Mintz is pleased to share that Member and Chair of the firm’s Pro Bono Committee Susan M. Finegan has been named the inaugural recipient of the Ralph D. Gants Award for Extraordinary Leadership in Pro Bono Service by the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court Standing Committee on Pro Bono Legal Services. The special pro bono award was named in honor of the late Supreme Judicial Court Chief Justice Ralph D. Gants, and recognizes Ms. Finegan for providing extraordinary leadership in pro bono legal services and improving access to justice over the course of her career. Supreme Judicial Court Justice Kimberly S. Budd will present the award to Ms. Finegan at a virtual event on October 28.
“It is a very meaningful, yet bittersweet, distinction, and I am so honored to receive the inaugural Ralph D. Gants Award,” said Ms. Finegan. “I was so fortunate to have worked so closely with my dear friend and colleague Chief Justice Gants throughout the last ten years on access to justice and pro bono initiatives, and observed first-hand his efforts on ensuring equal justice for all.”
A nationally recognized pro bono pioneer and Chair of Mintz’s Pro Bono Committee, Ms. Finegan serves as lead counsel on numerous high profile pro bono litigation matters. She also manages the firm’s pro bono efforts, consisting of over 300 varied cases annually throughout seven offices, and advises firm clients on developing and sustaining pro bono programs within their in-house legal departments. Over the course of her career, Ms. Finegan has helped to defeat President Trump’s first immigration travel ban in early 2017, engineer the passage of a Massachusetts restraining order law for sexual assault survivors, and successfully argued for a civil right to counsel for indigent parents in certain guardianship matters, among other accomplishments.
For over a decade as a member, and in the past five years as Co-chair of the Massachusetts Access to Justice (ATJ) Commission, and also as Chair of the Supreme Judicial Court’s Standing Committee on Pro Bono Legal Services, Ms. Finegan has worked alongside Chief Justice Gants to fight for equal justice for low-income and disadvantaged people cross the state. For example, Ms. Finegan co-founded with Mintz Member Martha Koster the Access to Justice Fellows Program, which is now in its eighth year, matching retired lawyers with partner nonprofits, legal services organizations, and the courts for at least a year of pro bono service. She has also spearheaded several creative funding mechanisms to support legal aid organizations, and helped create the state’s Appellate Pro Bono Clinic for hundreds of low income appellants.
In response to the COVID-19 public health crisis, Ms. Finegan and Chief Justice Gants co-created with Director Carolyn Goodwin the ATJ’s COVID-19 Task Force focused on increasing statewide access to justice during the pandemic. Ms. Finegan assumed the position of Chair of the COVID-19 Task Force, and in short order, marshalled the resources of legal and social services organizations, law firms, and court leadership to work collaboratively to resolve these civil justice issues, including by improving access to the courts, supporting self-represented litigants, and developing an innovative statewide website portal for remote pro bono opportunities, among other initiatives.
Separately, in the past year, Ms. Finegan served as lead counsel on a variety of high impact pro bono cases with teams of lawyers at the firm. In November 2019, Ms. Finegan led a Mintz pro bono team that achieved a groundbreaking victory for immigrants’ rights when Chief U.S. District Judge Patti B. Saris ruled that the government’s practice of detaining certain immigrants by default violates both due process and the Administrative Procedure Act. The first-of-its-kind class action lawsuit, Pereira Brito v. Barr, was filed by Mintz, together with the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Massachusetts and the ACLU of New Hampshire, on behalf of immigrants who were jailed due to flawed detention hearings in which the detainee was required to bear the burden of proof as to not being a flight risk or a danger to the community.
Mintz has an unwavering commitment to providing outstanding pro bono services. The firm partners with nonprofits, legal service organizations, in-house legal departments, and other law firms to provide life-changing legal assistance for individuals in need. To learn more about the firm’s pro bono work, please click here.