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…

Massachusetts State House

Civil legal aid saves money and is right thing to do

By Justine A. Dunlap
Massachusetts Legal Assistance Corporation (MLAC) is seeking $26 million in fiscal year 2020 to provide legal services. Fully funding the MLAC request is more than an issue of justice—it is also a very cost-effective expenditure. Read more…

Hundreds of Lawyers Rally for Increased Civil Legal Aid Funding at Walk to the Hill

Equal Justice Coalition chair Louis Tompros addresses the Walk to the Hill participants.

By Gray Christie
Attorneys, law students, and bar association leaders packed the Massachusetts State House Hall of Flags January 24 for the 20th Annual Walk to the Hill for Civil Legal Aid. Led by Chief Justice Ralph Gants of the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court, more than 650 people assembled at the Equal Justice Coalition’s annual lobby day to advocate for a state budget increase of $5 million for civil legal aid programs in Massachusetts.

“Civil legal aid is not only a moral obligation; it is a sound investment,” said Chief Justice Gants, noting the money invested in legal aid yields savings for the Commonwealth by preventing homelessness, saving medical costs, and recouping federal benefits.

Chief Justice Ralph Gants

Ralph Gants, Chief Justice of the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court, delivers his remarks at Walk to the Hill

Fred Connelly, a teacher and construction worker from Quincy, told the story of how lawyers with Greater Boston Legal Services helped his family avoid homelessness when they were facing eviction from the home they have lived in for nearly 40 years. Injured and out of work, he couldn’t afford a lawyer to help him keep the house he built himself. Without the help of GBLS, “I know for a fact I would not have my house back today,” he said.

In his budget filed the day before the walk, Gov. Charlie Baker included level funding for civil legal aid programs in Massachusetts – an appropriation of $21 million dollars. While appreciative of the governor’s continued support, Walk to the Hill speakers stressed that more funds are needed to ensure that the civil justice system is accessible to all. Last year, two thirds of eligible applicants for legal aid were turned away.

Fred Connelly

Fred Connelly explains how Greater Boston Legal Services helped him keep his house

Lawyers from nearly 40 law firms and in house-legal departments and more than 30 bar associations gathered for the event, in addition to lawyers and staff from legal aid organizations, and students and faculty from New England Law, Boston University School of Law, Northeastern University School of Law, and two busloads of students from the University of Massachusetts School of Law. Chief Justice Gants urged them: “Ask your legislators if they believe that we as a Commonwealth can succeed when so many are struggling and being left behind … Discuss the families who will need legal help in the coming fiscal year because their lives have been upended by opiate addiction, by the threat of deportation, by eviction, by elder abuse, by wage theft, or by domestic violence.”

Louis Tompros, chair of the Equal Justice Coalition, invoked the Massachusetts justice system’s rich history: “It was here in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts that we developed the rule of law, it was here that we recognized its incredible power, and it was here that we recognized that equal access to the legal system—regardless of ability to pay—is a necessary condition to a free and just society … If we are serious about ‘liberty and justice for all,’ it is up to us to make it a reality.”

Lynne Parker, executive director of the Massachusetts Legal Assistance Corporation, noted that while the economy is improving for some, there is still a serious need for legal assistance: “Increases in housing costs often drive struggling tenants farther from their jobs. A job layoff, a medical emergency, the denial of hard-earned benefits, or the loss of health insurance can often be catastrophic to individuals and families who are already struggling to make ends meet. Access to civil legal aid can make all the difference.”

Lynne Parker

Lynne Parker, executive director of the Massachusetts Legal Assistance Corporation, speaks at Walk to the Hill

Jonathan Albano, president of the Boston Bar Association (BBA), stressed both the proven economic benefits of investing in legal aid and the current inability to meet the state’s full need. He cited a BBA report which showed that civil legal aid “produces a positive return on investment—in housing cases, in taking on intimate-partner violence, and in securing rightful federal benefits, to name just a few vital areas.” He also stressed that “roughly 45,000 eligible Massachusetts residents are turned away each year. Plus, given recent developments at the federal level, including changes to immigration policies and cuts to antipoverty programs, the need for state legal aid will likely continue to grow.”

President of the Massachusetts Bar Association Christopher Kenney argued that the shortfall in legal aid funding amounts to a crisis: “More than 66 percent of eligible people in Massachusetts are forced to face life-changing legal matters alone, making it less likely they’ll succeed and more likely that they’ll require other state resources and add to the state’s fiscal burden.”

Created in 1999 in a collaboration between the Massachusetts Legal Assistance Corporation, the Boston Bar Association, and the Massachusetts Bar Association, the Equal Justice Coalition leads an annual campaign to increase appropriations for legal aid in Massachusetts.

Massachusetts State House

Hundreds of lawyers gather at State House to call for more legal assistance funding

Just one day after Governor Baker filed his budget proposal, many attorneys are calling for more legal assistance funding for low-income residents. Read more…