Below is an excerpt from a March 2 article, published by Wicked Local, regarding the EJC’s annual lobby day, Walk to the Hill for Civil Legal Aid. It includes an interview with Heather V. Baer, a West Roxbury resident and a lawyer at Sally & Fitch, about the event and her support of increased civil legal aid funding.
A lawyer for almost 20 years, West Roxbury resident Heather V. Baer worked as a prosecutor in Middlesex County until 1999 and has been at Boston’s Sally & Fitch since 2000. She recently participated in the 15th annual Walk to the Hill for Civil Legal Aid with more than 500 other lawyers.
In a speech at the State House’s Great Hall last month, Chief Justice Roderick Ireland asked the hundreds of participants to urge their legislators to support increased state funding for civil legal aid, according to a press release from the Equal Justice Coalition, one of the co-sponsors of the event.
“Civil legal aid attorneys help to level the playing field,” said Ireland. “They are committed to the ideal of equal access to justice for all. However, they are forced to turn away over half of the people who come to them for help. We are here today to help balance the scales of justice.”
Ireland’s remarks came one week after Gov. Deval Patrick recommended $14 million for the Massachusetts Legal Assistance Corporation (MLAC) in his fiscal year 2015 budget proposal, according to the press release. MLAC, which is the largest single funding source for civil legal aid in Massachusetts, received a $13 million appropriation from the state this fiscal year.
The goal of this year’s Walk to the Hill is to increase state funding for organizations that provide advice and representation to low-income residents facing critical civil legal issues such as eviction and foreclosure; child custody and support issues; denial of health care coverage; unemployment benefits appeals; domestic violence; and elder abuse, according to the Equal Justice Coalition. Programs have been struggling to meet demand as other funding sources have dried up in recent years.