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.
Below is an excerpt from a January 30 article published by South Coast Today about the EJC’s annual lobby day, Walk to the Hill for Civil Legal Aid. Lonnie Powers, Executive Director of the Massachusetts Legal Assistance Corporation (MLAC), and Susan Nagl, Executive Director of South Coastal Counties Legal Services, are quoted.
Hundreds of Massachusetts attorneys descended on Beacon Hill on Thursday to lobby for increased state funding for civil legal aid programs that help provide legal advice and representation to low-income and elderly Bay State residents.
“Civil legal aid represents the most vulnerable members of our society,” said Lonnie Powers, executive director of the Massachusetts Legal Assistance Corporation, which distributes money from the state to local legal aid programs.
The governor’s proposed budget, announced last week, would allot $13 million to legal aid. Those assembled at the Statehouse on Thursday were lobbying to increase the amount to $17 million.
“We’re going to be working as hard as we possibly can to convince the Legislature that in a $40 billion budget, they can find $4 million more for such a vital service,” Powers said, referring to the governor’s $34.6 billion budget proposal.
Civil legal aid, partially funded by the state, is designed to help low income or elderly clients get legal help in non-criminal issues such as housing, domestic violence and elderly services.
The South Coastal Counties Legal Services, one nonprofit organization funded in part by the state’s civil legal aid, serves the five counties of Southeastern Massachusetts. Susan Nagl, South Coastal’s executive director, said the non-profit has helped many homeowners and tenants fight foreclosure, including one man whose foreclosed home had been in the family since the 1940s.
“We were able to stop an eviction and help him negotiate a buyback of his home,” Nagl said.