Their message: Massachusetts’s civil legal aid organizations are delivering on the promise of “justice for all” – and they need more support
BOSTON, January 12 – 63 general counsels sent a letter to Governor Healey this week in support of the Massachusetts Legal Assistance Corporation’s and the Equal Justice Coalition’s FY24 state budget request of $49 million for civil legal aid organizations.
Civil legal aid organizations provide representation, guidance, and resources at no cost to people who have low incomes and are facing problems that threaten their access to basic needs. Issues commonly addressed include housing, health care, employment, family issues, and domestic violence.
The letter’s signatories – who constitute a diverse group of attorneys from the Massachusetts business community – agree: civil legal aid changes lives. Most importantly, they say, our state’s civil legal aid organizations need more funding to meet the demands of a Commonwealth emerging from a global pandemic.
“There is no right to an attorney for most types of civil legal cases – including cases that could lead to loss of housing, domestic safety, or financial stability,” says Paul T. Dacier, General Counsel at Indigo, who signed the letter. “These are fundamental issues that significantly impact the most important people in our society. We should all want our systems to be fair and just – because when both sides have representation, justice is best served.”
On January 26, at 11am, Dacier and his fellow letter writers will join other attorneys and law students from across the state for an online event that marks the 24th annual lobby day for civil legal aid. “Talk to the Hill” for Civil Legal Aid is organized by the Equal Justice Coalition to support the Massachusetts Legal Assistance Corporation (MLAC)’s request for increased funding from the state legislature. MLAC, established by the legislature in 1983, is the largest funder of civil legal aid in the Commonwealth.
“By engaging members of the private bar to speak directly with legislators, ‘Talk to the Hill’ demonstrates the enormous level of support civil legal aid funding has across the Massachusetts legal community, including the corporate legal community,” says Dacier. “Our neighbors across the state are facing hard times right now. Housing instability, in particular, is a major issue. Legal aid organizations have seen a significant increase in demand for representation in housing cases since pandemic-era eviction moratoria expired.”
You can read the general counsels’ letter in its entirety at equaljusticecoalition.org/letter-campaign. The January 26 event is free and open to the public. Media are welcome and encouraged to attend. Speakers will include Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court Chief Justice Kimberly Budd, leaders from the Massachusetts and Boston Bar Associations, and clients who benefited from civil legal aid last year.
To register for “Talk to the Hill,” visit ejctalktothehill.org. Please register by January 24.