Massachusetts Legal Assistance Corporation – The legislature’s final FY15 budget includes $15 million in legal aid funding, a $2 million increase over the FY14 appropriation.

Massachusetts Legal Assistance Corporation – The House of Representatives recommends $15m for civil legal aid in its final FY15 budget.

West Roxbury lawyer joins fight to fund civil legal aid (Wicked Local)

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.

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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.

Read more at Wicked Local.

EJC to Honor Legislators with Awards for Supporting Civil Legal Aid

BOSTON, February 24, 2014 – The Equal Justice Coalition will honor six current and former legislators with awards at a reception on Wednesday, Feb. 26. The recipients will be recognized for their outstanding support of funding for organizations that provide access to justice for low-income Massachusetts residents with critical civil legal problems.

House Speaker Rep. Robert A. DeLeo (D-Winthrop) and Rep. Brian S. Dempsey (D-Haverhill) will receive Beacon of Justice awards for their leadership in support of funding for civil legal aid in 2013.

Sen. Stephen M. Brewer (D-Barre), U.S. Rep. Katherine Clark, Sen. Therese Murray (D-Plymouth) and former Rep. Eugene O’Flaherty will receive Champion of Justice awards for their exceptional support of civil legal aid throughout their legislative careers.

WHEN:
Wednesday, February 26
12pm to 1pm
Lunch will be served

WHERE:
Massachusetts State House
Grand Staircase
Boston, Massachusetts

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.

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EJC Honors Legislators at Beacon of Justice Awards

View photos from the event

BOSTON, February 26, 2014 – The Equal Justice Coalition honored six current and former Massachusetts lawmakers with awards at a reception today at the Massachusetts State House.

The honorees were selected for their outstanding support of state funding for civil legal aid through the Massachusetts Legal Assistance Corporation (MLAC). MLAC funds and supports organizations that provide civil legal assistance to low-income residents facing critical problems, such as domestic violence and eviction due to foreclosure.

House Speaker Rep. Robert A. DeLeo (D-Winthrop) and House Ways & Means Chair Brian S. Dempsey (D-Haverhill) received Beacon of Justice awards for their longstanding leadership and support for civil legal aid funding in 2013.

Senate President Therese Murray (D-Plymouth), Senate Ways & Means Chair Stephen M. Brewer (D-Barre), U.S. Rep. Katherine Clark, and former Rep. Eugene O’Flaherty received Champion of Justice awards for their exceptional support of civil legal aid throughout their legislative careers.

MLAC Executive Director Lonnie Powers thanked the lawmakers and noted that their support is critical at a time when funding constraints force legal aid organizations across the state to turn away more than half of the eligible people who seek their help.

“We are extremely grateful for the efforts of these legislative leaders,” said Powers. “The constitution’s promise of justice for all goes unfulfilled without adequate funding of civil legal aid. Today’s honorees have demonstrated a remarkable commitment to increasing our funding so that more of our Commonwealth’s neediest residents have access to the quality legal advice and representation they deserve.”

“I am truly honored to have received the Champion of Justice Award,” Senate President Murray said. “The right to legal representation is a right that every individual should be entitled to, regardless of income, and I’d like to thank the Equal Justice Coalition for continuing to fight for fairness in our courts.”

“Legal aid protects the rights of individuals across the Commonwealth, fosters equality and helps make our state a more just place,” Speaker DeLeo said. “That’s why I was proud the House provided $13 million for legal aid in last year’s budget and why I’m proud to receive this award. Thank you to the Equal Justice Coalition and the many legal associations who make this work possible.”

“It’s important that everyone in the Commonwealth has access to legal aid and support,” said Rep. Dempsey. “I am thankful for the work that the Equal Justice Coalition does on behalf of the most vulnerable members of our communities.”

“I am honored to be chosen as a recipient of this award,” said Sen. Brewer.  “Access to civil legal aid is critical for every citizen of the Commonwealth and we must continue to ensure that our neediest residents have this access and representation.  It is true that these are fiscally challenging times, but we must remain resolute to providing services that can be essential to the survival of these citizens.”

“I’m very grateful to receive this recognition from the Equal Justice Coalition,” said Congresswoman Clark. “Justice is a fundamental American promise that belongs to everyone regardless of economic status. The Coalition’s ongoing work helps to ensure that promise for every person in Massachusetts.”

Also recognized at the reception were more than sixty state Senators and Representatives who co-sponsored amendments increasing MLAC’s appropriation in the Massachusetts state budget for fiscal year 2014.

About The Equal Justice Coalition
The Equal Justice Coalition is a collaboration of the Massachusetts Legal Assistance Corporation, Massachusetts Bar Association and Boston Bar Association. It advocates increasing the state appropriation for civil legal aid, which funds programs throughout the state that provide legal advice and representation to low-income Massachusetts residents facing civil legal problems.

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More funding sought for low income, elderly legal aid (South Coast Today)

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.

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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.

Click here for the full article from South Coast Today.

Chief Justice Ireland Joins Appeal for Civil Legal Aid Funding

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More than 500 attorneys participated in Walk to the Hill 2014. View more photos here.

BOSTON (January 30, 2014) – In a speech at the State House’s Great Hall this morning, Chief Justice Roderick Ireland addressed more than 500 lawyers who gathered to participate in the 15th annual Walk to the Hill for Civil Legal Aid. Justice Ireland asked participants to urge their legislators to support increased state funding for civil legal aid.

“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.”

The Chief Justice’s remarks came one week after Governor Deval Patrick recommended $14 million for the Massachusetts Legal Assistance Corporation (MLAC) in his fiscal year 2015 budget proposal. 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. Programs have been struggling to meet demand as other funding sources have dried up in recent years. The Interest on Lawyers’ Trust Accounts Program, which provided $17 million in funding for civil legal aid in FY08, is expected to provide just $2.6 million in FY14, an 85 percent drop. MLAC has cut grants to the 16 legal aid programs it funds by 51 percent since FY08.

Malden resident Charlene Julce explained how her family’s dream of homeownership was nearly shattered when their bank illegally foreclosed on their home. Charlene, a first generation Haitian-American, sought assistance from Greater Boston Legal Services, which helped her successfully sue the bank.

“There is simply no way my family and I could have figured out how to keep our home without the help of Greater Boston Legal Services,” said Julce. “The notices from our bank were complicated and we didn’t even know what our options were for help. My family might be facing homelessness today if it weren’t for the legal assistance we received.”

“Civil legal aid spares individuals and families the indignities and hardship that can occur when their only avenue to justice is through the court system, and yet they lack the resources needed to obtain a fair hearing,” said Lonnie Powers, MLAC’s executive director. “I applaud Chief Justice Ireland for recognizing that we must increase civil legal aid funding in order to fulfill the Constitution’s promise of justice for all. An increase in funding for civil legal aid will also bring economic benefits to our Commonwealth, which receives tens of millions of dollars every year in federal benefits and cost savings won by legal aid attorneys on behalf of their clients.”

The speaking program also featured Massachusetts Bar Association President Douglas K. Sheff, and Boston Bar Association President Paul T. Dacier, who both called on the legislature to increase state funding for civil legal aid.

“Funding for civil legal aid is a bit over three hundredths of one percent of the overall state budget,” said Douglas K. Sheff, president of the Massachusetts Bar Association. “The governor’s proposal of $1 million in increased funding for MLAC is a step in the right direction, but it’s still inadequate to meet the needs in our Commonwealth. Without the full $17 million for MLAC, thousands of our citizens could face life-changing hardships involving their housing, their jobs and their health, among others, without the vital lifeline that legal aid provides. The Massachusetts Bar Association is in a unique position to help encourage our legislature to do the right thing, and the right thing is to empower the poor with the resources necessary to seek justice in our great Commonwealth.”

“Access to justice for all is a key tenet of democracy, and our legal system operates most effectively when parties are represented by lawyers,” said Boston Bar Association President Paul T. Dacier. “Public funding of legal aid is essential for allowing some of the most vulnerable people in our community to exercise their legal rights.”

The Walk was co-sponsored by the Equal Justice Coalition, Boston Bar Association, Massachusetts Bar Association and many local and specialty bar associations. Attorneys from more than 50 Boston-area law firms and organizations participated.

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.

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Chief Justice Ireland, Bar Leaders to Speak at 15th Walk to the Hill

BOSTON (January 21, 2014) – Chief Justice Roderick L. Ireland of the Supreme Judicial Court will join hundreds of private attorneys from more than 50 law firms at the Massachusetts State House on Jan. 30 for the 15th Annual Walk to the Hill for Civil Legal Aid. Attendees of this annual lobby day, one of the best-attended of the year, will ask for increased state funding for programs that provide civil legal aid to low-income Massachusetts residents.

Justice Ireland will kick off the speaking program at 11:30 a.m. in the Great Hall of Flags. Charlene Julce, a former legal aid client, will also speak. She will recount how her family’s dream of homeownership was nearly shattered when their bank issued them a predatory loan and then illegally foreclosed. Charlene’s attorney helped her successfully sue the bank and soon her family will be able to repurchase their home. The full list of speakers is below.

Following the speaking program, attorneys will visit their legislators and ask them to increase funding for the Massachusetts Legal Assistance Corporation by $4 million to $17 million in the FY15 state budget. MLAC is the largest funder of civil legal aid in Massachusetts.

Increased funding is critical to restore service levels and prevent further cuts to civil legal aid programs, which have been struggling to meet demand due to an 85 percent decrease in revenue since FY08 from the Interest on Lawyers’ Trust Accounts (IOLTA) program, the other major funding source for civil legal aid.

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, and it is co-sponsored by several county and specialty bar associations throughout Massachusetts.

SPEAKING PROGRAM:
11:30 a.m. to 12:00 p.m.
Great Hall of Flags
Massachusetts State House, Boston

The order of speakers is as follows:

  • Chief Justice Roderick L. Ireland of the Supreme Judicial Court
  • Massachusetts Bar Association President Douglas K. Sheff.
  • Boston Bar Association President Paul T. Dacier
  • Charlene Julce of Malden – former 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 (www.twitter.com/equaljusticema) as well as the hashtags #legalaid and #WTTH2014 for the latest on Walk to the Hill 2014.

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.

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