Goodwin Procter partners David Apfel and Bill Mayer received the Youth Advocacy Foundation’s (YAF) Commitment to Justice Award at the organization’s annual gala on May 6 at the Boston Children’s Museum. The award is given annually to individual(s) who provide outstanding support and guidance to the organization. Apfel and Mayer, both based in Boston, were recognized for their legal counsel to YAF and its clients over the past 15 years.
YAF, in partnership with private law firms, defends the rights of court-involved children and works to ensure that at-risk youths become contributing and productive members of the community. The organization’s mission is to “decrease the risk of chronic court involvement and increase the chance that young people grow into responsible and caring adults through zealous legal representation, vibrant community-based services and improved access to a quality education.” Founded in 2001, YAF provides financial support to the Youth Advocacy Division (YAD) of the Massachusetts Committee for Public Counsel Services (the Massachusetts Public Defenders) and helps develop state-wide programs that provide an expansive range of services to children beyond legal representation. YAF has actively supported a variety of programs including the EdLaw Project, which offers direct advocacy to students facing school exclusion, difficulty with reintegration following detention or incarceration and/or inadequate education while in state custody, among other things.
Apfel works with YAD and YAF to devise strategies aimed at protecting the rights of children accused of committing crimes. In 2013, at the request of YAD and YAF, Apfel, with the aid of a team of Goodwin associates and summer associates, wrote an amicus brief for the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court (SJC) in support of YAF’s effort to abolish life without parole sentences for juvenile homicide offenders in Massachusetts. The brief was instrumental in shaping the court’s landmark decision in Diatchenko v. District Att’y for Suffolk County which made Massachusetts the first state in the country to abolish all life without parole sentences for children.
In 2014, Apfel penned a second amicus brief on behalf of YAF for the SJC. The brief focused on the parole eligibility right created by the Diatchenko decision and played a key role in the SJC’s opinion recognizing the right of juvenile homicide offenders who are denied parole to have their parole board decisions reviewed by the courts. The decision also recognized the right of juveniles to have appointed counsel and the aid of court-funded expert witnesses in connection with their efforts to obtain parole.
Mayer has been instrumental in mobilizing law firm support for YAF throughout the Boston legal community, including from Goodwin Procter where he served as chairman of the firm’s Pro Bono Committee for many years. In addition, he has provided guidance in connection with the establishment of the EdLaw Project, and assisted YAF in navigating a series of reductions in state funding.
Since 2010, more than 30 Goodwin attorneys and staff have provided approximately 4,000 hours of legal support to YAF.