Massachusetts State House

Gov. Baker Approves $29M for Civil Legal Aid Funding

$5M increase boosts aid for people harmed in COVID’s wake

Governor Charlie Baker has signed the FY21 Budget of the Commonwealth, allocating $29 million for civil legal aid through the Massachusetts Legal Assistance Corporation – a $5 million increase over the prior fiscal year.

“I applaud and thank Governor Baker for recognizing the urgent need for civil legal aid to help low-income people avoid the loss of essential benefits and protections during the pandemic,” said Lynne Parker, executive director of MLAC. “Civil legal aid is an essential part of the Commonwealth’s recovery from COVID-19, and the additional funding will help civil legal aid organizations in every part of the state serve more people facing serious threats to their safety and well-being.”

Parker also thanked the leadership of the House and Senate and the many legislators who recognized the unprecedented need legal aid lawyers are working to address. “Thousands more Massachusetts residents will receive legal assistance because of this funding, in the areas of housing, unemployment, domestic violence, family law, consumer debt, immigration, health care, education, and other benefits.”

Parker also recognized the advocacy of the Massachusetts Bar Association, the Boston Bar Association, the Women’s Bar Association of Massachusetts, numerous other county and specialty bar associations, and managing partners at many of the state’s largest law farms. In addition, many social service workers and advocates spoke out for legal aid funding to help people in the communities they serve.

“Every day during this pandemic, we are reminded that everyone’s well-being is served when the health and safety of others is protected,” Parker said. “Additional funding for civil legal aid creates a wide array of benefits and advances the principles of justice and fairness for all people.”

Massachusetts State House

MLAC applauds Budget allocating $29M for Civil Legal Aid

House and Senate approve FY21 budget, recognizing need for greater access to legal protection

BOSTON, December 7, 2020 — In voting to approve a compromise budget for Fiscal Year 2021, the Massachusetts House and Senate have included $29 million to fund civil legal aid through the Massachusetts Legal Assistance Corporation 0321-1600 – a $5 million increase over FY 20.

“We’re grateful to House and Senate leadership and all the legislators who recognized the extraordinary hardship low-income people are facing because of the COVID-19 crisis and the remedies that civil legal aid can provide to people facing eviction, unemployment, loss of benefits, and other serious problems,” said Lynne Parker, executive director of MLAC. “This much-needed funding will go a long way to providing more essential legal services to people in every city and town in Massachusetts.”

Parker recognized the members of the Budget Conference Committee, who worked hard to create the final budget and provide the $29 million in funding for civil legal aid. The Conference Committee members included: Senate Ways and Means Chairman Michael Rodrigues; House Ways and Means Chairman Aaron Michlewitz; Senate Ways and Means Vice Chairwoman Cindy Friedman; Senate ranking Republican Patrick O’Connor; House Ways and Means Vice Chairwoman Denise Garlick; and House ranking Republican Rep. Todd Smola.

Speaking on the House floor on Friday, Chair Michlewitz said that the legislature was “investing $29 million into the Massachusetts Legal Assistance Corporation, a $5 million increase over last year. These additional funds will provide greater access to the legal protections they deserve.”

“It was wonderful to hear the Chair publicly recognize the extraordinary work that legal aid lawyers have been doing in their communities during the pandemic,” Parker said.

She also thanked the Equal Justice Coalition that has championed the crucial work of civil legal aid during the COVID-19 crisis, including the Massachusetts Bar Association, the Boston Bar Association, the Women’s Bar Association, managing partners of many of the state’s largest law firms, and advocates with social services organizations in every corner of the Commonwealth.

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Massachusetts State House

MLAC praises Senate Ways and Means for recommending $29M for Civil Legal Aid

In wake of COVID, demand for legal aid surges

Today the Senate Ways and Means Committee presented its Fiscal Year 2021 budget, including $29 million to fund civil legal aid through the Massachusetts Legal Assistance Corporation 0321-1600 – a $5 million increase over FY 20.

“This funding increase is vital, and we thank Senate President Karen Spilka and Senate Ways and Means Chair Michael Rodrigues for their leadership in providing it,” said Lynne Parker, executive director of MLAC. “The COVID-19 pandemic has had a devastating impact on low-income people in the Commonwealth. This funding increase will help legal aid lawyers across the state provide essential services to protect people at risk of losing their housing, access to benefits, and other protections.”

Parker also extended her gratitude to the many Senators who support this increased funding and recognize the extraordinary work that legal aid lawyers have been doing in their communities during the pandemic.

She also thanked the Equal Justice Coalition that has championed the crucial work of civil legal aid during the COVID-19 crisis, including the Massachusetts Bar Association, the Boston Bar Association, the Women’s Bar Association, managing partners of many of the state’s largest law firms, and advocates with social services organizations in every corner of the Commonwealth.

“Civil legal aid is an essential service that has been helping vulnerable people in every part of the Commonwealth resolve serious legal issues that threaten people’s health, safety, and financial stability. This budget recognizes that the surge of need is ongoing and that front-line legal aid lawyers and advocates are a vital part of the state’s response to and recovery from this crisis,” Parker said.

MLAC applauds $29M for Civil Legal Aid in House Ways and Means Budget

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
November 5, 2020
Contact: Michelle Deakin
mdeakin@mlac.org

MLAC applauds $29M for Civil Legal Aid in House Ways and Means Budget

In COVID’s wake, grateful for funding needed more than ever, says Lynne Parker

BOSTON, November 5, 2020 — Today the House Ways and Means Committee presented its Fiscal Year 2021 budget, including $29 million to fund civil legal aid through the Massachusetts Legal Assistance Corporation 0321-1600 – a $5 million increase over FY 20.

Lynne Parker, executive director of MLAC applauded the funding increase, calling it an important recognition of the devastating impact the COVID-19 crisis has had on low-income people. “We thank House Speaker Robert DeLeo and House Ways and Means Chair Aaron Michlewitz for their leadership in providing additional funding for civil legal aid, an essential service that is needed now more than ever,” she said. “They recognize the need for this additional funding to aid vulnerable people at risk of losing their income, benefits, housing, and other necessary protections to keep them safe and healthy during the pandemic.”

Parker also thanks many members of the House for their support of this increased funding, noting how many legislators appreciate the work done for their communities through local civil legal aid offices. She also praises the Equal Justice Coalition that has championed the essential work of civil legal aid during the pandemic, including the Massachusetts Bar Association, the Boston Bar Association, the Women’s Bar Association, managing partners of many of the state’s largest law firms, and advocates with social services organizations in every corner of the Commonwealth.

“This budget recognizes the surge of need for civil legal aid and will help MLAC fund front-line lawyers and advocates to assist thousands more people who otherwise would not receive assistance in resolving serious legal issues that threaten their health, safety, and financial stability,” Parker said.

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About MLAC The Massachusetts Legal Assistance Corporation is the largest funding source for civil legal aid organizations in Massachusetts. The Commonwealth established MLAC in 1983 to ensure that low-income people facing critical non-criminal legal issues would have access to legal information, advice, and representation. For more info, please visit mlac.org

On Twitter @CivilLegalAid

Supreme Judicial Court Chief Justice Ralph D. Gants Calls for Increased Civil Legal Aid at Walk to the Hill

Supreme Judicial Court Chief Justice Ralph D. Gants joined hundreds of attorneys, law students and others last week in calling for increased state funding for civil legal aid to vulnerable low income Massachusetts residents in need at the annual Walk to the Hill at the Massachusetts State House.

“The good news is that the legislature in the past few years has been great to the Massachusetts Legal Assistance Corporation; between fiscal years 2018 and 2020 the legislature has substantially increased the amount appropriated to MLAC,” Chief Justice Gants said. “We are blessed with a legislature that knows the importance of civil legal aid to this Commonwealth and has acted on that knowledge. Our legislators ‘get it’…But that good news is also the bad news, because it means that legal services still turn away more than half of the eligible persons who come to them seeking legal assistance.”

Organized by the Equal Justice Coalition, the event called for increased funding for the Massachusetts Legal Assistance Corporation, the largest funding source for civil legal aid organizations in the state, by $5 million in the Fiscal Year 2021 state budget, for a total appropriation of $29 million… Read more in The Chelsea Record.

Chief Justice Gants, hundreds of attorneys call for increased civil legal aid funding at Walk to the Hill

Advocates request $29 million to expand access to representation in FY21

Kenda Cluff, a client of South Coastal Counties Legal Services, speaks at Walk to the Hill. Photo Credit: Elbert John

Tenants are fighting evictions in the midst of a housing crisis. Veterans are battling war-time injuries and legal issues. And a growing senior population is facing poverty and serious legal problems. Those are just some of the reasons the Commonwealth should provide more funding for civil legal aid, said Chief Justice Ralph Gants at the 21st annual Walk to the Hill for Civil Legal Aid at the Massachusetts State House on January 30.

Chief Justice Ralph Gants

Chief Justice Ralph Gants speaks at Walk to the Hill. Photo credit: Jeffrey Thiebauth

Chief Justice Gants spoke in support of the Massachusetts Legal Assistance Corporation’s request of $29 million for civil legal aid in the Commonwealth’s FY21 budget—an increase of $5 million compared to current funding levels. The Massachusetts Legal Assistance Corporation is the largest funder of civil legal aid organizations in Massachusetts.

Approximately 700 people—attorneys from nearly 40 firms and companies, law students (including 95 from the University of Massachusetts School of Law), legal aid staff, and advocates—gathered for the annual lobby day.

Kenda Cluff, a mother of four young children and a client of South Coastal Counties Legal Services, described how legal aid lawyers helped her end an abusive marriage, gain sole custody of her children, and prevail in a lawsuit filed by her former in-laws seeking her share of the divorce settlement.

Kenda Cluff

Kenda Cluff shares how civil legal aid helped her and her children. Photo credit: Elbert John

“I know there are many people out there who are desperate to get out of awful situations like mine,” Cluff said. “The work these legal aid lawyers do is so important. It has a generational effect. My children’s lives are completely changed because of the help we received from legal aid. Without legal aid, my three daughters would think abuse is acceptable. My son would think it is okay to be abandoned or to abandon. I’ve given them new opportunity to move into a different direction in life. These types of changes have a ripple effect in this world.”

Unfortunately, insufficient funding for legal aid organizations forces them to turn away the majority of eligible people who seek help, Chief Justice Gants said. He urged the attorneys and law students gathered in the Hall of Flags to advocate on their behalf: “You speak not for yourselves, but for all those who have neither money nor power, but who might have the law on their side, if only they knew how to use it.”

Gants also emphasized the economic benefits that civil legal aid brings to Massachusetts and its residents: “Remember that a dollar devoted to legal aid is not merely an investment in justice; it has also been proven to be a sound economic investment that returns roughly between two and five dollars to the Commonwealth for each dollar spent.”

Civil legal aid organizations have received funding increases from the legislature in recent years, and speakers noted the continued need for that support. “More money for legal aid means more qualified people who get a lawyer,” said Louis Tompros, chair of the Equal Justice Coalition, a collaboration of MLAC, the Boston Bar Association, and the Massachusetts Bar Association.

UMass Law students

More than 90 students of the University of Massachusetts School of Law advocated for legal aid at the state house. Photo credit: Elbert John

Legal aid makes a “long-term difference in the lives of low-income residents in the Commonwealth,” said Lynne Parker, executive director of the Massachusetts Legal Assistance Corporation. “One of the greatest strengths of legal aid advocates is their expertise, their capacity to confront and overcome the challenges that face our clients – life-threatening housing conditions, homelessness, domestic violence, deportation, loss of employment, elder abuse and neglect.”

Parker added, “Legal aid is vital to the health of our communities, the health of the judicial system, and the state’s commitment to access to justice.”

Christine Netski, president of the Boston Bar Association, said a growing number of immigrants are overwhelmed by the prospect of facing the court system alone. She recounted the story of Daniela, a young woman from Brazil who had become pregnant with twins as the result of a sexual assault. Immigration and Customs Enforcement began removal proceedings, but with the help of MetroWest Legal Services, she was able to avoid deportation and obtain a U visa. She now has steady employment and is working on her high school diploma.

“Immigration issues like those faced by Daniela are especially prevalent today,” said Netski, noting that the MLAC-funded Greater Boston Immigration Defense Fund is “one of the great legal services programs working to increase access to the justice system for members of our immigrant communities.”

Massachusetts Bar Association President John J. Morrissey lauded the pro bono efforts of lawyers across the state to provide free representation to unrepresented civil litigants. “But efforts of our volunteers alone cannot reach the goal of providing vital legal services to people in need,” he said. “We need more funding for civil legal aid programs so that legal aid attorneys don’t have to turn away more than half of the people that come to them.”

In closing, Cluff, the client of South Coastal Counties Legal Services, said, “I have no idea how much the help from the lawyers at South Coastal Counties would have cost. But it is priceless to me. It is my hope that sharing my story in front of so many unfamiliar faces will help a mother out there who is not willing to take another turn in an awful cycle of abuse.”

Chief Justice Gants, Bar Leaders Rally Jan. 30 for Civil Legal Aid Funding

At 21st annual Walk to the Hill, hundreds of attorneys to advocate for $29M for Civil Legal Aid

BOSTON (January 23, 2020) – Chief Justice Ralph Gants of the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court, bar association leaders, and law students will join hundreds of private attorneys from more than 36 law firms at the Massachusetts State House on Thursday, Jan. 30 at 11 a.m. for the 21st Annual Walk to the Hill for Civil Legal Aid. Attendees at this annual lobby day will request a $5 million increase in state funding for programs that provide civil legal aid to low-income Massachusetts residents.

“Legal aid providers funded by MLAC are on the front lines combatting the challenges of our turbulent times: eviction and homelessness arising from rising rents, deportation and family separation resulting from ICE’s immigration policies, elder abuse and domestic violence, families torn apart by opioid abuse, veterans struggling with physical, mental health, financial, and legal problems arising from their military service,” said Supreme Judicial Court Chief Justice Ralph Gants. “Fighting the good fight requires more than dedication, courage, and perseverance, which legal aid providers have in abundance; it requires funding sufficient to give them the staff and the resources they need to achieve justice.”

In addition to Chief Justice Gants, speakers at the Walk to the Hill will include: Christine Netski, president of the Boston Bar Association; and John Morrissey, president of the Massachusetts Bar Association.

“Civil legal aid is essential to help people in crisis avoid homelessness and unemployment and gain access to essential benefits and services, including veterans’ benefits, healthcare, and quality education. Legal aid lawyers also support survivors of domestic violence, older adults living in poverty, and immigrants,” said Lynne Parker, executive director of the Massachusetts Legal Assistance Corporation. “Civil legal aid is often life changing for people, creating stability and opportunity – and delivering hope and justice”

Following the speaking program, attorneys will visit their legislators and urge them to provide a $5 million increase in funding for MLAC, the largest funder of civil legal aid in Massachusetts, for a total appropriation of $29 million in the FY21 state budget.

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. The event is co-sponsored by numerous county and specialty bar associations throughout Massachusetts.

SPEAKING PROGRAM
11:30 to 12:10 pm
Great Hall of Flags
Massachusetts State House, Boston

The order of speakers is:
• Louis Tompros, Chair, Equal Justice Coalition
• Lynne Parker, Executive Director, Massachusetts Legal Assistance Corporation
• Chief Justice Ralph Gants, Supreme Judicial Court
• Christine Netski, President, Boston Bar Association
• John Morrissey, President, Massachusetts Bar Association
• A client of South Coastal Counties Legal Services
• Jacquelynne Bowman, Executive Director, Greater Boston Legal Services

Media are welcome to attend the speaking program.

About the EJC
The Equal Justice Coalition is a collaboration of the Boston Bar Association, Massachusetts Bar Association, and the Massachusetts Legal Assistance Corporation working to increase state funding for civil legal aid.
www.equaljusticecoalition.org
@equaljusticema
#IWalkforJustice
Media contact:
Michelle Deakin
617-391-5627
mdeakin@mlac.org
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MLAC response to Governor’s Budget recommendation

BOSTON, January 22, 2020 – Today, Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker released his FY2021 budget with a recommendation to fund civil legal aid at $24 million, the same amount of funding it received in FY20.

“We are pleased Gov. Baker recognizes the vital role civil legal aid plays in promoting equal access to justice for low-income residents of the Commonwealth,” said Lynne Parker, executive director of the Massachusetts Legal Assistance Corporation. “Civil legal aid is essential to help people in crisis avoid homelessness and unemployment and gain access to essential benefits and services, including veterans’ benefits, healthcare, and quality education. Legal aid lawyers also support survivors of domestic violence, older adults living in poverty, and immigrants. Civil legal aid is often life changing for people, creating stability and opportunity – and delivering hope and justice.

“There remains a great unmet need for civil legal aid in Massachusetts, and MLAC will pursue additional funding. Next week, Chief Justice Ralph Gants of the Supreme Judicial Court, bar leaders, law students, and lawyers from around the Commonwealth will gather at the State House for the 21st Annual Walk to the Hill for Civil Legal Aid. We will seek an additional $5 million in funding so more people can have equal access to justice. [For more information on the Walk to the Hill, visit equaljusticecoaltion.org.]

“Civil legal aid organizations are forced to turn away more people than they can serve, due to lack of funding. This is true even though civil legal aid yields a strong economic return for the Commonwealth and its residents. Last year, civil legal aid organizations provided an economic benefit of more than $69 million. Investing in civil legal aid is just and makes good economic sense.

“With the great unmet need and the strong return on the Commonwealth’s investment in civil legal aid, we strongly urge the legislature to increase civil legal aid funding to $29 million for FY21.”

About MLAC. The Massachusetts Legal Assistance Corporation is the largest funding source for civil legal aid organizations in Massachusetts, funding nonprofits that provide legal information, advice, and representation to low-income people with critical, non-criminal legal problems. www.mlac.org

Equal Justice Coalition to honor 13 champions of Legal Aid with Beacon of Justice Awards

The Equal Justice Coalition will honor nine legislators and four attorneys at the Massachusetts State House with Beacon of Justice Awards on Nov. 12.

The honorees were selected for their significant support of state funding for civil legal aid through the Massachusetts Legal Assistance Corporation. MLAC is the largest funding source for civil legal aid organizations in the Commonwealth, aiding nonprofits that provide critical legal assistance to low-income residents facing serious legal problems, such as foreclosure, eviction, and domestic violence.

The Beacon of Justice award winners are:

– Rep. Marjorie Decker (D-Cambridge)
– Sen. Vinny deMacedo (R-Plymouth)
– Sen. Sal DiDomenico (D-Everett)
– Sen. Jamie Eldridge (D-Acton)
– Rep. Tricia Farley-Bouvier (D-Pittsfield)
– Rahsaan Hall, director of the Racial Justice Program at the Massachusetts ACLU and former chair of the MLAC Board of Directors
– Marty Healy, Chief Operating Officer and Chief Legal Officer, Massachusetts Bar Association
– Rep. Ronald Mariano (D-Quincy)
– Rep. Aaron Michlewitz (D-Boston)
– Lon Povich, Counsel at Anderson & Kreiger and former Chief Legal Counsel to Governor Charlie Baker
– Sen. Michael Rodrigues (D-Westport)
– J.D. Smeallie, Partner at Holland & Knight and former Boston Bar Association President
– Rep. Todd Smola (R-Palmer)

“Through their efforts to increase funding for civil legal aid, these legislators and lawyers have shown tremendous leadership in their support for access to justice for all residents of the Commonwealth,” said Lynne Parker, MLAC executive director. “Legal aid can have profoundly positive effects on people facing eviction, domestic violence, lack of access to benefits, and other serious civil legal issues. We’re grateful to these award winners for their commitment to legal aid, which boosts not just individuals, but also their families and communities.”

The Equal Justice Coalition will also recognize past Beacon of Justice Award recipients who are longstanding champions of civil legal aid by naming them to the Beacon of Justice Hall of Fame. They are: Senate President Karen Spilka; Senate Majority Leader Cynthia Creem; Senate President Pro Tempore Will Brownsberger; Senate President Emerita Harriette Chandler; Sen. Mark Montigny; Senate Minority Leader Bruce Tarr; House Speaker Robert DeLeo; Speaker Pro Tempore Patricia Haddad; House Assistant Majority Leader Paul Donato; Rep. Ruth Balser; Rep. Claire Cronin; Assistant House Minority Leader Brad Hill; Rep. John Rogers; Congresswoman Katherine Clark; Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey; and Justice Robert Cordy (retired).

At the award ceremony, the EJC will also commend more than 100 legislators who were named Supporters of Justice. Each of those senators and representatives co-sponsored amendments to increase MLAC’s appropriation in the Massachusetts state budget for Fiscal Year 2020.

The Equal Justice Coalition is a collaboration of the Massachusetts Legal Assistance Corporation, Massachusetts Bar Association, and Boston Bar Association. It advocates for increased funding for civil legal aid, through the line item for MLAC. The largest funder of civil legal aid in Massachusetts, MLAC funds legal aid organizations across the state that provide legal advice and representation to low-income Massachusetts residents facing serious civil legal problems.

Gov. Baker Approves $24M for Civil Legal Aid Funding

$3M increase boosts aid for people with housing, employment, family and immigration disputes

BOSTON, July 31, 2019— Governor Charlie Baker has signed the FY20 Budget of the Commonwealth, which includes $24 million for civil legal aid through the Massachusetts Legal Assistance Corporation—a $3 million increase over FY19.

Lynne Parker, executive director of MLAC, praised the governor and the legislature for the funding increase. “Although the economy is booming for many, the need for civil legal aid is large and continues to grow. This increased funding will expand the capacity of civil legal aid organizations across Massachusetts to help more low-income people address challenges related to housing, domestic violence, immigration, health care, employment, and other issues that threaten their safety and well-being.

“I applaud the governor for recognizing this urgent need. And I extend my thanks to the House and the Senate for recognizing the thousands of Massachusetts residents who would not receive legal assistance without this additional funding. It brings us closer to our goal of providing equal access to justice for all.”

Parker also recognized the advocacy of the Massachusetts Bar Association, the Boston Bar Association, the Women’s Bar Association of Massachusetts, numerous county and specialty bar associations, managing partners at many of the state’s largest law firms, business leaders, and our social service partners.

“The active support of legal aid in so many corners of the Commonwealth is inspiring,” Parker said. “This advocacy exemplifies the Commonwealth’s commitment to the principles of justice and fairness for all.”

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About MLAC
The Massachusetts Legal Assistance Corporation is the largest funding source for civil legal aid programs in Massachusetts. It was established by the state legislature in 1983 to ensure that low-income people with critical, non-criminal legal problems would have access to legal information, advice and representation. For more information, please visit: www.mlac.org.