School of Law News

Law Alumni Honored for Pro Bono Work

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Several Western New England University School of Law alumni have been recognized for distinguished service and outstanding commitment to providing pro bono legal services for the poor and disadvantaged in Massachusetts.

On October 24, the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court's Standing Committee on  Pro Bono Legal Services presented the eleventh annual John Adams Pro Bono Publico Awards to four recipients, including two Western New England alumni.The prestigious awards are named in honor of John Adams and John Quincy Adams.

For the first time this year, a recent law school graduate received a special student award. Steven Dzubak L'12 was chosen for his exceptional pro bono work on environmental legal issues. While in law school, he sought out and began assisting one of his law professors with an environmental issue involving a private developer that had received a city council permit to build a plant that would burn construction and debris material in the City of Springfield. Dzubak became involved with a small group of community activists and spoke on behalf of the group, both at City Council meetings and by writing letters to the editor of the local newspaper. Because of the group's work, the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection issued a moratorium on burning the debris and construction materials while the issue was studied. As part of the legal strategy, Dzubak assisted pro bono attorneys in drafting legal documents that were filed with the Massachusetts Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs. In response, the City Council decided to revoke the permit the council had issued to the developer two years earlier. 

Dorothy Varon '95, Assistant Vice President in the Law Division at the Mass Mutual Life Insurance Company (MassMutual) in Springfield, was honored for successfully developing a pro bono program at MassMutual, for her leadership in encouraging pro bono activity in Springfield, and for expanding corporate counsel pro bono efforts across Massachusetts. Attorney Varon helped create a program that offers legal representation to income-eligible landlords and tenants through the Housing Court's Lawyer-for-a-Day program, and assistance to civil litigants in the Springfield District Court through the Hampden County Bar Association's Legal Clinic. She also convened a "Hundred Lawyer Challenge" inviting representatives of larger firms in Springfield to volunteer in the Housing Court's Lawyer-for-a-Day program. Last year, she dedicated herself to building a corps of legal volunteers to provide pro bono services when hundreds of victims found themselves in need of emergency legal assistance following the tornado in Springfield. She is a long-standing member of the Supreme Judicial Court's Pro Bono Committee and served as a panelist on the In-House Counsel Pro Bono Forum, hosted by the Access to Justice Commission in 2011. Under her leadership, the program at MassMutual has become a preeminent pro bono program in western Massachusetts, and has been a model for pro bono activity by corporate counsel across the Commonwealth.

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The Supreme Judicial Court's Standing Committee on Pro Bono Legal Services presented the eleventh annual John Adams Pro Bono Publico Awards to four recipients, included Western New England University School of Law alumni Dorothy Varon '95 (center) and Steve Dzubak '12 (second from right). Pictured with Varon and Dzubak are Justice Francis Spina of the Supreme Judicial Court, Western New England Professors Robert Lusardi and Arthur Leavens, Dean Arthur Gaudio, and Public Interest Coordinator Sam Charron. 

"The recipients of the Adams Awards serve as an inspiration to every law firm, sole practitioner, corporate counsel, and law student in the Commonwealth," said Supreme Judicial Court Justice Ralph D. Gants in presenting the awards. "By their extraordinary commitment to pro bono service, these awardees encourage all of us in the legal community to do more for those in need of legal assistance."

The Adams Pro Bono Publico Awards ceremony was one of many events and activities celebrating and building support for pro bono legal work in Massachusetts.On October 23, the western Massachusetts legal community gathered to honor seven attorneys for their pro bono work. Western New England University School of Law alumni Carolyn E. Scott-Howe, Theodore E. Cooledge, and John W. Drake were among those receiving awards during the reception sponsored by the Massachusetts Justic Project, Community Legal Aid, the Berkshire, Franklin, Hampden, and Hampshire County Bar Associations, and Senior Partners for Justice-West.

Governor Deval Patrick proclaimed October Pro Bono Month for the fourth consecutive year.The American Bar Association declared October 21-27 as Pro Bono Week.

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