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September 21, 2022

Legal Update
Tristan P. Colangelo

Appellate Win on Behalf of Indigent Criminal Defendant Indicative of Sugarman Rogers’ Commitment to Public Service

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Sugarman Rogers has assembled a deep bench of appellate practitioners who protect and advance our clients’ rights in a wide range of civil and criminal matters at the state and federal levels. We handle appeals on matters that we handled at the trial level, as well as cases where trial counsel retains us to evaluate and pursue meritorious appeals. Sugarman Rogers also regularly prepares amicus briefs on significant and far-reaching legal issues. But our attorneys also leverage their talents and experience in appellate matters on behalf of those who need skilled representation the most but have the least ability to afford it.

At Sugarman Rogers, pro bono and public service work is one of our core commitments and is an integral part of the firm’s daily life. The firm actively encourages and supports our lawyers’ desire to commit their time and energies to such matters and credit their time on such cases the same as their “paying” work. One noteworthy example of the firm’s commitment to serving underrepresented members of our community includes accepting post-conviction assignments from the Committee for Public Counsel Services (CPCS). CPCS is publicly funded by the Commonwealth to provide legal representation for those unable to afford an attorney in all matters where the law requires the appointment of counsel, including representing criminal defendants at trial, on appeal, and in post-conviction matters.

As a member of the CPCS Post Convictions Panel, our Tristan Colangelo regularly represents indigent defendants appealing their criminal convictions. An experienced appellate advocate who accepts several post-conviction matters each year, Tristan successfully argued in the Massachusetts Appeals Court on behalf of a client convicted of unlawfully possessing a gun. In its August 24, 2022, decision, the Appeals Court vacated the client’s conviction for unlawful possession and agreed with the arguments Tristan presented in a written brief and at oral argument.

The issue on appeal in this case was technical, but appellate issues commonly are. Here, the issue was whether the trial judge in this jury-waived trial correctly performed the burden-shifting analysis required when a defendant claims the gun in question was an antique – defined as a firearm manufactured before 1900.  Far from esoteric, strict adherence to this evidentiary analysis is critical to protecting a criminal defendant’s constitutional rights. Without the efforts of dedicated public defenders and private bar advocates like Tristan, criminal defendants lacking the financial resources to retain private counsel would be denied the ability to present an effective defense and raise such critical issues when erroneous rulings result in unjust convictions.

Sugarman Rogers is proud to support the essential work done by CPCS and its appointed attorneys as part of our ongoing commitment to serve our community. We recognize that everyone – no matter their means – deserves quality legal representation and equal justice under the law.