Below is an excerpt from a February 24 article, published by MetroWest Daily News, about the push for increased civil legal aid funding in the MetroWest region and across Massachusetts. Lonnie Powers, Executive Director of the Massachusetts Legal Assistance Corporation, and Elizabeth Soule, Executive Director of MetroWest Legal Services, are both quoted.
FRAMINGHAM – When 5-month-old Phillipe was orphaned in 2006, his uncle Elvio Maia knew he wanted to adopt him.
Phillipe’s mother – who was Maia’s sister – and her 11-year-old son were murdered by husband and father Jeremias Bins.
But Maia, an undocumented immigrant, initially couldn’t find a lawyer to represent him in the adoption process because of his status.
Through MetroWest Legal Services, a legal advocacy group, Maia was able to find a free lawyer and adopt Phillipe.
Maia was lucky, but his situation is common. According to MetroWest Legal Services, nearly 90 percent of complainants in Massachusetts family and probate courts don’t have a lawyer.
Of the people who approach MetroWest Legal for help, two-thirds are turned away because there isn’t enough funding to match the need.
In an effort to meet that need, the Massachusetts Legal Assistance Corporation is seeking an additional $10 million in state funding in fiscal year 2017 for MetroWest and other legal services offices around the state.
On Monday, Maia and legal services representatives met with the Daily News editorial board to advocate for that additional funding. Tuesday they made a similar case in front of the House Ways and Means Committee.