Chief Justice, Attorney General, Bar Leaders to Speak at 17th Walk

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