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Passas ’22 to Carry on Her Innocence Work

Post-conviction defender receives fellowship as staff attorney for BC Law program.


Maxwell Passas ’22 has been awarded a 2022 Equal Justice Works (EJW) Fellowship. This prestigious two-year postgraduate fellowship will enable her to work as a staff attorney in the Boston College Innocence Program (BCIP) where she has excelled as a clinic student, summer legal intern, and pro bono volunteer. Passas’s EJW Fellowship is funded by the Vertex Foundation.

Each year, EJW selects a class of public service leaders graduating from law school who have designed projects in partnership with legal services organizations to serve their communities and bring about systemic reform. “Each year, we have the privilege of launching the careers of public service leaders who seek to make a difference in communities across our country,” said Jessica Ryckman, Equal Justice Works director of fellowships. “We are thrilled to support Maxwell’s Fellowship and look forward to seeing the impact of her work at the Boston College Innocence Program.” 

Maxwell is an experienced restorative justice facilitator who has taught restorative justice classes at Boston College and Harvard Law schools. She graduated with distinction from the University of Colorado at Boulder with a major in Philosophy. While at BC Law, she also excelled in the BC Defender Trial Clinic, representing indigent clients charged with crimes and probation violations in the Dorchester Division of the Boston Municipal Court, and she was a summer legal intern in the Greater Boston Legal Services Housing Division. She was managing editor of the UCC Reporter Digest and was elected treasurer of the BC Law Criminal Law Society. 

As a BCIP staff attorney, in addition to providing pro bono representation to individuals wrongfully convicted and incarcerated for crimes they did not commit, Maxwell will be part of the groundbreaking Massachusetts Conviction Integrity Task Force, working to support best practices in prosecution conviction integrity programs statewide. 

“I am exceptionally honored and excited to begin a career dedicated to post-conviction defense with the Boston College Innocence Program,” said Maxwell. “My involvement with BCIP has been the highlight of my three years at BC Law and I can’t wait to join their legal team and develop this incredible project. From the moment I started working with BCIP, it was palpable how powerful the innocence movement is as a vehicle for change. My project, which aims to free the wrongfully convicted and unjustly incarcerated through maximization of the conviction integrity review process, only furthers this mission.” 

Maxwell will work closely with BCIP Supervising Attorney and Massachusetts Conviction Integrity Task Force member Charlotte H. Whitmore. Her own career as an innocence attorney was launched with a 2010 EJW Fellowship enabling her to become the first staff attorney for the Pennsylvania Innocence Project. “As a former Equal Justice Works fellow, I know firsthand how significant and powerful this fellowship will be, for Maxwell, for the Boston College Innocence Program, and most importantly, for our clients,” Whitmore said. “Maxwell will use her energy, persistence, and skills to seek justice and reform for the wrongfully convicted in a myriad of innovative ways that would not be possible without the support of Equal Justice Works.” 

BCIP Director Sharon Beckman added, “While still a student, Maxwell has already made a tremendous difference in the lives of BCIP clients and in our efforts to improve the legal system. We are blessed to be able to welcome her back as a BCIP staff attorney, and we are deeply grateful to EJW and to the Vertex Foundation for their tremendous support of Maxwell and her work.”

Maxwell’s EJW Fellowship breaks new ground at Boston College, as BCIP is the first Boston College Program to be selected to host an EJW Fellow. BCIP is a clinical legal educational program in which law and undergraduate students, faculty, and staff work together to remedy and prevent wrongful convictions.

A member of the Innocence Network, BCIP has helped to free four clients since 2019 who collectively served almost 100 years in prison for crimes they did not commit. BCIP also collaborates with community partners to reform the legal system. BCIP is a co-recipient with the Committee for Public Counsel Services of a 2020 Upholding the Rule of Law and Preventing Wrongful Convictions grant from the US Department of Justice.

Equal Justice Works selects a class of public interest lawyers who have designed unique projects in partnership with legal services organizations. hese projects are funded by law firms, corporations, private foundations, and individual supporters. Selected from 385 applications, the 2022 class of Equal Justice Works Fellows includes graduates from 45 law schools who will work at 76 legal services organizations across 20 states, Washington, DC, and Puerto Rico. Among this year’s 81 sponsors are 31 leading law firms recognized in the Am Law 200 and 25 Fortune 500 corporations.