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Bar News - February 15, 2017

NHBA Pro Bono Announces 2017 Award Recipients

Every year, the Pro Bono Referral Program of the NH Bar Association chooses award recipients from among the many deserving volunteers whom the staff can never thank enough for their contributions to equal justice. The Pro Bono Program exists to leverage the support and participation of volunteer attorneys, and the Midyear Meeting provides a chance to recognize and publically honor those who contribute so much.

For the L. Jonathan Ross Award for Outstanding Commitment to Legal Services for the Poor, the Pro Bono Program looks to someone dedicated to helping low-income clients in addition to improving access to justice on a broader scale. This year, for the first time, the Pro Bono Program is presenting a Lifetime Achievement Award to honor a volunteer on the eve of her retirement who has an unsurpassed record for number of clients helped and hours of time donated.

The Rising Star awards are given to attorneys who are relatively new to Pro Bono, but who grasp the professional obligation attorneys have to provide public service in accordance with ethics rule 6.1 and are willing and eager volunteers, easily exceeding the aspirational goal of 30 hours of service annually. Two rising stars were selected for recognition this year.

Each year the Pro Bono Program confronts the task of narrowing down its Distinguished Pro Bono Service awards by reviewing and weighing a variety of factors, including total hours, case types, number of cases and responsiveness to staff requests.

The Pro Bono staff relish the opportunity to publically recognize the generosity and hard work of the attorneys who answer the call or email, who add another case to their load, who help so many desperate and struggling New Hampshire citizens throughout the year. Virginia Martin, associate executive director of legal services for the NH Bar Association, will present these awards at the Honors and Awards Luncheon at the NHBA Midyear Meeting on March 10 in Manchester.

L. Jonathan Ross Award for Outstanding Commitment to Legal Services for the Poor

Named for Jon Ross in recognition of his work on the state and national level to mobilize bar leaders to support civil legal services for the poor and for his unsurpassed leadership and dedication to pro bono legal services.

Brian Shaughnessy

Brian Shaughnessy
Kazan & Shaughnessy, Bedford, NH

This year’s L. Jonathan Ross Award recipient – Brian Shaughnessy of Kazan and Shaughnessy in Bedford – uses his skills and abilities to do something about homelessness, tackling the issue through individual casework as well as broader programmatic and policy efforts. Shaughnessy gives low-income tenants the chance to achieve fair solutions when facing eviction through negotiation and litigation. Unless a conflict precludes involvement – he represents management companies in private practice – Shaughnessy accepts multiple Pro Bono cases each year. But that is only part of the story.

Shaughnessy teaches Pro Bono attorneys about landlord-tenant law and mentors less experienced volunteers handling eviction cases. In addition, he consults with NH Legal Assistance on landlord-tenant legislation and with the court system on landlord-tenant rules and forms. His commitment to preserving shelter for low-income families and individuals is evidenced, too, by his service as president of the board of The Way Home in Manchester, an agency dedicated to providing homeless community members with opportunities for safe and affordable housing. In addition, Shaughnessy leads the Pro Bono Program as chair of its Governing Policy Board; and is a member of the NH Supreme Court’s Access to Justice Commission, serving on the steering committee. A champion of legal rights for the disadvantaged and poor, Shaughnessy exemplifies the qualities and commitment this award was created to celebrate.

Lifetime Achievement Award

Judith Roman

Judith Roman
Judith Roman, Attorney at Law, Concord, NH

A Pro Bono Program volunteer for more than 25 years, Judy Roman has buoyed the lives of countless New Hampshire citizens and families with no expectation for personal gain. She has logged well over 2,000 hours in free legal services for families in crisis, worth more than $400,000. Using her law degree to make a difference – especially for those having the least, but often the most to lose – Roman’s actions underscore the value of the legal profession as a helping profession.

Roman has championed the most vulnerable and persevered for clients when the stakes were high and the challenges seemingly insurmountable. Whether handling a divorce or parenting case, she has always put the best interests of children first. In 1997, she added the DOVE Project panel to her Pro Bono activities, and in 2013, she joined a group of volunteer lawyers providing unbundled legal assistance to domestic violence victims receiving services through a local crisis center. When limited representation was not enough, she contacted Pro Bono to open subsequent cases regarding divorce or parental rights matters.

As Roman prepares to retire, the Pro Bono Program wishes to recognize her for years of dedicated volunteer service to low-income Pro Bono clients, through which she truly helped make the world a better place for so many New Hampshire families and children.

Rising Stars

Randi Bouchard

Randi Bouchard
Brown Bouchard & Randall, Concord, NH

Randi Bouchard’s short history with the NHBA Pro Bono Program illustrates why she has been chosen as a 2017 Rising Star Award recipient. Bouchard was admitted to the NH Bar Association in November 2014, joined the Pro Bono panel the following month, and began taking Pro Bono shortly afterward.

In less than two years, Bouchard has assisted more than a dozen DOVE clients with restraining order cases, as well as handling family law and criminal record cases through Pro Bono. A graduate of UNH School of Law, Bouchard manages every case with equanimity and efficiency, instilling confidence in her clients and helping them achieve their goals. She is also a great team player, working well with crisis center advocates, other DOVE attorneys and Pro Bono staff.

John Brandte

John Brandte
The Stein Law Firm, Concord, NH

A former vice president of marketing and business development for a high-tech company, John Brandte has embraced his new legal career by integrating his past professional experience with his enduring personal passion to serve others.

Brandte was admitted to the New Hampshire bar in November 2014 and right away signed up to provide free legal assistance to victims of domestic violence through the Pro Bono Program’s DOVE Project. After completing the required training, Brandte met with local advocates and toured the local crisis center to gain a better understanding of his prospective clients. Crisis center advocates quickly recognized his dedication to making a difference for domestic violence survivors. Since taking his first DOVE case two years ago, Brandte has gone on to help 13 more DOVE clients secure safety and stability in their lives.

Distinguished Pro Bono Service

Stephanie Burnham

Stephanie Burnham
Hage Hodes, Manchester, NH

Since joining the Pro Bono panel in 2008, Stephanie Burnham has donated significant time to Pro Bono clients, keeping pace with emerging needs and specific initiatives. When the Pro Bono Program was faced with a high demand for bankruptcy assistance, Burnham accepted nine cases within a one-year period. During the 2011 military call-up, she was there at the Army National Guard, assisting soldiers with their estate planning documents. Her list of Pro Bono clients goes on for almost two pages.

More recently, Burnham stepped up to assist a client of the Foreclosure Relief Project in need of estate planning assistance in preserving her rights to her home. Pro Bono appreciates her generosity and willingness to put her skills and talents to work for low-income families.

Michael Hulser

Michael Hulser
Hulser Law – NH Private Defender, Acworth, NH

In a span of only 10 years, Michael Hulser’s Pro Bono clients have included a veteran, an immigrant family, parents and grandparents, seniors, and single mothers. The issues on which he has fought on their behalf have been those of poverty and basic rights involving matters such as housing, education, homeownership, family law and tort defense. In every case, the challenges were great. Nevertheless, Hulser prevailed in the fight, even when it took more than 100 hours to reach a good outcome for his clients. In an area of the state with scarce legal resources, his willingness to take such challenging cases has made a huge difference for New Hampshire citizens who otherwise would not have been able to access legal help.

Joseph Tropiano

Joseph Tropiano
Tropiano Law Office, Derry, NH

Joseph Tropiano is a long-time volunteer with the NH Bar Association’s Pro Bono Referral Program. An unsung hero, Tropiano graciously accepts cases and has taken many cases on short notice in both landlord/tenant and debt collection matters. Often he has been to the court to review the file and has set up an appointment with the client before the Pro Bono Program could get the referral paperwork out to his office.

Tropiano has achieved amazing results for many low-income individuals and families, making a positive impact on their lives. He has eliminated a debt collection action for an individual with disabilities and preserved housing for families wishing to keep their children at a local school. He helped a homeless veteran who had a large percentage of his fixed income levied for a six-figure child support arrearage. His work allowed the veteran to secure housing. Tropiano’s has provided long-standing and generous service to low-income clients in New Hampshire.

Read about the recipients of 2017 Midyear Meeting Awards.

If you are in doubt about the status of any meeting, please call the Bar Center at 603-224-6942 before you head out.

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