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 recognizes four law firms and UMass Law for Support of Legal Aid

Awards recognize exceptional participation in Walk to the Hill

BOSTON, January 9, 2020 – The Equal Justice Coalition has recognized four law firms and UMass Law School for their outstanding participation in the 2019 Walk to the Hill for Civil Legal Aid.

The award winners are:
– Morgan Lewis: Highest Participation Award
– Ropes & Gray: Exceptional Support Award
– Meehan, Boyle, Black & Bogdanow: Nancy King Award
– WilmerHale: Team Advocacy Award
– UMass Law: Highest Participation for a Law School Award.

Morgan Lewis receives award

From left: Lynne Parker, Executive Director, MLAC; Jason Frank, attorney and team captain of Morgan Lewis; Louis Tompros, Chair, EJC

The Walk to the Hill for Civil Legal Aid is the annual lobby day for supporters of a larger state appropriation for the legal assistance organizations funded by the Massachusetts Legal Assistance Corporation. Last January, nearly 700 attorneys and law students convened at the Massachusetts State House to ask legislators to increase the state appropriation for civil legal aid. The commonwealth ultimately included an increase of $3 million, appropriating $24 million for civil legal aid in FY20.

“Private lawyers and law students are essential partners in the effort to make the case for the importance of funding civil legal aid for the Commonwealth’s most vulnerable residents in times of crisis,” said Lynne Parker, executive director of MLAC. “All people deserve equal access to justice and to the courts, regardless of their income. I’m so grateful to these lawyers, law students, and law firms for advocating for civil justice for all people.”

This year, the Walk to the Hill for Civil Legal Aid will be on January 30. Chief Justice Ralph Gants of the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court, bar association leaders, and law students will join hundreds of private attorneys at the State House to lobby for $29 million for civil legal aid in FY21.

About the Award Winners:
Morgan Lewis won the Highest Participation Award, with 36 lawyers from the firm attending the 2019 Walk to the Hill.
Ropes & Gray received the Exceptional Support Award in recognition of having the second largest group of lawyers attend, with a total of 32 participants.
Meehan, Boyle, Black & Bogdanow received the Nancy King for bringing the largest percentage of law firm employees to the Walk. The award is named for Nancy King, a longtime legal aid attorney in Boston who passed away in 2007.
WilmerHale earned the Team Advocacy Award, which is given to the law firm that visits the most legislative offices during the Walk to the Hill.
UMass Law received the Highest Participation for a Law School Award. Eighty students at the Dartmouth-based school traveled to Boston for the 2019 Walk to the Hill.

UMass Law receives award

From left: Louis Tompros, Chair, EJC; Kseniya Ruzanova, 3L UMass Law; Alexandria Murphy, 2L UMass Law; Kara Kocurek, 1L UMass Law; Nicholas LaFlamme, 2L UMassLaw; Lynne Parker, Executive Director, MLAC


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

Our View: When you need a lawyer

Nobody wants to think about lawyers amid their New Year’s revelry and resolutions, but odds are good you’ll need legal help at some point during 2020.

If you get arrested and hauled into court, you have the right to a lawyer even if you cannot pay for one. Clarence Earl Gideon’s handwritten appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court, and the unanimous ruling that came in his case in 1963, assured us of that.

Not so much if you have to go to court to handle a civil matter, say, to ask for help collecting unpaid child support from your ex or to fend off creditors who want to dip into your paycheck. Those who can least afford a lawyer are the ones most disadvantaged. If not for the help of legal assistance programs, justice would only come to those who can most afford it.

All of which is something to bear in mind later this month when a group of legal professionals walk to the Statehouse to call attention to funding needs for the Massachusetts Legal Assistance Corp. The organization supports legal aid throughout the state, as well as specific programs aimed at helping people living with low incomes or who may have trouble finding a lawyer.

Last year, about 700 lawyers participated in the 20th annual Walk to the Hill for Civil Legal Aid. This year’s walk is scheduled for Jan. 30… Read more in The Eagle Tribune.

Chief Justice Ralph Gants, Marty Healy, Rep. Mariano, Rep. Decker, Sen. DiDomenico, Rahsaan Hall, Lon Povich, Rep. Farley-Bouvier, J.D. Smeallie, Christine Netski, John Morrissey, Marijane Benner Browne, Lynne Parker

EJC presents Beacon of Justice Awards to 13 champions of legal aid

The Equal Justice Coalition honored 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. View photos from the event.

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)

Gants, Parker, and Benner Browne

From left: Supreme Judicial Court Chief Justice Ralph Gants, Lynne Parker, Marijane Benner Browne

“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.”

Rep. Michlewitz and Monica Halas

House Ways and Means Chair Aaron Michlewitz with Monica Halas of Greater Boston Legal Services

The Equal Justice Coalition also celebrated 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. Civil legal aid organizations and the people they serve rely on these legislators’ dedicated, bipartisan support.

Rep. Decker and Marty Healy

Awardees Rep. Marjorie Decker and Marty Healy

For the first time, the Equal Justice Coalition acknowledged 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). View photos from the event.

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 advice and representation to low-income Massachusetts residents facing serious civil legal problems.

All photos: Elbert John

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.”

# # #

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.

MLAC Backs Senate Amendment to Increase Civil Legal Aid Funding

Media contact:
Michelle Deakin
617-391-5627
mdeakin@mlac.org

 

UPDATE: On May 22, the Senate adopted the amendment by a vote of 39-0. That increases the MLAC appropriation in the Senate budget to $24 million.

Sens. Creem and Eldridge file amendment to Senate budget for $2M funding increase

BOSTON, May 9, 2019—Massachusetts Senate Majority Leader Cynthia Creem and Senate Judiciary Chair Jamie Eldridge have filed an amendment to increase civil legal aid funding by $2 million, for total funding of $24 million in the Senate budget.

The Senate Ways and Means budget recommendation includes $22 million in funding for civil legal aid. That’s an increase of $1 million over FY19, but falls short of the $26 million in civil legal aid funding requested by the Massachusetts Legal Assistance Corporation for FY20.

“Civil legal aid is a lifeline for the most vulnerable people in Massachusetts when they are facing complex, high-stakes legal issues, such as eviction, domestic violence, access to healthcare or education, or immigration matters,” said Lynne Parker, executive director of MLAC. “I’m grateful that the Senate Ways and Means Committee recognized the vital role civil legal aid plays in promoting equal access to justice for low-income people by providing a $1 million increase in funding. However, given the substantial unmet need for civil legal services, we support the amendment sponsored by Senators Creem and Eldridge to seek additional funding to serve more people in need.”

Due to lack of funding, legal aid organizations in Massachusetts are forced to turn away the majority of eligible residents who seek help each year. Eligible residents are those with incomes at or below 125 percent of the poverty level, or $32,188 per year for a family of four.

Civil legal aid organizations funded by MLAC closed more than 22,000 cases in FY18, benefitting more than 95,000 clients and their family members. These cases also produced more than $60 million in economic benefits for the Commonwealth and its residents. These benefits were the direct result of civil legal services that helped to: reduce evictions and prevent homelessness; recover and secure public benefits; and gain employment authorization for immigrants, in addition to other benefits. (Read more about the report here.)

“When a person’s most basic needs are at risk, access to legal advice and representation is essential,” Parker said. “We applaud this amendment and urge other senators to show their support for it to help assure equal access to justice for all people.”

The Massachusetts Legal Assistance Corporation line item is 0321-1600. In April, the House of Representatives allocated $23.5 million for civil legal aid in its FY20 budget.

About MLAC: The Massachusetts Legal Assistance Corporation is the largest funding source for civil legal aid in the Commonwealth of 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.

House approves additional $1 million for Civil Legal Aid

With amendment, total appropriation for MLAC rises to $23.5M

BOSTON, April 25, 2019—The Massachusetts House of Representatives yesterday approved an amendment to its fiscal 2020 budget to add an additional $1 million to fund civil legal aid. That increases the funding for the Massachusetts Legal Assistance Corporation in the House budget to $23.5 million.

“On behalf of MLAC and legal aid organizations across the Commonwealth that assist low-income people facing serious civil legal issues, I am delighted with the additional funding for civil legal aid,” said Lynne Parker, executive director of MLAC. “With this increased funding, the House has recognized the crucial role civil legal aid plays in promoting access to justice for low-income people.”

The House Ways and Means Committee had recommended a $22.5 million appropriation for MLAC. Rep. Ruth Balser filed an amendment to increase that by an additional $1.5 million. Rep. Balser’s amendment garnered 92 co-sponsors in the House.

Judiciary Chair Claire Cronin spoke in favor of adding $1 million for civil legal aid from the House floor. According to a report from the State House News Service, she said, “We recognize the importance of providing access to justice. This is a smart investment. In FY18, 14 civil legal aid programs provided $60.5 million in economic benefits to the commonwealth. Last year, MLAC programs helped 95,000 individuals with housing, domestic violence and health care issues.”

More information about the economic benefits resulting from civil legal aid are outlined in an MLAC report. The report divides economic benefits into two categories: 1) benefits and savings for low-income Massachusetts residents, which was estimated at $40.25 million; and 2) benefits and savings won for the Commonwealth, estimated to be $20.25 million. In addition, $6.37 million of the money in both categories is derived from federal revenue coming into the Commonwealth.

The Massachusetts Senate is expected to release its budget in early May.

The Massachusetts Legal Assistance Corporation line item is 0321-1600.

About MLAC: The Massachusetts Legal Assistance Corporation is the largest funding source for civil legal aid in the Commonwealth of 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.

Massachusetts Legal Assistance Corp. Backs Amendment to Increase Funding for Civil Legal Aid

Media contact:
Michelle Deakin
617-391-5627
mdeakin@mlac.org

Rep. Ruth Balser files amendment to House Ways & Means budget for $1.5M funding increase

BOSTON, April 12, 2019—Massachusetts Rep. Ruth Balser has filed an amendment to increase civil legal aid funding by $1.5 million, for total funding of $24 million in the House budget.

The House Ways and Means budget recommendation includes $22.5 million in funding for civil legal aid. That’s an increase of $1.5 million over FY19, but falls short of the $26 million in civil legal aid funding requested by the Massachusetts Legal Assistance Corporation (MLAC) for FY20.

“Civil legal aid lawyers represent the Commonwealth’s most vulnerable people in times of extraordinary crises, such as when they are seeking to retain their housing, protection from domestic violence, or access to medical treatment,” said Lynne Parker, executive director of MLAC. “I’m grateful that the House Ways and Means Committee recognized the crucial role civil legal aid plays in promoting equal access to justice for low-income people by providing a $1.5 million increase in funding. However, given the sizable unmet need for civil legal services, we support Rep. Balser’s amendment to seek additional funding to serve more people in need.”

Due to lack of funding, legal aid organizations in Massachusetts are forced to turn away the majority of eligible residents who seek help each year. Eligible residents are those with incomes at or below 125 percent of the poverty level, or $32,188 per year for a family of four.

Civil legal aid organizations funded by MLAC closed more than 22,000 cases in FY18, benefitting more than 95,000 clients and their family members. These cases also produced more than $60 million in economic benefits for the Commonwealth and its residents. These benefits were the direct result of civil legal services that helped to: reduce evictions and prevent homelessness; recover and secure public benefits; and gain employment authorization for immigrants, in addition to other benefits. (Read more about the report here.)

“When a person’s most basic needs are at risk, access to legal advice and representation is essential,” Parker said. “We applaud Rep. Balser’s amendment and urge other representatives to join her to help assure equal access to justice for all people.”
The Massachusetts Legal Assistance Corporation line item is 0321-1600.

About MLAC: The Massachusetts Legal Assistance Corporation is the largest funding source for civil legal aid in the Commonwealth of 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.

New MLAC Leader Talks the Legal Aid ‘Walk’

For attorney Lynne Parker, the 20th Annual Walk to the Hill for Civil Legal Aid on Jan. 24 at the Massachusetts State House will be her first as the new executive director of the Massachusetts Legal Assistance Corporation (MLAC). But Parker is no stranger to the world of legal aid, having worked more than three decades advocating on behalf of low-income residents, most recently in New Hampshire. In this episode, Parker talks with host Jordan Rich about MLAC’s role as one of the primary funders of civil legal aid organizations in Massachusetts and why funding for legal aid — the drive behind the Walk to the Hill event — is so vital to low-income Massachusetts residents facing life-changing legal challenges. Listen to the podcast here…