Mary Ellen Sowyrda

TEL: (617) 479-5000
EMAIL: msowyrda@mhtl.com

Ms. Sowyrda is a partner at the firm and heads the Special Education Department within Murphy, Hesse, Toomey and Lehane, LLP, which currently represents approximately 160 school districts and educational collaboratives in the field of Special Education Law.  She is involved in all aspects of litigation including hearings, mediations, pre-hearing conferences with the Bureau of Special Education Appeals and court cases. She provides clients with daily advice on school-related legal issues and deals with the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education, the Bureau of Special Education Appeals, and other state agencies that involve the provision of special education services to students. She conducts workshops for clients on such special education topics as discipline, inclusion, procedural issues, strategies to avoid hearings and to prepare for hearings, recent trends in the law, Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, the Americans with Disabilities Act and ongoing changes in regulations. Ms. Sowyrda also conducts workshops on these same topics before national groups such as Lorman Education Services, Inc., and the National Business Institute.  Ms. Sowyrda is a Phi Beta Kappa summa cum laude graduate of Boston College and a graduate of Boston College Law School. She is a member of the Massachusetts Bar Associations and the American Bar Association, and has been named a Super Lawyer by Boston Magazine for 2006, 2007, 2008 and 2009.

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St. Mary's Center for Women and Children Diamonds of Dorchester

On October 20, 2016, Attorney Katherine Hesse introduced Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker at the annual St. Mary’s Center for Women and Children Diamonds of Dorchester event which was held at the Westin Copley Place.  Ms. Hesse currently serves as the Chair of the Board of Trustees for the St. Mary’s Center for Women and Children which focuses on offering innovative and family-centered programs for women and children who have experienced trauma and are living in poverty.  As Governor Baker noted, the St. Mary’s Center has been known for “healing” for well over 100 years.   According to Attorney Hesse, “of the many charities in which I have been involved over the last 40 years of my professional career, St. Mary’s is closest to my heart.”  Other highlights of the evening included Lorrie Higgins receiving the John M. Corcoran Award for Excellence based upon her advocacy of and commitment in helping those most vulnerable in our community.  Over six hundred individuals attended the event, which raised approximately $500,000 for the women and children who rely upon the center.  

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Legal Updates

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Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court Issues Landmark Ruling on Medical Marijuana in the Workplace

In a much anticipated ruling,the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court (“SJC”) issued a decision recognizing a potential claim for disability discrimination if an employer terminates or otherwise takes an adverse employment action against an employee who uses lawfully prescribed medicinal marijuana while off-duty.   In short, this decision prohibits blanket restrictions on the off-duty use of marijuana and requires employers to engage in an interactive process to determine whether the off-duty use of lawfully prescribed medical marijuana may be a reasonable accommodation under Massachusetts anti-discrimination law, M.G.L. c. 151B.

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