Volunteer nonprofit board members; recent Supreme Judicial Court decision examines scope of immunity from suit

The global pandemic has suddenly thrown many nonprofit organizations into a churning sea of economic uncertainty. As a result, volunteer board members are being asked to make exceedingly difficult decisions about whether and how to try to keep their missions alive and “doors” open.  Economic models have been quickly generated assuming projections of future revenue that may or may not be realized.  What happens if those projections are wrong and nonprofits are not able to meet future obligations?  Could any of the volunteers who sit on the boards of these nonprofits face personal exposure for those obligations? As confirmed by a recent decision of the Supreme Judicial Court in Lynch v. Crawford, 483 Mass. 631 (2019), the answer is probably no — at least so long as board members act in good faith and follow a reasonable process in conducting their financial analysis.  Federal and state law affords volunteers serving on nonprofit boards significant protection from not just liability but from suit. But such protection is not unlimited.  Board members can have personal liability for wrongful intentional, reckless behavior and gross negligence.  And board members who also serve as officers of the nonprofit – generally, the president and the treasurer...

Cain Hibbard named Pinnacle Company in Berkshire United Way Workplace Campaign

For the fourth straight year, Cain Hibbard has contributed to the Berkshire United Way’s workplace campaign as a Pinnacle award winning company. This designation, earned by only twenty companies in 2018, denotes outstanding employee participation and campaign organization. We jump-started our 2018 campaign by highlighting the efforts of Working Cities Pittsfield, one of the United Way’s strategic partners. Alisa Costa, Initiative Director at Working Cities Pittsfield, W. Duffy Judge, Development Manager at Berkshire United Way, and Ilene Marcus, Director of Development at Berkshire United Way met with Cain Hibbard to explain the campaign process and ways to volunteer, outline the direct impact our donations have on the community and discuss the underlying structural barriers we hope to change. Our employees responded enthusiastically, achieving near 100% participation and demonstrating once again their individual generosity and commitment to Berkshire United Way’s critical mission of improving opportunities for all Berkshire County residents. Our commitment to Berkshire United Way is a year-round effort. Cain Hibbard’s Finance Manager, Anne Nigrelli, has volunteered with the United Way’s VITA program for the past two years. The volunteer income tax assistance program (VITA) operates from February to mid-April and put in 347 hours to prepare 152 Federal returns...

Cain Hibbard facilitates Greenagers’ acquisition of historic South Egremont property

Cain Hibbard partner Syd Smithers guided Greenagers, Inc., a non-profit organization that engages teens and young adults in meaningful work in environmental conservation, sustainable farming and natural resource management, through the complex process of acquiring the historic April Hill property on Undermountain Road, South Egremont.  The property will serve as the new headquarters for the energetic non-profit under the strong leadership of its Executive Director Will Conklin of Sheffield. The original house on the April Hill property dates back to 1744, and was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1990.  Beginning in 1976, April Hill served as the summer home of Charles and Mary Margaret Kellogg. In 2004, Mary Margaret Kellogg donated the property to the Appalachian Trail Conservancy for educational, historic preservation, recreational, agricultural and conservation activities. In 2017, after a solicitation of proposals, The Conservancy chose Greenagers to be the next steward of April Hill. Acquisition of the property presented some special legal challenges, as it is protected by a scenic easement, an agricultural preservation restriction, a historic preservation restriction, and a conservation restriction. To accomplish a successful succession of stewardship, Syd Smithers redrafted and updated property protections in a way designed to preserve its...

Diane DeGiacomo to speak at Massachusetts Continuing Legal Education Conference, March 27th, Springfield, MA

Diane DeGiacomo, chair of the firm’s litigation department will serve as a featured speaker at “Cutting Edge Issues in Western Massachusetts Family Law Practice”, along with distinguished family law lawyers and judges from the four western counties. In prior years, she has discussed recent, important court decisions and legislative changes in Massachusetts law as well as demonstrated the art of persuasion in a mock argument involving complex financial matters. This year, she will focus on how to prove your case, with an in-depth look into different tools to obtain critical discovery and methods to turn testimony and written documents into persuasive evidence admissible at trial. For more details and registration information, please visit: https://www.mcle.org/product/catalog/code/2190152PMA

Berkshire Real Estate Attorney Syd Smithers secures zone map change that achieves unified zoning for North Adams developer

Cain Hibbard partner Syd Smithers was successful in achieving a zone map change in North Adams that should help to ease development efforts of The Beyond Place, LLC, the parent entity developing the new Tourists Hotel on State Road in North Adams. Over the course of a year or more, the developer and three related entities had acquired nine separate parcels of land on State Road and in the Village of Blackinton in furtherance of their plans for Tourists Hotel and related development, including a restaurant.  The properties were located in four different zoning districts by the City of North Adams zoning ordinance. Having its properties governed by disparate zoning requirements introduced elements of uncertainty and inconsistency into the overall development concept envisioned for Tourists Hotel. In order to promote a sensible and comprehensive redevelopment of the several properties for its hotel and related purposes, pursuant to a master plan, The Beyond Place, LLC engaged Smithers, a Berkshire real estate attorney, to seek consistent zoning treatment and predictability.  Smithers prepared the necessary zone map amendment petition to the North Adams City Council and Planning Board and led the development team through presentations to a joint public hearing by the City...

Cain Hibbard Adds Three Lawyers to its Litigation Group

October 30, 2018 Cain Hibbard has added three lawyers to its litigation group, bolstering its capacity in the areas of domestic relations, health law, intellectual property, and complex litigation. “We feel very fortunate to have found three terrific lawyers who wanted to make the Berkshires their home, and Cain Hibbard their firm,” said Lucy Prashker, Cain Hibbard’s managing partner. Kaitlin O’Brien and Taylor Ventre both have begun with the firm as first year associates based in the firm’s Pittsfield office. Melissa Stewart, who is based in the firm’s Great Barrington office, has joined the firm after having spent several years practicing with a large firm both in Boston, and in New York City.  “It’s great not just for Cain Hibbard and our clients, but for the Berkshires to have such a wonderful influx of talented young professionals; we could not be more pleased,” said Prashker. Kaitlin O’Brien, a native of Western New York, graduated magna cum laude from Allegheny College in 2015 with a Bachelor of Arts in History, and from Boston University School of Law in 2018. While at BU Law, Kaitlin served as a Writing Fellow, a board member of the Women’s Law Association, and a staff member on the...

Vicki Donahue, President of the Berkshire County Bar Association, hosts Joseph Berman, General Counsel of Board of Bar Overseers, at Berkshire Bar Annual Meeting

Vicki Donahue, President of the Berkshire County Bar Association, hosted Joseph Berman, General Counsel of the Massachusetts Board of Bar Overseers, at the Berkshire Bar’s Annual Meeting held May 30, 2018. The Berkshire County Bar Association, a volunteer membership organization, seeks to foster professionalism among Berkshire County lawyers and equal access to the legal system by all in need of legal services. In her opening remarks at the annual meeting, Vicki spoke to the importance of taking advantage of the support and collegiality that the Berkshire Bar affords attorneys practicing in the County, as well as the need for all attorneys to continue to strive to improve their competencies, particularly in the area of technology and the law. Mr. Berman followed, speaking eloquently about the history of lawyer self-regulation, dating back as early as the 17th century, and the role of the BBO not just in policing the practice of law, but as a resource for the vast majority of lawyers who want to do the right thing every day for their clients and the profession. Vicki, who chairs Cain Hibbard’s Business and Banking Group, was elected President of the Berkshire County Bar Association by her peers effective September 1,...

Diane M. DeGiacomo Named “Lawyer of the Year” by Best Lawyers 2018

Best Lawyers has named Cain Hibbard partner Diane M. DeGiacomo as a 2018 “Lawyer of the Year.” This distinction is presented annually to one outstanding lawyer in a particular specialty and geographical area who has achieved the highest consensus opinion of their professional abilities by their colleagues. Ms. DeGiacomo was one of only two lawyers in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts selected in the area of family law, with the other lawyer practicing in Boston.

Diane DeGiacomo speaks at Massachusetts Continuing Legal Education Conference

Diane DeGiacomo, chair of the firm’s litigation department, again served as a featured speaker at “Cutting Edge Issues in Western Massachusetts Family Law Practice”, along with distinguished family law lawyers and judges from the four western counties. In prior years, she has highlighted and discussed recent, important court decisions and legislative changes in Massachusetts law. This year, she demonstrated the art of persuasion in a mock argument involving complex financial matters to the judges who also served as panelists.       

Syd Smithers speaks at the MA Municipal Law Conference

Syd Smithers once again participated in MCLE’s annual Municipal Law Conference. Massachusetts Continuing Legal Education, Massachusetts Municipal Lawyers Association, and the Massachusetts Municipal Association presented the 16th annual Municipal Law Conference on March 7, 2018. Partner Syd Smithers, who has previously participated as an author and speaker at the annual municipal law conference once again did so, presenting materials on Streets, Ways and Easements for the municipal lawyer.  Other distinguished speakers at the conference included Mark Bobrowski, MA zoning and land-use expert and Gregor MacGregor, MA environmental law expert.