State Reps. Christine Barber and Paul Brodeur to Visit Housing Court

Media Contact:
Catherine Rizos
617-391-5627
crizos@mlac.org

State Reps. Christine Barber and Paul Brodeur to Visit Housing Court

BOSTON, May 5, 2016—State Representative Christine Barber of Somerville and State Representative Paul Brodeur of Melrose will visit Housing Court at the Brooke Courthouse in Boston at 9am on Thursday, May 12, 2016.

Barbara Zimbel, a civil legal aid attorney from Greater Boston Legal Services, will give the lawmakers a tour of Housing Court, which has jurisdiction over civil and criminal actions relating to the health, safety, or welfare of the occupants or owners of residential housing. They will be joined by Massachusetts Bar Association President Robert W. Harnais and Equal Justice Coalition Chair John Carroll.

“Approximately 90 percent of people in Housing Court attempting to defend themselves in foreclosure or eviction proceedings do not have legal representation because they cannot afford an attorney,” said Carroll. “We know that two-thirds of those who are facing eviction and have an attorney are able to keep their housing while only one-third of those without legal representation are able to do so.”

Harnais added: “Statistics clearly show the incredible difference legal aid makes when it comes to improving access to justice. But I’m a proponent of seeing is believing, and the unfortunate reality is you can see the effects of inadequate funding for legal aid every day in our courthouses. With so many of our citizens fighting for their homes without a lawyer, it is clear we need to do better. No one should face losing a home on their own.”

Earlier this year, the Equal Justice Coalition released a video about the need for civil legal aid in Housing Court. It can be viewed here.

About the Equal Justice Coalition

The Equal Justice Coalition, a collaboration of the Boston Bar Association, Massachusetts Bar Association and the Massachusetts Legal Assistance Corporation (MLAC), works to increase the state appropriation for civil legal aid through MLAC (line item 0321-1600).

Equal Justice Coalition to Host Beacon of Justice Awards Ceremony at State House March 23

Media Contact:
Catherine Rizos
617-391-5627
crizos@mlac.org

Equal Justice Coalition to Host Beacon of Justice Awards Ceremony at State House March 23

Honoring Justice Robert Cordy, AG Maura Healey, state Sens. Harriette Chandler and Karen Spilka; and state Reps. Claire Cronin, Paul Donato, and Brad Hill

BOSTON, March 11, 2016—Honoring lawmakers and legal professionals for supporting civil legal aid, the Equal Justice Coalition and the Massachusetts Legal Assistance Corporation (MLAC) will host the Beacon of Justice Awards ceremony and a reception at the State House on Thursday, March 23 at 6 p.m.

State Sens. Harriette Chandler and Karen Spilka, and state Reps. Claire Cronin, Paul Donato, and Bradford Hill will be presented with Beacon of Justice Awards for their outstanding support of increasing state funding for civil legal aid through MLAC. MLAC distributes funds to civil legal aid organizations that assist low-income individuals and families in resolving issues related to basic necessities such as housing, employment, classroom accommodations for children with disabilities, and conflicts related to child support and custody, divorce, and domestic violence.

Supreme Judicial Court Justice Robert Cordy and Attorney General Maura Healey will be honored with Champion of Justice Awards for their exceptional support for civil legal aid during their legal careers.

A report released by the Statewide Task Force to Expand Civil Legal Aid in the fall of 2014 revealed that more than 60 percent of those eligible for civil legal aid in Massachusetts who seek services are turned away due to lack of resources. The Task Force recommended increasing the Commonwealth’s investment in civil legal aid by $10 million a year over the next three years to begin to address this unmet need. Based on the report’s recommendation, the Equal Justice Coalition and its legislative and legal allies have called for a $10 million increase in this year’s budget.

“We are incredibly grateful for the unwavering support given to civil legal aid by our Beacon of Justice and Champion of Justice honorees,” said John Carroll, Chair of the Equal Justice Coalition. “We cannot fulfill America’s promise of equal justice under the law without a robust, community-based network of legal aid programs.”

“Civil legal aid is a powerful tool that helps people living in poverty build a foundation of stability from which they can create a better future for themselves, their families, and our communities,” said Lonnie Powers, executive director of MLAC, which funds and supports organizations that provide civil legal assistance to low-income residents. “Without the commitment and support of these political and judicial leaders, the vital work accomplished by civil legal aid agencies in our Commonwealth would not be possible.”

About The Equal Justice Coalition

The Equal Justice Coalition is a collaboration of the Massachusetts Legal Assistance Corporation, Massachusetts Bar Association and Boston Bar Association. It advocates increasing the state appropriation for civil legal aid, which funds programs throughout the state that provide legal advice and representation to low-income Massachusetts residents facing civil legal problems. For more information, visit http://equaljusticecoalition.org.

About MLAC

The Massachusetts Legal Assistance Corporation (MLAC) was established by the legislature in 1983 to ensure that low-income people with critical, non-criminal legal problems have access to legal information, advice and representation. MLAC is the largest source of funding for civil legal aid in the Commonwealth. For more information, visit www.mlac.org.

 

Prominent Law Firm Leaders, Corporate Counsel, Law School Deans, and Social Services Agencies Call for Increased Public Investment in Civil Legal Aid

February 23, 2016—Demonstrating a broad base of support for increasing civil legal aid funding, managing partners of prominent law firms; corporate and university attorneys; deans of all Massachusetts law schools; and social services providers are calling for an increase of $10 million in the state’s investment in civil legal aid funding.

Last month, Gov. Charlie Baker released a proposed FY2017 budget that allocated $17,170,000 for civil legal aid, an increase of $170,000 over FY2016. The request for a $10 million increase in civil legal aid funding is based on a recommendation by the Boston Bar Association’s Statewide Task Force to Expand Civil Legal Aid in Massachusetts, which in 2014 issued Investing in Justice, a report that demonstrated civil legal aid is unavailable to more than 60 percent of qualified residents who seek it. The report called for an additional state investment of $30 million in civil legal aid in Massachusetts, to be phased in over a three-year period.

Managing partners from 44 law firms sent a letter to Gov. Baker on Jan. 15 urging him to consider the stakes of not providing legal assistance to low-income residents with critical civil legal issues. Signers included Robert I. Bodian of Mintz Levin; Adam P. Kahn and William R. Kolb of Foley Hoag; Deborah J. Manus of Nutter McClennen and Fish; and R. Newcomb Stillwell, of Ropes & Gray.

“[T]ens of thousands of low-income litigants who cannot afford legal representation must fend for themselves when facing life-changing legal problems—while many others are forced to abandon their legitimate claims altogether. These individuals are often the most vulnerable members of our society: the elderly, the disabled, and people facing linguistic barriers, to name a few. For these low-income litigants, civil legal aid is their last resort for achieving justice through our legal system,” the letter said. “Beyond ensuring more just outcomes for clients and a more equitable application of the law, civil legal aid helps our courts function more efficiently. The high volume of pro se litigants that fill Massachusetts court houses slows down courtroom procedures and creates time-consuming work for already overburdened staff. …Increased funding for civil legal aid will not only help low-income people resolve legal issues, but also improve the efficiency and legitimacy of the court system for people of all income levels.”

In a separate letter, 69 attorneys who serve as general counsel at institutions ranging from Liberty Mutual Group, EMC Corporation, Arbella Insurance Group, Fenway Sports Group/Boston Red Sox, Boston Medical Center, Tufts Health Plan, Boston University, and Eastern Bank, emphasized that civil legal aid is the right investment to make when budgets tighten.

“As you well know, tough fiscal times call for careful decision making,” the attorneys wrote. “A state’s most pragmatic expenditures should help its residents access the basic necessities of life, avert the need for future spending on emergency services, or yield economic benefits for the state’s economy and residents. Civil legal aid accomplishes all three of these ends.”

A letter from the deans of the state’s nine law schools including Martha L. Minow of Harvard Law School, Vincent D. Rougeau of Boston College Law School, Jeremy R. Paul of Northeastern University School of Law; and Mary Lu Bilek of the University of Massachusetts School of Law noted that law school students understood the importance of civil legal aid and many support legal aid programs in the state. “However, their dedication and commitment to equal justice can only go so far,” the deans’ letter read. “Students and pro bono lawyers cannot meet the needs of the nearly one million Massachusetts residents living at or below 125% of the poverty line who quality for civil legal aid―which for a family of four means making $30,313 a year or less.”

Seventy social services agencies across the state representing children, people with disabilities, survivors of domestic violence, people who are homeless, older adults, and immigrants and refugees have also endorsed a statement of support for increasing the budget. Signers include Rosie’s Place; Jane Doe, Inc.; Boston Center for Independent Living; the Children’s League of Massachusetts; Elder Services of the Merrimack Valley; Northampton Survival Center; South Shore Community Action Council; Springfield Partners for Community Action; and Worcester Community Action Council.

“As an organization dedicated to serving low-income residents and building stronger, healthier communities, we recognize the pivotal role of civil legal aid in helping residents across the Commonwealth maintain safe, stable and healthy lives,” the statement reads. “The free legal advice and representation provided by civil legal aid programs to low-income individuals and families who every day face legal issues arising from poverty—including homelessness, domestic violence, lack of access to public benefits and health inequity—are essential to achieving equal justice for all in Massachusetts.”

Read the full text of the letters here.

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About the Equal Justice Coalition

The Equal Justice Coalition, a collaboration of the Boston Bar Association, Massachusetts Bar Association and the Massachusetts Legal Assistance Corporation, works to increase state funding for civil legal aid. For more information, visit www.equaljusticecoalition.org

Chief Justice Gants, Attorney General Healey and Bar Association Leaders to Speak at 17th Annual Walk to the Hill

Media Contact:
Catherine Rizos
617-391-5627
crizos@mlac.org

Chief Justice Gants, Attorney General Healey and Bar Association Leaders to Speak at 17th Annual Walk to the Hill

Hundreds of Attorneys to Gather at State House on Thursday, January 28 to Request $10 Million Increase in Funding for Civil Legal Aid

BOSTON (January 21, 2016)―Chief Justice Ralph Gants of the Supreme Judicial Court and Attorney General Maura Healey will join hundreds of private attorneys from more than 40 law firms at the Massachusetts State House on Thursday, Jan. 28 for the 17th Annual Walk to the Hill for Civil Legal Aid. Attendees of this annual lobby day, one of the largest held at the State House each year, will request a $10 million increase in state funding for programs that provide civil legal aid to low-income Massachusetts residents.

“Civil legal aid is integral to helping low-income people deal with the crises that confront them in everyday life,” said Lonnie Powers, executive director of the Massachusetts Legal Assistance Corporation (MLAC). “Civil legal aid helps the Commonwealth’s most vulnerable residents avoid homelessness and unemployment, and gain access to health care and veterans’ services, receive a quality education, and escape domestic violence—and does so in a cost-effective manner.”

Speakers at Walk to the Hill will include Chief Justice Gants, Attorney General Maura Healey, Boston Bar Association President Lisa Arrowood, and Massachusetts Bar Association President Bob Harnais. The program will also include the screening of a video demonstrating the need for civil legal assistance in Massachusetts, featuring interviews with court personnel and Massachusetts residents in need of civil legal aid.

Due to lack of funding, civil legal aid programs in Massachusetts are forced to turn away more than 60 percent of those eligible for civil legal aid who seek services.

In 2014, the Boston Bar Association’s Statewide Task Force to Expand Civil Legal Aid in Massachusetts recommended increasing the Commonwealth’s investment in civil legal aid by $30 million over the following three years to begin to address this unmet need.

“Civil legal aid is a potent tool for helping people maintain stable, independent lives,” said MLAC Board Chair Marijane Benner Browne. “Providing legal assistance to low-income people in danger of losing their home or being wrongfully evicted makes much more sense than allowing them to wind up on the street or in a shelter—places where it is difficult, if not impossible, to keep a job, raise a family, or maintain any sense of normalcy.”

Following the speaking program and video screening, attorneys will visit their legislators and urge them to increase funding for MLAC, the largest funder of civil legal aid in Massachusetts, by $10 million in the FY17 state budget, for a total appropriation of $27 million.

Walk to the Hill is sponsored by the Equal Justice Coalition, a collaboration of the Boston Bar Association, Massachusetts Bar Association and the Massachusetts Legal Assistance Corporation. The event is also co-sponsored by numerous county and specialty bar associations throughout Massachusetts.

SPEAKING PROGRAM & VIDEO SCREENING

11:30 a.m. to 12:00 p.m.
Great Hall of Flags
Massachusetts State House, Boston

The order of speakers is as follows:

  • Attorney General Maura Healey
  • Chief Justice Ralph Gants of the Supreme Judicial Court
  • Massachusetts Bar Association President Bob Harnais
  • Boston Bar Association President Lisa Arrowood
  • Legal aid client

NOTE: Members of the media are welcome to attend all or part of the speaking program. Please follow the Equal Justice Coalition on Twitter as well as the hashtags #IWalkForJustice and #WalktotheHill for the latest on Walk to the Hill 2016.

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About the Equal Justice Coalition

The Equal Justice Coalition, a collaboration of the Boston Bar Association, Massachusetts Bar Association and the Massachusetts Legal Assistance Corporation, works to increase state funding for civil legal aid. For more information, visit www.equaljusticecoalition.org

Equal Justice Coalition Launches New Website

Media Contact:
Catherine Rizos
617-391-5627
crizos@mlac.org

Equal Justice Coalition Launches New Website

Equal Justice Coalition encourages private attorneys, bar associations, and other advocates to support civil legal aid using its new website

BOSTON, December 18, 2015 – The Equal Justice Coalition, a coalition of bar associations and private attorneys committed to equal justice for all, recently launched a new website to support the coalition’s work to increase state funding for civil legal aid. The redesigned site, with crisp visuals and an easy to navigate layout, enables private attorneys, bar associations, and other advocates to quickly connect with the effort to expand access to the courts for low-income people with civil (non-criminal) cases.

To mobilize support, the website features “Action Alerts,” allowing advocates to quickly plug in to the latest campaign news and contact their elected officials to voice support for civil legal aid. The site also showcases past and future events the Equal Justice Coalition holds in support of civil legal aid, from the annual Walk to the Hill lobby day to the Legislative Recognition Reception.

The Equal Justice Coalition hopes that the revamped website will bolster their continued efforts to increase state funding for civil legal aid.

About the Equal Justice Coalition

The Equal Justice Coalition, a collaboration of the Boston Bar Association, Massachusetts Bar Association and the Massachusetts Legal Assistance Corporation (MLAC), works to increase the state appropriation for MLAC’s line item (0321-1600). For more information, visit http://www.equaljusticecoalition.org.

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