Civil legal aid is a sound investment for all of us (Boston Globe)

Below is excerpt from a January 26 editorial, published by The Boston Globe, supporting increased state funding for civil legal services in Massachusetts. Lonnie Powers, Executive Director of the Massachusetts Legal Assistance Corporation, is quoted.


Sometimes, the world puts you in a situation so unfair, so absurd, that only a lawyer can get you out of it. But what if you can’t afford a lawyer?

What if you’re Remon Jourdan? Jourdan, 37, was paralyzed from the chest down after a car accident 10 years ago. He needs help with almost everything: dressing, bathing, eating, scratching itches.

“Life happens, right?’’ Jourdan says.

So does Kafkaesque bureaucracy. Each week, four personal care assistants visit the Randolph home he shares with his mother to help him through his days. MassHealth, the state’s Medicaid program, had always funded them. But last summer Jourdan learned that the payments stopped, because his doctor had failed to sign a certain form. He appealed, and the state resumed the payments, but it refused to fund the month the application was in limbo. His assistants, like family to him, were out $4,000.

He appealed twice and was denied. So there he was, stuck, through no fault of his own, promising to pay his caregivers in dribs and drabs from his $500 monthly disability payment, even if it took him 10 years. Then, Jourdan got lucky – not lucky in the sense that the state’s paper-pushers saw the error of their ways, of course. No, he had the great good fortune to have his case taken by one of the state’s civil legal aid attorneys. It took 15 hours of work, but Nancy Lorenz, a senior lawyer at Greater Boston Legal Services, got Jourdan’s caregivers covered.

“She was a lifesaver,’’ Jourdan says of Lorenz. “I had no other avenues open to me.’’

Tens of thousands of people each year – people on low incomes seeking benefits they were unfairly denied or fighting unjust foreclosures and evictions or needing protection from battering spouses – have no other avenue.