Report Finds Black Girls are Subject to Discriminatory School Disciplinary Action in Kansas, Massachusetts, and Alabama

WASHINGTON, DC, September 2, 2020 – Three members of the Appleseed Network, a non-profit network of independent organizations in the United States and Mexico working towards social and legal justice, today announced the release of their comprehensive report, “Protecting Girls of Color from the School-to-Prison Pipeline,” the final product of a year-long research project examining disparities in school disciplinary treatment for Black girls in Massachusetts, Alabama, and Kansas. Willkie Farr & Gallagher LLP, an international law firm, served as pro bono partner throughout the project. 
 
The report is part of the Network’s extensive efforts to dismantle the complex school-to-prison pipeline, a continuum encompassing the steps that drive children out of school and into the juvenile and adult criminal justice systems.  Understanding how states approach school discipline is key: disciplinary policies including suspensions, expulsions, and school-based arrests may act as “gateways” to the criminal justice system later in their lives. 
 
The report’s findings illuminate a stark truth: girls of color, particularly Black girls, are consistently disciplined at a rate much higher than their white peers. Often, discipline is incurred more or to a greater extent by Black girls than their white peers for similar behavior. The findings also emphasize the significant change needed in school district disciplinary policies and data collection methods in order to protect girls of color from being funneled into the school-to-prison pipeline by means of excessive school discipline.
 
“This research helps to shine a light on one of the many ways that systemic racism continues to play out in Alabama,” says Akiesha Anderson, Policy Director at Alabama Appleseed. “The data irrefutably shows that Alabama’s public schools discipline Black girls more harshly than their white counterparts. As state leaders continue to grapple with criminal justice reform, the school-to-prison pipeline and its impact on Black girls should not be left out of the conversation.”
 
Key findings in the report include:

  • Across Alabama, Kansas, and Massachusetts, Black female students are roughly 5.2 times more likely to be disciplined than white female students.
  • In Alabama, Black girls are roughly 3.7 times more likely to be disciplined than their white female classmates
  • In Kansas, Black girls are roughly 6.2 times more likely more likely to be disciplined than their white female classmates.
  • In Massachusetts, Black girls are roughly 3.9 times more likely to be disciplined than their white counterparts.
  • State level data that is disaggregated by race, gender, and ethnicity is not widely available. The data also do not account for multiple forms of discipline and do not typically state the cause for discipline.

Policy proposals include:

  • More state and federal legislation mandating the consistent collection of data on school disciplinary action and ensuring databases are publicly accessible, cross-tabulated, and disaggregated to account for age, gender, race, and ethnicity.
  • More transparent data and incident reporting is a key step to further advocacy aimed at making schools safe environments for all students.

Deb Silva, Executive Director of Massachusetts Appleseed and a key partner on this project, said of the report, “It demonstrates the devastating impact that the intersection of gender and racial discrimination is having on Black girls in Massachusetts schools, and the indisputable need to include our classrooms in the ongoing dialogues about systemic racism currently sweeping the country. The school-to-prison pipeline is very much alive in Massachusetts, and this report is an important step forward in our work to advocate against the unjust school discipline policies that target and punish girls of color and promote a more inclusive and supportive vision of education.”
 
“The report exposes a dramatic imbalance in our school system and highlights the continued need for us to investigate and eradicate systemic racism at every level of our society.  It is impossible to ignore the lifelong consequences that such a disparate school discipline system has on young people of color,” says Mike Fonkert, Campaign Director of Kansas Appleseed. “We must do better.”

Willkie Farr & Gallagher worked with representatives from Alabama Appleseed, Massachusetts Appleseed, and Kansas Appleseed to collect and analyze federal school disciplinary data from the U.S. Department of Education’s Civil Rights Data Collection database, as well as state-level data from the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education. The report analyzes data available for five discipline categories: in-school suspensions, out-of-school suspensions, expulsions, referrals to law enforcement, and school-related arrests.

About the Appleseed Network
Appleseed is a network of 16 justice centers across the U.S. and Mexico working for a more just, inclusive, and hopeful future for us all.
 
For more information, please contact:

Alabama Appleseed
Carla Crowder, Executive Director
205-305-0735
carla.crowder@alabamaappleseed.org

Massachusetts Appleseed
Deb Silva, Executive Director
617-482-8686
deb@massappleseed.org

Kansas Appleseed
Mike Fonkert, Campaign Director
mfonkert@kansasappleseed.org

Massachusetts could increase access to justice through just one website

BOSTON, October 3, 2019 — A research report released today by the Massachusetts Appleseed Center for Law and Justice explores how the Massachusetts Trial Court could develop a new, online help center for court users.

The report details how the court system could use innovative technology, a free help line, and a revamped collection of informational materials to assist court users who are forced to represent themselves because they cannot afford to hire an attorney or do not qualify for legal aid. Over half of all civil court users in the Commonwealth represent themselves without the assistance of an attorney, according to the Massachusetts Access to Justice Commission.

“Today in Massachusetts, most people who find themselves in civil court are there alone, without a lawyer to assist them. Usually, this is because they can’t afford to pay for legal help. They’re at risk of losing their families, homes, and livelihood not because they’ve done something wrong, but because they don’t know how to protect their rights,” said Deborah Silva, Executive Director of the Massachusetts Appleseed Center for Law and Justice. “One proven solution to this growing problem is for courts to provide free online self-help services.”

Court users and the staff who serve them report a need for answering basic logistical questions, providing legal information on case processes, and help with filling out court forms as the most in-demand services from court users.

Today’s report recommends options for expanding legal self-help services that also meet the needs of court users in Massachusetts, including:

  • Creating a LiveHelp center where court users could call or message attorneys with questions about their cases.
  • Developing new document assembly programs that would allow users to easily fill out legal forms online.
  • Revamping the existing informational webpage the court system provides to make it more complete and user-friendly.

As the report details, many other states have taken steps to provide expansive, more effective legal self-help materials through their court websites. Most states – including Massachusetts – have information on how to navigate court proceedings and different types of civil court cases, such as divorce, guardianship, housing, or small claims cases, available online. In addition, state courts in Maryland and Alaska have also developed LiveHelp centers where court users can call a free phone line and receive information and guidance from attorneys and paralegals. In New York, the court system has developed an extensive collection of document assembly programs that allow users to enter their personal information and then receive completed legal forms that they can file with the court.

“We hope the Virtual Court Service Center will be a lasting contribution to increasing access to justice in Massachusetts,” Silva added. “This report represents an exciting vision of how we can use technology to help an even greater number of people with their legal issues than ever before.”

The report, “Turning on the Lights: How the Massachusetts Trial Court Could Deploy a Virtual Court Service Center to Assist Self-Represented Litigants” is available online: https://massappleseed.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/10/Court-Service-Center-Report-Final.pdf

About the Massachusetts Appleseed Center for Law and Justice:

Massachusetts Appleseed’s mission is to promote equal rights and opportunities for Massachusetts residents by developing and advocating for systemic solutions to social justice issues. We research the ways in which the justice system, schools, and government agencies are systematically failing our most vulnerable residents. We collaborate with community partners to ensure that recommended plans of action are practical and comprehensive. We advocate for the implementation of solutions that will create lasting change.

Contact Jake Hofstetter at 617-482-8686 or email jake@massappleseed.org for more information about this report.

 

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For Immediate Release

BOSTON, MA – The Massachusetts Appleseed Center for Law and Justice welcomed Kevin J. Curtin, Senior Appellate Counsel/Grand Jury Director for Middlesex District Attorney Marian T. Ryan, to its Board of Directors at its Annual Meeting on June 27, 2019. Massachusetts Appleseed, a nonprofit organization that advocates for systemic reform in areas such as access to justice, youth homelessness, and education is pleased to have Mr. Curtin, a talented attorney and professor and resolute advocate for social justice, join its Board of Directors as it celebrates its 25th anniversary this year. 

“It is a great honor to be asked to serve in this role,” said Mr. Curtin. “I have known about the Massachusetts Appleseed Center for Law and Justice for as long as I can remember and I have deep respect for this remarkable institution, especially its focus on the underlying causes of core inequities in our society that trouble us all. I’m talking about issues like poverty, homelessness, racial and economic segregation, inefficient courts, ineffective governmental service providers and governmental social policies that – wittingly or unwittingly – create systemic unfairness and injustice.”

“I look forward to working with this talented Board and with our dedicated staff to advance Massachusetts Appleseed’s mission to provide meaningful access to justice for all,” he said. “Together, I hope we will continue to help bend what the Rev. Martin Luther King called the long ‘arc of the moral universe,’ so that the idea of justice may become a little more real in the world.” 

Kevin J. Curtin, Senior Appellate Counsel/Grand Jury Director for the Office of the Middlesex District Attorney.

Kevin J. Curtin serves as Senior Appellate Counsel/Grand Jury Director for Middlesex District Attorney Marian T. Ryan. He supervises the grand jury practice, writes and supervises appellate briefs, conducts oral arguments, manages Superior Court post-conviction matters, and advises the District Attorney and bureau chiefs. Mr. Curtin is a graduate of Boston College Law School and previously served as a judicial law clerk for U.S. District Court Judge William G. Young. Mr. Curtin teaches at Boston College Law School, the National Trial Advocacy College at the University of Virginia School of Law, and in the Harvard Law School Trial Advocacy Workshop. He is a vice-chair of the American Bar Association Criminal Justice Section Council and co-chairs the Section’s Committee on Appellate and Habeas Practice. Since 2016 he has served on the ABA’s Working Group on Building Trust in the American Justice System. He has consulted extensively for the Republic of Uzbekistan since 2015, visiting the developing constitutional democracy six times since then and participating in the historic law reform efforts ongoing in that nation. In 2017, he was named Prosecutor of the Year by the Massachusetts District Attorney’s Association and was honored by the Massachusetts Bar Association with one of its annual “Access to Justice” Awards. In November 2018, he received the American Bar Association’s Norm Maleng Minister of Justice Award. He joins the Board of Directors of Massachusetts Appleseed following in the footsteps of his father Jack Curtin, who was a leading advocate for legal aid and a former member of the Massachusetts Appleseed Board.

“Kevin Curtin is a true advocate for justice, and it is an honor to have him bring his years of expertise and his dedication to expanding access to opportunity for all to the Board of Directors,” said Melanie Todman, Chair of the Board. “To have Kevin continue the powerful and profound legacy of his father, Jack Curtin, on Massachusetts Appleseed’s Board is a remarkable gift, particularly as we celebrate our 25th anniversary.”

About the Massachusetts Appleseed Center for Law and Justice:

Massachusetts Appleseed’s mission is to promote equal rights and opportunities for Massachusetts residents by developing and advocating for systemic solutions to social justice issues. We research the ways in which the justice system, schools, and government agencies are systematically failing our most vulnerable residents. We collaborate with community partners to ensure that recommended plans of action are practical and comprehensive. We advocate for the implementation of solutions that will create lasting change.

For Immediate Release

BOSTON, MA – The Massachusetts Appleseed Center for Law and Justice Board of Directors unanimously voted to appoint Melanie L. Todman, Associate at Nutter McClennen & Fish LLP, to Chair of its Board of Directors at its Annual Meeting on June 27, 2019. She succeeds Martha Mazzone, Executive Vice President of Legal Transformation at Cobra Legal Solutions LLC, who served as Board Chair since 2014 and who will remain on the Board of Directors.

“It has been an honor to serve as Chair of the Board over the past several years, and I thank my fellow Board members for the opportunity,” said Martha Mazzone. “I join my colleagues in congratulating Melanie, a true advocate of social justice with a deep commitment to moving Massachusetts Appleseed’s mission and projects forward. I am confident that under her leadership, Appleseed will continue and expand its essential work to reform the systemic barriers that keep access to justice and equal opportunity out of reach for so many in our state.”

Additionally, the Massachusetts Appleseed Board of Directors elected John A. Shutkin, General Counsel at CliftonLarsonAllen LLP, as the new Vice-Chair. Justin J. Wolosz of Choate Hall & Stewart LLP has stepped down as Vice-Chair and will also continue to serve on the full Board of Directors. Massachusetts Appleseed, a nonprofit organization that advocates for systemic reform in areas such as access to justice, youth homelessness, and education is pleased to announce that Ms. Todman and Mr. Shutkin have assumed their new leadership roles.

Melanie L. Todman, Associate at Nutter McClennen & Fish LLP

Ms. Todman is an associate in Nutter’s Litigation Department. Her practice focuses on advising clients in internal governmental investigations and complex civil litigation relating to securities, insurance and reinsurance, commercial and product liability, government procurement, and municipal law. She has also spent time as a volunteer attorney in the Harvard Legal Aid Bureau and prior to that, was a legal fellow at Heartland Alliance International in Chicago. While serving on the Board of Massachusetts Appleseed, she has been a champion of the organization’s access to justice work, devoting hours of pro bono time to its pilot project, Turning on the Lights: How the Massachusetts Trial Court Could Deploy a Virtual Court Service Center to Assist Self-Represented Litigants.

“I want to extend my deepest thanks to Martha Mazzone for her tireless work as Chair for so many years, and to the Board of Directors for their confidence in me to serve in this new role,” said Ms. Todman. “Appleseed’s work to break down systemic barriers affecting our most vulnerable residents is more important than ever, and I look forward to working with my colleagues on the Board to continue moving Appleseed’s vital mission and projects forward.”

John A. Shutkin, General Counsel at CliftonLarsonAllen LLP.

John A. Shutkin is the General Counsel of CliftonLarsonAllen LLP, based in its Lexington, Massachusetts office. His extensive legal experience includes serving as General Counsel for KPMG International and the law firm of Shearman & Sterling LLP. Throughout his career, he has devoted his time to working for communities in need, serving on the boards of Wisconsin Equal Justice Fund, Partnership for After School Education (PASE), the Bank Street College of Education, and the National Center for Law and Economic Justice. Mr. Shutkin is a committed member of the Appleseed network and in the past, served on the Board of Directors at Massachusetts Appleseed’s sister center, Connecticut Appleseed. In his time on the Board of Directors, Mr. Shutkin has generously supported the organization’s programs and will be heading the new Governance Committee.

“There is nothing more critical right now than continuing to expand justice and equal rights for all of our residents in Massachusetts, and I am honored to have the opportunity to do so as Vice-Chair of Massachusetts Appleseed,” said Mr. Shutkin. “I thank my fellow Board members as well as Martha Mazzone for her years of leadership and wisdom, and I look forward to working with Melanie to make a real difference for Massachusetts’ most vulnerable communities.”

Massachusetts Appleseed is celebrating its 25th anniversary this year and is thrilled to have Ms. Todman and Mr. Shutkin at the helm as the organization charts its path forward.

About the Massachusetts Appleseed Center for Law and Justice:

Massachusetts Appleseed’s mission is to promote equal rights and opportunities for Massachusetts residents by developing and advocating for systemic solutions to social justice issues. We research the ways in which the justice system, schools, and government agencies are systematically failing our most vulnerable residents. We collaborate with community partners to ensure that recommended plans of action are practical and comprehensive. We advocate for the implementation of solutions that will create lasting change.

For Immediate Release

BOSTON, May 29, 2019 – The Massachusetts Appleseed Center for Law and Justice applauds the Massachusetts Access to Justice Commission’s conclusions in its recently released report that courthouse cell phone bans create “unacceptable hardships” for court users and visitors. The Commission’s report recommended that cell phone bans “should be phased out in favor of alternative security measures” that prevent the misuse of cell phones in courthouses while allowing court users access to their devices.

These findings echo a July 2018 report by Massachusetts Appleseed that detailed how cell phone bans prevent people without attorneys from presenting critical evidence stored on their phones or referencing relevant legal resources during their legal proceedings. Appleseed also found that these bans create serious hardships for low-income court users who are often unable to coordinate childcare, transportation, and their absences from work without access to their cell phones.

“The burden of courthouse cell phone bans falls especially hard on people with business before the court who cannot afford to hire an attorney to represent them, many of whom are also members of other vulnerable populations,” said Deborah Silva, Executive Director of Massachusetts Appleseed. “I’m thrilled to see the Massachusetts court system take another step closer to ensuring justice for all and am grateful to the Access to Justice Commission’s working group for its thorough and thoughtful study of this issue.”

Cell phone bans exist in 56 court facilities across Massachusetts, but the Commission recommended that the bans be reviewed and eliminated in most courthouses while providing exemptions for self-represented litigants in all courthouses during the transition period. In high-security risk courthouses where restrictions are deemed necessary, the Commission recommended that the bans could be replaced with either in-court storage facilities or Yondr pouches (tamper-proof containers that the phone’s owner can carry but have to be unlocked by security personnel). The Commission’s report also emphasized that the court system’s portable electronic device policies should focus on regulating the use of devices rather than the possession of them.

Massachusetts Appleseed’s report, Cell Phones in the Courthouse, an Access to Justice Perspective, can be found on its website: www.massappleseed.org.

 

About the Massachusetts Appleseed Center for Law and Justice:

Massachusetts Appleseed’s mission is to promote equal rights and opportunities for Massachusetts residents by developing and advocating for systemic solutions to social justice issues. Appleseed uses research, collaboration, and advocacy to advance social justice across the Commonwealth. For more information about Massachusetts Appleseed, visit www.massappleseed.org. Follow us on Twitter: @MassAppleseed.

Media Contact:
Deborah Silva, Executive Director, Massachusetts Appleseed
617-482-9111, deb@massappleseed.org

Bob Rivers, Good Apple Award Recipient (Photo By: Greg M. Cooper / Eastern Bank)

For Immediate Release

Honoring Bob Rivers, Chair and CEO of Eastern Bank

Boston, MA – On March 28, 2019, the Massachusetts Appleseed Center for Law and Justice (“MA Appleseed”) honored Bob Rivers with its 12th annual Good Apple Award. MA Appleseed also celebrated its 25th anniversary with a special cocktail hour, which was followed by the award reception at 6:00 pm in the Wharf Room at the Boston Harbor Hotel. Each year, MA Appleseed presents the “Good Apple” award to someone in the Massachusetts business or legal community who exemplifies the principles of social justice and equal opportunity on which MA Appleseed was itself founded. This year marks the first time that a member of the business community has been honored with the “Good Apple” award. The event, which serves as Massachusetts Appleseed’s annual fundraiser, raises money to support the organization’s program and outreach efforts.

“What a great evening we had, with so many friends and colleagues of our honoree, Bob Rivers, gathered to remind us why he is such an important leader in our community,” said Martha A. Mazzone, chair of the Board of Directors of MA Appleseed. “When Bob addressed the assembled guests, his inspirational words about fairness and speaking truth to power were perfectly aligned with Appleseed’s mission to correct systemic social inequities. Mincing no words, he made it clear that he will never stop being a champion for social justice and putting his words into action wherever he can.”

Rivers is Chair and CEO of Eastern Bank, America’s oldest and largest mutual bank and the largest independent community bank headquartered in Massachusetts with $11 billion in assets and over 115 locations. He is also Chair of the Massachusetts Business Roundtable and The Dimock Center.

“It is a great honor to receive this award from Massachusetts Appleseed, especially as it celebrates its 25th anniversary, and to join the past honorees in promoting equal rights for all,” Bob Rivers said. “I am humbled to be recognized by an organization that understands demonstrating true equal access and opportunity for all people is both a moral and business imperative. Thank you to Massachusetts Appleseed for this very special honor and award presentation.”

Named after the late Senator Robert F. Kennedy, Rivers’ passion for advocating for social justice causes and sustainability issues is the result of a personal and professional journey that began early in his life. He has been recognized by many organizations for his work in championing diversity and social justice, including The Boston Globe, The Partnership, Get Konnected!, Color Magazine, the Massachusetts Immigrant and Refugee Advocacy Coalition (MIRA), the Asian American Civic Association (AACA), Association of Latino Professionals For America (ALPFA), El Planeta, the Massachusetts Transgender Political Coalition, The Theater Offensive, and MassINC.

Featured speaker at the event, the Honorable Kathleen Kennedy Townsend, remarked, “As someone named for my father, Robert Kennedy, Bob Rivers certainly bears his legacy well. Bob has an unwavering commitment to the pursuit of social justice and leads Eastern Bank with an extraordinary vision of equity. I am so glad to have been able to help celebrate Massachusetts Appleseed’s 25th anniversary and to present Bob with the Good Apple Award.”

“Bob is a champion of social justice and a force for good in Massachusetts. He represents the absolute best of our corporate community and we couldn’t be happier to present him with the 2019 Good Apple Award,” said Deborah Silva, Executive Director of MA Appleseed.

The Sustainer sponsors of this event include the Board of Directors of Massachusetts Appleseed and Past Good Apple Honorees.

Recent past recipients of the Good Apple award include Senator William “Mo” Cowan, President of Global Government Affairs and Policy at GE; Jonathan Chiel, Executive Vice President and General Counsel of Fidelity Investments; Jeffrey N. Carp, Executive Vice President and Chief Legal Officer of State Street Corporation; Stephanie S. Lovell, Senior Vice President and General Counsel of Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts; Lon F. Povich, former Executive Vice President and General Counsel of BJ’s Wholesale Club, Inc.; Susan H. Alexander, Chief Legal Officer of Biogen Idec; and Paul T. Dacier, former General Counsel of EMC Corporation (now Dell).

Champion Sponsor

About the Massachusetts Appleseed Center for Law and Justice:

Massachusetts Appleseed’s mission is to promote social justice and equal rights for Massachusetts’ residents by developing and advocating for systemic solutions to issues of systemic inequality.

At Massachusetts Appleseed, we dedicate ourselves to remedying social injustices for at-risk and underserved children, youth, and adults residing within our state. Working with volunteer lawyers, community partners, and others, we identify and address gaps in services and opportunities in areas such as education, homelessness, and the accessibility of the Massachusetts court system. Through in-depth research, consensus building, and community problem solving, we develop powerful solutions for reforming the systems and structures responsible for injustice. Our work seeks to level the playing field and transform communities. Every year we honor someone in the business or legal profession equally committed to these principles through our “Good Apple” award.

For Immediate Release

Jessica L. Ellis, Hearing Officer at the Department of Public Utilities

Boston, MA – The Massachusetts Appleseed Center for Law and Justice welcomed Jessica L. Ellis, a Hearing Officer in the Legal Division at the Department of Public Utilities, and Samuel R. Gates, an Associate at Pierce Davis & Perritano LLP, to its Board of Directors on November 27, 2018. The Massachusetts Appleseed Center, a non-profit organization that advocates for systemic reform in areas such as education, youth homelessness, and access to justice, is pleased to have Ms. Ellis and Mr. Gates, two enormously talented attorneys, join the organization.

“One of our long-time Board members who is stepping down, Kristen Graves, referred Jessica and Sam to us, and we could not be happier to invite them to join the Board,” said Martha Mazzone, chairperson of the Board of Directors. “Both have extensive experience in representing the underserved population in Massachusetts, and consequently have the expertise to enhance our access to justice work. We will no doubt rely on them both for insight into how a “user” experiences the justice system.”

Samuel R. Gates, Associate at Pierce Davis & Perritano LLP

Ms. Ellis currently presides over administrative hearings and manages case teams of technical staff in matters concerning electric power, natural gas, water companies, pipelines, and transportation network companies for the state of Massachusetts. Mr. Gates’s current practice focuses on litigation and trial advocacy in defense of cities, towns, and other public employers in Massachusetts State and Federal Court, and he brings unique and substantial business experience alongside his legal expertise. Both Ms. Ellis and Mr. Gates have spent years dedicated to the representation of indigent clients. They were student attorneys in Suffolk University Law School’s immigration and criminal defense clinics, and both previously worked at the Committee for Public Counsel Services, the Massachusetts public defender agency, as Trial Attorneys.

“It is a privilege to join the Board of an organization dedicated to finding creative and impactful solutions to issues plaguing our most vulnerable citizens,” Ms. Ellis said. “Appleseed’s mission is one that we should all strive to incorporate in our day-to-day lives.”

Mr. Gates said, “Massachusetts Appleseed is doing critical work to fight for equal rights and social justice. I am honored to join its Board of Directors and grateful for the opportunity to contribute to its mission.”

 

About the Massachusetts Appleseed Center for Law and Justice:

Massachusetts Appleseed’s mission is to promote equal rights and opportunities for Massachusetts residents by developing and advocating for systemic solutions to social justice issues. Working with volunteer lawyers, community partners, and others, we identify and address gaps in services and opportunities in areas such as education, homelessness, and the court system. Through in-depth research, consensus building, and community problem solving, we develop powerful solutions for reforming the systems and structures responsible. Our work seeks to level the playing field and transform communities.

For Immediate Release

Melanie L. Todman, Associate at Nutter McClennen & Fish LLP

Boston, MA – The Massachusetts Appleseed Center for Law and Justice Board of Directors unanimously voted at its September 25th board meeting to appoint Melanie L. Todman, Associate at Nutter McClennen & Fish LLP, to join Justin J. Wolosz of Choate Hall & Stewart LLP as co-Vice Chair. The Massachusetts Appleseed Center, a non-profit organization that advocates for systemic reform in areas such as education, youth homelessness, and access to justice, is thrilled to have Ms. Todman, among the organization’s most dedicated volunteers, assume a leadership role on the Board.

Ms. Todman is an associate in Nutter’s Litigation Department. Her practice focuses on advising clients in internal governmental investigations and complex civil litigation relating to securities, insurance and reinsurance, commercial and product liability, government procurement, and municipal law. She has also spent time as a volunteer attorney in the Harvard Legal Aid Bureau and prior to that, was a legal fellow at Heartland Alliance International in Chicago. While serving on the Board of Massachusetts Appleseed, she has been a champion of the organization’s access to justice work, devoting hours of pro bono time to its pilot project, Turning on the Lights: How Online Resources Can Help the Trial Court Illuminate the Process of Self-Representation for Massachusetts Litigants.

“The opportunity to work with Massachusetts Appleseed in this new role is an absolute privilege,” said Ms. Todman. “As a steward of Massachusetts society, Appleseed’s work to first identify issues affecting underserved people in our community, and then engage with community stakeholders to develop long-lasting, structural solutions for those issues, is crucial to building a more just and equitable society. I look forward to assisting the organization in any way I can to achieve its critical mission of working to ensure equal rights and opportunities for every person in the Commonwealth.”

“Anyone who attended our 2017 Good Apple reception honoring Jonathan Chiel will remember Melanie, then a new member of the Board, who closed the event with stirring but disturbing comments about the foreseeable road ahead under the new administration,” said Martha Mazzone, chairperson of the Board of Directors. “She noted the absolute necessity to support groups like Appleseed that stand for the rule of law as the foundation of a just society. I admire Melanie for her rock solid demonstrated commitment to social justice and look forward to partnering with her and with her co-Vice Chair Justin in this, our organization’s 25th anniversary year.”

About the Massachusetts Appleseed Center for Law and Justice:

Massachusetts Appleseed’s mission is to promote equal rights and opportunities for Massachusetts residents by developing and advocating for systemic solutions to social justice issues. Working with volunteer lawyers, community partners, and others, we identify and address gaps in services and opportunities in areas such as education, homelessness, and the court system. Through in-depth research, consensus building, and community problem solving, we develop powerful solutions for reforming the systems and structures responsible. Our work seeks to level the playing field and transform communities.

For Immediate Release

John A. Shutkin, General Counsel of CliftonLarsonAllen LLP

Boston, MA – The Massachusetts Appleseed Center for Law and Justice welcomed John A. Shutkin, General Counsel of CliftonLarsonAllen LLP, to its Board of Directors at its board meeting on September 25, 2018. The Massachusetts Appleseed Center, a non-profit organization that advocates for systemic reform in areas such as education, youth homelessness, and access to justice, is pleased to have Mr. Shutkin, a truly dedicated advocate for social justice, join the organization.

John A. Shutkin is the General Counsel of CliftonLarsonAllen LLP, based in its Lexington, Massachusetts office. His extensive legal experience includes serving as General Counsel for KPMG International and the law firm of Shearman & Sterling LLP. Throughout his career, he has devoted his time to working for communities in need, serving on the boards of Wisconsin Equal Justice Fund, Partnership for After School Education (PASE), the Bank Street College of Education, and the National Center for Law and Economic Justice. Most importantly, Mr. Shutkin is a committed member of the Appleseed network and served on the Board of Directors at MA Appleseed’s sister center, Connecticut Appleseed.

“I am delighted and honored to join the board of MA Appleseed,” said Mr. Shutkin. “Since moving to the Boston area several years ago, I have wanted to get involved in a local equal rights and justice organization and I could not be more supportive of MA Appleseed’s mission and initiatives.”

“As we continue to build out our program and focus on solutions to the inequities in our legal system, we need true legal advocates at every level of the Appleseed organization to bring to fruition our plans,” said Martha Mazzone, chairperson of the Board of Directors. “John is a lifelong advocate for justice, and we are thrilled to have someone of his caliber and experience join our board.”

About the Massachusetts Appleseed Center for Law and Justice:

Massachusetts Appleseed’s mission is to promote equal rights and opportunities for Massachusetts residents by developing and advocating for systemic solutions to social justice issues. Working with volunteer lawyers, community partners, and others, we identify and address gaps in services and opportunities in areas such as education, homelessness, and the court system. Through in-depth research, consensus building, and community problem solving, we develop powerful solutions for reforming the systems and structures responsible. Our work seeks to level the playing field and transform communities.

For Immediate Release

Boston, July 24, 2018 – A policy brief released today by the Massachusetts Appleseed Center for Law and Justice examines the impact of banning cell phones and other personal electronic devices in Massachusetts courthouses. It finds that there are unintended consequences to the bans, especially for self-represented litigants, and that access to justice can be harmed as a result.

“It’s become increasingly clear that courthouse cell phones bans put litigants who are representing themselves at a serious disadvantage,” said Deborah Silva, Executive Director of the Massachusetts Appleseed Center for Law and Justice. “Attorneys can bring smart phones into courthouses, and they often store their clients’ phones so they can be accessed throughout the day, if needed. But pro se litigants do not have that option and so they cannot access proof of payments, agreements, and injuries that are stored on their phones in the form of email, text messages, and photos.”

Trial courts in Massachusetts permit the use of cell phones and other personal electronic devices provided that they are turned off or set to be silent before entering a courtroom. However, chief justices at individual courthouses may set further restrictions and currently 56 trial courts across the state do not allow anyone other than attorneys, jurors, and court personnel to bring cell phones into the courthouse.

Interviews with attorneys, litigants, and advocates for affected populations, such as people with low incomes, survivors of domestic violence, and people who speak a first language other than English found the following:

  • Litigants are often unaware of courthouse cellphone bans until they arrive at court. A few courthouses offer safe storage of phones and other electronic devices in secure lockers, but most do not.
  • When faced with the option of missing their court appointment if they cannot get rid of their phone, litigants have resorted to hiding their phones in bushes around the courthouse, leaving a phone with a cab driver, and even stashing their phone in the bag of a bicycle locked up outside the courthouse. Outside busy courthouses, some vendors have started phone storage businesses. This works for some litigants, but others cannot afford to pay for storage.
  • Self-represented litigants who are able to store their phones outside the courthouse are often hindered without them in the courtroom because they do not have access to evidence stored on their phones that support their legal claims. Phones are also necessary for coordinating translation services and using hearing assistance apps.

Cell phone bans were originally put in place to prevent individuals from recording victims, witnesses, jurors, or court employees for the purpose of threatening or intimidating them, or even broadcasting courtroom proceedings to people outside the courtroom. While the report acknowledges that these may be legitimate concerns in certain instances, an examination of policies and practices in other states, finds that there are ways to ensure safety without disadvantaging self-represented litigants. Examples of policies in courts in Massachusetts and other states that permit cell phones in courthouses include permitting their use in the courtroom but confiscating them if they are used improperly; designating courthouse spaces in which cell phones can be used; and providing secure lockers to safely store cell phones.

“Cell phones have become an integral part of daily life for most people and banning their use in public spaces such as courthouses has serious consequences,” Silva added. “Living in a democratic society demands a constant balance of security with liberty. Cell phone bans have outlived their usefulness and we need new policies to ensure that everyone who enters a Massachusetts courtroom enjoys the promise of access to justice.”

The report, “Cell Phones in the Courthouse: An Access to Justice Perspective,” is available online: http://massappleseed.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/07/Cell-Phones-in-the-Courthouse.pdf.

About the Massachusetts Appleseed Center for Law and Justice:

Massachusetts Appleseed’s mission is to promote equal rights and opportunities for Massachusetts residents by developing and advocating for systemic solutions to social justice issues. Working with volunteer lawyers, community partners, and others, we identify and address gaps in services and opportunities in areas such as education, homelessness, and the court system. Through in-depth research, consensus building, and community problem solving, we develop powerful solutions for reforming the systems and structures responsible. Our work seeks to level the playing field and transform communities.