in the Boston Housing Court Program gives a voice to so many in need. This Program is a model not only for legal professionals and law firms, but for the nation as a whole. I am proud to be a part of a program that prioritizes increased access to justice and look forward to watching the program grow and expand its reach.”
The Boston Bar Foundation Vaughan Fund covers essential materials needed to run the program, such as updated signage and nametags to allow for volunteer attorneys to be easily identified. This year the BBF has already raised over $5,000 for the Vaughan Fund. Are you interested in supporting this Program? Learn more about making a contribution or how you can volunteer.
Join us in celebrating the 15th Anniversary of the Lawyer for the Day in the Boston Housing Court Program, on April 10th at 5:00 p.m. It will be an evening of food and drinks while we acknowledge the hard work of volunteers, Housing Court staff and the many others who make the program possible. R.S.V.P. online here.
Guest Post: Samantha Odreman is the current Lawyer Referral Service Co-op Intern at the BBA. Born in Venezuela, Samantha is finishing her sophomore year at Northeastern University where she studies International Affairs.
Last Thursday, I had the opportunity to go to Housing Court and found it a fascinating experience. I met with the attorneys who volunteer for the BBA’s Lawyer for the Day in the Boston Housing Court Program to help hundreds of landlords and tenants in need of a fair resolution. Over the course of the morning, I observed the people who entered the courthouse looking nervous and anxious begin to see the difference the volunteers were going to be able to make. After talking the attorneys, they seemed to calm down. Throughout the day, I watched landlords and tenants working with the volunteers to prepare their cases and get some answers. It was interesting to see that most landlords were big housing corporations with experienced attorneys, whereas tenants were mostly on their own. Inside the courtroom, most cases were sent to mediation and the rest were dismissed because one of the parties had defaulted. However, I was lucky enough to witness different hearings and see first hand the amazing work that volunteer attorneys do for their clients.
After a very busy morning, Judge Jeffrey Winik, First Justice of the Boston Housing Court, invited a small group of us to the front of the courtroom to ask questions. He explained why he cared so much about the people who came to Court and the importance of the work he does. He is very much aware of how much power and authority the Housing Court has and the responsibility that carries. He works hard to make sure both parties get the best outcome. I really admire his commitment to people and his passion for doing things right.
Going to Housing Court definitely made me see things from a different perspective. It is very hard to go through a situation where you could lose your home because you cannot pay or because someone did not pay you. However, it eases my mind to know that there are people who really want to make things work and are willing to make an effort, and I am glad there is a system in place for those who choose to do just that.
Volunteer Lawyers Project of the Boston Bar Association thanks the following attorneys who accepted cases or provided consultation in September and October:
Nicholas Bentley, Mintz Levin
Esther Cho, Mintz Levin
Jason Crow, McDermott Will Emery
David Himelfarb, McCarter & English
Walter Howell, McCarter & English
Amaan Husain, Maloney & Associates
Brian Kydd, Kneeland & Kydd
Michael Levesque, Goodwin Proctor
Corrine Lusic, Goodwin Proctor
Stephanie Marzouk, Glickman Turley LLP
James McGinnis, Ropes & Gray
Michael Morales, Murray & Associates
Steven Pohl, Brown Rudnick
Ella Shenhav, Mintz Levin
Sarah Soloman, Goodwin Proctor
Christian Westra, Ropes & Gray
Though Pro Bono Month has officially ended, Beyond the Billable encourages its readers to take advantage of the BBA’s public service and pro bono initiatives year-round. If you needed any extra motivation, take a look at the four pro bono spotlights below, each of which highlights the commitment and participation of dedicated lawyers dedicated to pro bono work.
Thomas Beauvais: Lawyer for a Day Has A Lifetime Impact
Meg McKenzie Feist: Helping to Ease Burdens Through Bankruptcy
Donald Lassman: Financial Education for Service Members as a Means of Prevention
Katy Ward: Ensuring Access to Justice in Boston’s Housing Court
For a full recap of Pro Bono Month, click here. Please contact Katie D’Angelo, Public Service Programs Coordinator, at firstname.lastname@example.org for more information on how to get involved throughout the year.