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Pro Bono

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Sugarman Rogers has a well-earned reputation for its commitment to pro bono legal work—work without pay for low-income clients and other social-justice causes—and for the firm’s culture of civic engagement. Following in the footsteps of founding partner Ed Barshak, whose career of public service is legendary, we strive to make pro bono work an integral part of the firm’s daily life. To that end, we actively support our lawyers’ handling of and participation in pro bono matters and credit their time on such cases just the same as their “paying” work.

Our attorneys annually dedicate between 1,200 and 1,900 hours to pro bono cases, primarily on behalf of low-income individuals and families. The Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court annually publishes a “Pro Bono Honor Roll” of lawyers and firms who meet the court’s criteria of commitment to work for such clients, and Sugarman Rogers is a perennial qualifier for the list.

Our pro bono work covers a broad range of issues and case types, including disputes over civil rights and civil liberties, domestic abuse, conservation and cutting-edge environmental-justice issues, and “impact litigation” addressing poverty law. Our attorneys participate in “Lawyer for the Day” programs at various courthouses, advising low-income clients who face a range of legal issues. And we frequently accept referrals of cases from organizations such as the Women’s Bar Foundation, the Boston Bar Association’s Volunteer Lawyer’s Project, and the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights. We also handle pro bono matters with or on behalf of the Massachusetts Law Reform Institute, the American Civil Liberties Union of Massachusetts, the NAACP, and the Conservation Law Foundation, among other organizations.

Some of our recent pro bono successes:

Rahim v. District Attorney for the Suffolk District (2020)
Sugarman Rogers teamed up with attorneys from the ACLU of Massachusetts acting on behalf of the plaintiff who sought records from the Suffolk County District Attorney relating to the shooting and death of her son. The District Attorney and the trial court denied her request on the ground that the records were federal property “on loan” to the District Attorney and not subject to the Massachusetts public records law. The Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court rejected these arguments, confirming that federal records received by Massachusetts agencies are subject to the public records law and that Massachusetts agencies are not free to enter interagency agreements to shield such records from disclosure to the public.

Milesi v. McCue (2016)
Sugarman Rogers acted as co-counsel with attorneys from the Massachusetts Law Reform Institute and Metro West Legal Services to represent the plaintiffs in a class-action lawsuit against the state’s Department of Transitional Assistance, challenging the constitutionality of an automated computer wage-match policy that wrongfully terminated SNAP (food stamp) benefits for many households. The DTA halted the existing automated wage-match program and agreed to pay $9 million in back benefits to 17,000 class members.

Kain v. Department of Environmental Protection (2016)
Sugarman Rogers represented four teenage plaintiffs who filed suit against the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection, seeking to compel the agency to adopt regulations under the state’s Global Warming Solutions Act that set declining annual limits on greenhouse-gas emissions for various sources in the state. Our clients won a landmark victory in the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court which, in a unanimous decision, sided with the teenagers and ordered the state to adopt the regulations the plaintiffs sought. The case resulted in a new climate-change executive order from the governor, as well as draft regulations that were published for comment in December 2016.

Hawley v. New England Forestry Foundation (2014)
Sugarman Rogers represented The Trustees of Reservations, a Massachusetts conservation organization, and the interests of the conservation community more generally, by authoring an amicus curiae (friend of the court) brief in a case of national significance about preserving the tax-exempt status of land held for conservation purposes. Our arguments were discussed at length in the court’s favorable decision.